Five leading financial institutions have been placed on West Virginia’s Restricted Financial Institution List, making them ineligible for state banking contracts due to their stance on fossil fuels.
West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore announced on July 28 that BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo are no longer eligible to enter into state banking contracts with his office due to their alleged “boycotting” of fossil fuels.
“As Treasurer, I have a duty to act in the best interests of the State’s Treasury and our people when choosing financial services for West Virginia,” Treasurer Moore said in a press release. “Any institution with policies aimed at weakening our energy industries, tax base, and job market has a clear conflict of interest in handling taxpayer dollars.”
On June 10, Moore sent letters to six financial institutions, warning they could be placed on the state’s restricted financial institution list within 45 days unless they demonstrate that they are not engaged in a boycott of fossil fuel companies.
In a July press statement, BlackRock denied allegations of fossil fuel boycotting, noting that while it has taken steps to exit investments in thermal coal none of its policies directly prohibit investment in energy companies.
In a comment letter, JP Morgan described it as “regrettable” that West Virginia is “cutting itself off from parts of the market and attempting, via government action, to control the decisions made by private businesses.”
U.S. Bancorp is the only company to not face exclusion, after demonstrating to the Treasurer that it has “eliminated policies” against financing coal mining, coal power, and pipeline construction activities from its environmental and social risk policy, Treasurer Moore revealed.
“While the ESG movement might be politically popular in California or New York, financial institutions need to understand their practices are hurting people across West Virginia,” Moore said. “I simply cannot stand by and allow financial institutions working against West Virginia’s critical industries to profit off the very funds their policies attempt to diminish.”
West Virginia is not the only state criticizing the rise of socially responsible investing. In July, Arkansas State Senator Thomas Cotton wrote to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, condemning the world’s largest fund manager for “acting like a climate cartel” through its involvement in the Climate Action 100+ (CA 100+) initiative, an investor coalition that calls on carbon-intensive companies to reduce their emissions.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also announced on July 27 that he is proposing legislation that would prohibit the Florida State Board of Administration from using any fund managers that consider ESG factors when investing the state’s money.