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House Oversight Committee investigates legality of ESG polices

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The Republican-led House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into how large investors’ liberal policies are impacting Americans.

House Oversight Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., sent a letter this week to Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System General Counsel Mark Van Der Weide raising the question: Does this bias and collusion among investors violate federal law?

“Is working in concert to achieve the goals of these agreements inseverable across entities, warrant an aggregation test counting the ownership across signatories whereby a party would meet the ownership threshold by virtue of entering into the agreement, thus exposing all signatories to potentially being subject to the Federal banking laws?” the letter said.

Those policies, known as “Environmental, Social and Governance” or ESG, include commitments by asset managers to only invest in companies that meet a certain liberal ideology litmus test. Those asset managers often oversee billions of dollars that go into the U.S. economy.

“As part of this review,” the letter said. “…the Committee is examining whether (1) certain asset managers are in breach of agreements with the Federal Reserve System and (2) how the broader asset management industry may be subject to the Bank Holding Company Act, the Home Owners Loan Act, and the Change in Bank Control Act as a result of ESG related pledges and actions taken pursuant to those pledges.”

The committee held a hearing on the topic last year examining how investors are working to push liberal advocacy and purposefully neglecting conservatives.

Many Republicans have pushed back on the ESG trend, which has gained steam in recent years, with some saying it is illegal.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a bill last year to ban ESG practices, saying that purposefully avoiding fossil fuel fuel investments that could benefit shareholders for ideological reasons violates their fiduciary duty.

A companion bill was introduced in the House.

“Pledges to act in concert with other signatories, actively pursue outcomes and use all assets under management to achieve the stated goals of the various agreements, appear to directly violate the terms laid out in your 2019 and 2020 letters,” Comer’s letter said, referencing previous Federal Reserve statements. “Your 2019 letter notes, ‘For the purposes of the BHC Act, a company controls another company if the first company directly or indirectly or acting in concert through one or more other persons, controls, or has the power to vote 25 percent or more of any class of voting securities of the second company.’

“These pledges also raise questions about whether other asset managers, who have not sought relief from the Federal Reserve Board, could be subject to the BHC Act, HOLA, and CIBC Act due to their concerted action with other asset managers,” he added.