Vivek Ramaswamy has launched his new S&P 500 Index fund with critical letters addressed to the leadership of Apple and The Walt Disney Company, taking them to task for actions that he says failed to put shareholder interests ahead of those of other stakeholders’.
Ramaswamy’s Strive Asset Management, which operates exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that push an anti-ESG agenda, took objection to Apple’s racial equity audit and Disney’s recent role in the political controversy around Florida’s education policy, as well as lashing out at investment giant BlackRock for its support of certain initiatives.
“Apple has faced severe pressure from its large institutional ‘shareholders’ – including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager – to adopt value-destroying human resources policies that jeopardize Apple’s ability to hire top talent in the future,” Strive’s Ramaswamy wrote. “We believe these externally imposed hiring constraints create severe economic, legal, and reputational risks for Apple.”
Public companies have recently found themselves under scrutiny about their responsibilities for non-shareholder stakeholders, with CEO group The Business Roundtable redefining corporate purpose in 2019 to broaden their duties to stakeholders. That effort was viewed skeptically by some investors, who have themselves been pushing for management teams and boards to think more laterally about long-term risks to their businesses.
Strive, a new firm, has sought to counter the direction of so-called stakeholder capitalism with a publicity heavy drive starting at Chevron earlier in September and continuing Tuesday with letters to Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney and Apple CEO Tim Cook and Chairman Arthur Levinson.
“As new Disney shareholders, we respectfully ask: Why was it Disney’s ‘goal’ as a California headquartered entertainment company to repeal legislation in Florida and other states that had nothing to do with its products or operations?,” Ramaswamy’s Disney letter read. “More specifically: why do you believe that these behaviors would increase value for Disney stockholders?”
The firm expressed an intention to engage with its portfolio holdings, which include America’s largest 500 listed companies and energy firms. However, having only just launched its ETFs, it has some way to go to match the more than 6% stakes BlackRock has in Disney and Apple, as well as in many other companies.
Strive’s S&P 500 ETF has a net asset value of $11.5 million and its energy ETF just under $27 million.