Is Woke Investing Hurting Your Retirement Fund? Paul Atkins on ESG and Public Pensions

Is Woke Investing Hurting Your Retirement Fund? Paul Atkins on ESG and Public Pensions

Paul Atkins
Show Date
December 11, 2022

Over 50 years ago, Milton Friedman took the op-ed section of the New York Times to weigh in on the debate about the alleged social responsibilities of business.

Then, as now, it was in vogue for corporations to tout their dedication to certain social causes. Whether it was being done sincerely, or merely to boost their reputation among consumers, it was clear to Friedman that such framing was undermining the ultimate purpose of business: to maximize profits for its shareholders, within the boundaries of the law.

The term “social responsibility” has morphed over the years – going under names like “impact investing,” stakeholder capitalism, and most recently, “ESG investing.”

Short for “Environment, Social, and Governance investment,” ESG gained prominence in 2005 as the United Nations outlined its six principles of responsible investing.

Today, many states are confronting the question of whether the firms tasked with managing their pension funds are fulfilling their obligations to the public sector retirees that depend on them.

Paul Atkins, a former commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, recently participated in a Reason Foundation webinar on the impact of ESG investing on public pensions.

We discuss why states like Florida are withdrawing billions of dollars in pension funds out from investment firms like BlackRock. Governor DeSantis says that ESG investment puts politics ahead of profitability. Meanwhile, proponents of ESG say that DeSantis is the one playing politics.

Who’s correct? Find out on the show of ideas, not attitude.