Tennessee attorney general pursues a silly crusade  

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti probably does not read the academic journal Managerial Finance, but at the start of this month a guest editorial there nicely summarized some very relevant work casting doubt on a bizarre and unnecessary lawsuit Skrmetti is pursuing.

In our name, Tennessee’s AG is suing BlackRock, a large asset manager with worldwide reach and scope. Skrmetti claims the asset manager has violated Tennessee’s consumer protection law. In effect, Skrmetti is claiming that BlackRock simultaneously promotes itself with two inconsistent positions: that it focuses on maximizing investor return and that it also minimizes environmental impact.

Skrmetti is doing his part for a radical right crusade against Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, also known as Corporate Social Responsibility. The concept of investment funds that avoid companies that engage in objectionable things like making and promoting cigarettes or busting unions and paying low wages is nothing new. The funds instead may invest in companies that do social good by reducing pollution or creating opportunities for a diverse and educated workforce.

Now that social good activities are lumped together and mocked under the nonsense “woke” label, extremist Republicans in office have been clamoring against — and sometimes filing lawsuits against — ESG investing. One could say Skrmetti is “non-virtue signaling” to his radical right compatriots.

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