GOP lawmakers are looking to investigate prominent asset managers because of climate investing practices and other woke initiatives.
Some Republicans want big bank CEOs to testify publicly. Republican senators are demanding that law firms preserve documents related to advising clients on environmental and social initiatives. Wall Street firms and Washington lobbyists are preparing for such subpoenas.
"My members are intent on sending a message that you can't kowtow to a far-left agenda and still have Republicans fighting the good fight on behalf of free markets and a marketplace that would benefit these companies,"said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., in an interview. McHenry will look to chair the House Financial Service Committee.
Big banks and investment firms are seeing a shrinking number of reliable allies in Washington.
"There's a total lack of built-in capability or competency to engage in this fight," said American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass. "On Wall Street's side, there's just been an assumption you can run and hide behind these politicians who are going to stand up and say, No, no, leave them alone and it will be best for everybody. That just doesn't fly anymore."
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., who will likely serve as a House Financial Service subcommittee chair, said Republicans need to empower business leaders to "push back on some of this woke stuff and the social justice stuff, so they go back to doing their business instead of being social laboratories."
Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., another likely subcommittee chair, criticized asset management giants BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard, Invesco and Fidelity, saying they should "stop this nonsense of politicizing capital allocation through ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance]." Barr said he views the ESG actions as "the weaponization of financial regulation designed to discriminate against American energy companies."
"We want these mutual fund companies, ETF [exchange-traded fund] companies, the members of the ICI [Investment Company Institute trade group] to come before Congress and tell us how they're going to change course and start prioritizing investor returns again, instead of promoting this fraud of ESG," he said in an interview.
BlackRock and Vanguard announced plans to allow clients to vote on the policies of the companies in which they invest.
A spokesperson for the Investment Company Institute, representing the firms, said the group works with "both parties in Congress to represent the long-term financial interests" of investors and "will continue our bipartisan approach."
Banks continue to resist attempts by the Biden administration to impose environmental and social initiatives upon its industry, including climate risk disclosures.
In a June letter to the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and other agencies, the American Bankers Association said banks should be free to do business — or not — with any entity as long as it's legal.
"This free-market approach has given this nation the strongest and most resilient financial system in the world, and the increasing efforts by policymakers from all sides of the political spectrum to intervene in the intermediation of capital risks undermining that system," the ABA stated.
Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on the Senate Banking Committee and former president of the free-market advocacy group, Club for Growth, urges Republicans to keep the pressure on the finance industry's environmental and social investment activities.
"Many liberal politicians are pressuring banks to use both their balance sheets and their influence to address issues wholly unrelated to banking, such as global warming, gun control, voter rights, and abortion," Toomey said in a statement. "Several large banks have been far too willing to acquiesce to these demands by embracing a liberal ESG agenda that operates outside of representative democracy."
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who will be the next top Republican on Senate Banking Committee, has started his inquiry with financial firms and their practices. He criticized bank CEOs last year after their companies opposed a Georgia voting reform law that they claimed was discriminatory.
Last month Scott joined some of his GOP colleagues and signed a letter seeking answers from PayPal about its policy intended to financially punish its customers for expressing views which the company classifies as misinformation. PayPal rescinded the policy before it could go into effect.
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