By SUZANNE DOWNING
Two wolves and a sheep decide what’s for dinner: That’s what the U.S. Department of Labor has done with American workers’ retirement accounts over the past few months.
Now that President Joe Biden’s ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) rule has been officially published in the Federal Registry, Congress can review it and unwind it. The Congressional Review Act is the one weapon Congress has to keep the Biden Administration from wolfing down Americans’ 401(k)s.
The House and Senate must do so at their earliest convenience this week.
The CRA can be used anytime by Congress, but is usually tried after a change in administration, when an outgoing president promulgates 11th-hour rules, and when there is a shift in majority in the House and Senate that can undo those rules through the congressional review and disapproval process.
The ESG rule was issued by the Department of Labor. It encourages retirement fund managers to insert political bias into their investment decisions, in favor of environmental, social, and corporate governance ideals — a shifting goal — rather than profitability. The regulation is 180 degrees opposite of the intent of Congress when it created the rule that mandated that fund managers make decisions that protect the financial interests of clients.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 set parameters for most voluntarily established retirement and health plans in the private sector, with Congress aiming to protect individuals in these plans. ERISA allowed workers to trust their retirement fund managers, and trust is no small deal.
The Biden ESG rule allows these fund managers to instead take the retirement savings of millions of hard-working Americans and, rather than invest them for earnings, invest them with one or both eyes on political correctness, or for some shifting environmental or social engineering goal. The ESG rule puts a thumb on the scale for “woke” investments that have historically not done that well in the free market, but instead push a far-left political agenda, including things like Critical Race Theory, climate change, and the definitions of gender.
This new “Great Reset” rule allows retirement funds to essentially become independent expenditure groups that make businesses into the handmaidens of the left. Plan participants may unknowingly be enrolled in ESG funds that don’t align with their political views or investment strategies.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and all Senate Republicans have drafted a bipartisan joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn President Joe Biden’s ESG rule. Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV) is apparently with them, and they need but a simple majority to pass a disapproval resolution. It is within reach in the Democrat-controlled Senate to get that majority.
In the House, a similar resolution is being advanced, led by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) Also in the House, a working group was formed this month to do a deeper dive into the hazards of ESG investing rules. The Republican Working Group, led by Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) will look at the threat to capital markets posed by ESG proponents.
Americans’ 401(k)s are already threatened by a related Biden proposal announced during his State of the Union address that will increase taxes on corporations because their shareholders are, in his view, making too much money. That proposed tax makes profit a bad thing and less profit means less earnings for retirement accounts, which are the shareholders Biden thinks are getting too rich.
The last thing Americans need is for their financial advisors to now take an ideological stand and decide that workers of America should be invested in high-risk, low-yield green companies. That’s never been the role of the fiduciary. The job is to protect the investor.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, (R-AK) describes it as raiding retirement accounts. It’s worse than that. This new rule shakes Americans’ faith in their financial institutions, and it takes away their rights as investors, rights that were, until November, protected under ERISA.
As the Senate reconvenes and the House returns from two weeks of meet-and-greets in home districts, readers will be seeing a lot more about the effort to eject — and the effort to protect — the ESG woke investing rule.
Democrats are wolves deciding that retirement funds are the lamb they are having for dinner. Only the Congressional Review Act that can keep those wolves at bay, for now.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.