Riding The Anti-ESG Bandwagon
Attacking investments that take into account environmental, social and governmental issues is all the right-wing rage these days -- and CNSNews.com did its partisan duty to promote those talking points.
By Terry Krepel
The woke investing of ESG Environmental, Social, and Governance by state governments and other entities is destructive and a threat to pension holders, said Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder on Monday in Washington, D.C. “We should invest more in our own states,” he said, “if you don’t invest in your own state, who is?”
As befits someone who cares more about pushing a narrative than being the fair and balanced journalist she purports to be, Shank talked to no supporter of ESG investments. Instead, she hyped a study claiming that ESG investments perform relatively poorly.
Fellow fall intern Peyton Holliday also made a trip to that same convention, and she churned out a similarly biased article the same day:
“Elections matter” and Americans should strive to “elect people that are representing the interest of pensions,” said Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball on Monday in Washington, D.C. She also sharply criticized ESG investing and explained that many voters are unaware that their pensions are being invested in ESG companies instead of in what is best for their retirement and their state.
Like Shank, Holliday made no effort to talk to an ESG supporter. But this narrative is apparently such a priority for CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, that both of these articles were reposted at at NewsBusters website. Apparently, there is no more wall between news and activism, if indeed there ever was.
Entrepreneur and business magnate Elon Musk considers ESG -- environmental, social, and governance investing or ‘woke’ investing -- to be “the devil.”
Holliday did, however, note a reason why Musk might be a little sour about ESG investments: Tesla, where he serves as CEO, was removed from from the S&P 500's ESG index.
Craig Bannister served up another Republican anti-ESG promotion in a Dec. 5 article:
Florida is pulling $2 billion of assets from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, because the company should be choosing investments based on its clients’ best interests, and not on an environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda, the state’s attorney general explained Monday.
Bannister served up more Republican anti-ESG stenography the next day:
On Tuesday, six House Republicans launched a probe into whether a group of banks and money managers, wielding the influence of a reported $60 trillion of investments, is violating federal antitrust laws in order to promote ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) policies.
Bannister became very much an anti-ESG propagandist for Republicans, writing in a Dec. 7 article:
The committee is looking into the ways, and extent, that BlackRock’s efforts to achieve an ideological agenda is harming its Texans and the state’s pension plans by boycotting some industries, such as coal and oil, in favor of less profitable, so-called “green” initiatives.
More propaganda -- and a promotional piece -- followed in a Dec. 9 article:
“If somebody tries to sell you on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, hold on tight to your wallet and to your values ESG is coming for both,” Senior Fellow at the School of Public Policy Pepperdine University Andy Puzder warns in a PragerU video.
Bannister was back in a Dec. 22 article:
A bank tried to use his loan application as leverage to coerce him into publicly expressing support for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ideology, businessman Bud Brigham alleged in testimony at a Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs hearing.
This article was also reposted at NewsBusters.
In none of these articles did Bannister offer any sort of balance in the way of a pro-ESG viewpoint. That's because CNS is paying him to be a biased propagandist, not a balanced journalist.
New year, same ESG-bashing
CNSNews.com continued its ideologically mandated right-wing bandwagon campaign against investments that take environmental, social and governmental issues into consideration with a Jan. 4 article by Bannister:
As 2022 drew to a close, all 10 of the largest Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds left investors suffering double-digit percentage losses in the value of their portfolios, an analysis by Bloomberg reveals.
But actual analysts pointed out that this is a "very narrow interpretation of the data" and that ESG investments have done well on a long-term basis:
The problem with this argument ESG products are bad investments and take returns off the table for hardworking pension funds investors is that it relies on a very narrow interpretation of the data. Looking at both a short- and long-term horizon, the figures are much better. In the third quarter (the latest figures available), global ESG median return was -6.09% compared with a broader global equity peer group return of -6.87%. Nearly two in three funds a full 65% outperformed the index.
Nevertheless, Bannister quoted a right-wing activist insisting that these numbers "dispelled the myth that ESG is a worthy investment" and demanding that it be "challenged and defeated politically."
Bannister continued to crank out biased anti-ESG articles throughout January and February, many of which were reprinted at its Media Research Center parent's NewsBusters blog (so much for any purported wall between news and opinion at the MRC):
Biden ESG rule change
When the Biden administration established a new rule that allows retirement plans to more easily consider ESG factors, Bannister had a preordained freakout over it in a Jan. 30 post:
A new Biden Administration rule took effect Monday, allowing retirement plan administrators (fiduciaries) to base investments on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, rather than only on the maximum financial benefit of their clients.
In other words, it's not a new rule -- it simply reverses a Trump policy and returns things to the previous status quo. Later that day, Bannister served up some related PR for the fossil fuel industry (which CNS loves to do):
An alliance of two hundred companies engaged in oil and natural gas exploration and production has joined with the attorneys general of 25 states in a lawsuit seeking to stop a new Biden Administration rule allowing retirement account managers to invest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts, even if they’re not the most profitable for their clients.
But if the policy simply reverts to previous norms, it makes no sense to call it "arbitrary and capricious."
Bannister touted his employer's activism on the issue in a Feb. 1 article:
Every Republican senator and Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) are introducing a resolution opposing President Joe Biden’s new ESG investment rule because it politicizes and threatens the value of Americans’ 401Ks.
Bannister failed, however, to disclose that the MRC operates CNS -- meaning that there's a conflict of interest here. So much for CNS being a responsible "news" organization. As Republicans pushed a resolution through Congress opposing the rollback, Craig Bannister dutifully hyped it in a Feb. 28 article:
On Monday, President Joe Biden vowed to veto a joint resolution working its way through Congress this week that would nullify the administration’s recent rule allowing retirement and pension fund managers to choose investments based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.
Bannister hyped the "bipartisan" votes the next day:
On Wednesday, the Senate followed the House in passing a joint resolution to nullify a recent Biden Administration rule that allows asset managers to prioritize less-profitable ideological causes over profit maximization when investing their clients’ retirement funds.
Bannister failed in both articles to disclose that the Biden policy change simply reverts investment policies to pre-Trump standards.
CNS also cranked out stenography articles quoting Republican politicians over the ESG policy change that didn't allow anyone to rebut them:
When Biden did indeed veto that resolution, Bannister whined about it in a March 20 article:
On Monday, President Joe Biden issued his first presidential veto, in objection to a bipartisan Congressional joint resolution nullifying his administration’s rule freeing asset managers to invest their clients’ retirement savings in political causes, rather than in the most profitable investments.
In none of these articles, by the way, is it explained why Americans should be prohibited from investing their money the way they choose, given that personal freedom is something right-wingers like the folks who run CNS are supposed to be in favor of.
Bannister attacked a bank that isn't even in the United States in a March 9 article:
A “Climate Modifier” bonus for top executives is among the tactics being used to advance the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, the bank revealed Monday, announcing the publication of its 2022 Climate Report and ESG Performance Report.
Bannister hyped a claim that ESG isn't as profitable as regular investing in a March 20 article:
While powerful asset managers, such as BlackRock, are pressuring companies to cater to liberal environmental, social and governance (ESG) agendas, a new analysis finds that companies that aren’t influenced by politics outperform those that are.
Bannister ignored other research showing that companies that embrace ESG principles have seen higher revenues, stronger growth of profits and greater access to finance.
The next day, Bannister gave Vivek Ramaswamy -- who was previously given a platform by CNS to falsely blame the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on ESG policies and whose presidential ambitions have been touted by CNS' Media Research Center parent -- to rage some more against ESG:
“The issue with the ESG movement it stands for environmental, social and governance factors it’s designed to sound boring for a reason,” Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy warns.
A March 28 article by Bannister hyped a claim about "the apparent bubble-burst of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment market" made by a "financial and economics Author" writing at the right-wing blog Liberty Nation. On April 11, Bannister touted fossil-fuel interests (which CNS loved to do) as allegedly doing well despite not being embraced under ESG:
Despite being shunned by fund managers trying to advance liberal ESG (environmental, social and governance) ideology, coal industry stocks have been outperforming both the overall market and those of other forms of energy, a new analysis reveals.
Bannister spent an April 14 article hyping a group pushing anti-ESG talking points:
A list of ways Americans can protect themselves from the financial harm inflicted by Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ideology is being provided by a website warning of the little-known dangers of the ESG movement.
Bannister didn't disclose that the SFOF is a Republican group that's simply peddling a partisan narrative -- perhaps because that's what Bannister was doing as well.
The MRC's shutdown of CNS on April 20 put an end to the storyline, though Bannister continues to post under a depleted CNS nameplate at the MRCTV website.