14 Nov 2023 Scott Shepard: Partisan Bias Shot Through Operations at Vanguard, State Street
While BlackRock garners most of the attention for misusing other people’s money to push woke ends, investment houses Vanguard and State Street — the other members of the Big 3 — are in many ways worse.
Both of these shops pretend that their support for net-zero, equity-based discrimination, tech-industry censorship and other goals is somehow nonpartisan while refusing even to engage seriously with groups trying to push business away from these left-wing, partisan positions.
In a commentary published at RealClearMarkets, Free Enterprise Project Director Scott Shepard pulls back the curtain on BlackRock’s lesser-known — but perhaps more egregious — rivals. Read his entire column below.
Late in the last millennium, before the whole of academe had succumbed to virulent partisanship and abandoned even the fig leaf of objectivity, a professor in a journalism course I was taking at the then-admirable University of Richmond made a simple point: bias in reporting occurs not just within stories themselves, but throughout the whole journalistic process. Bias can arise in deciding which stories to cover, in how aggressively to cover them, in which sources to cultivate and how, and so on throughout the whole of the process.
These days, of course, making such a simple point would probably result in denial of tenure, as journalism schools and “journalism”-outlet executives, such as the new head clown at CNN, reject such attempts at honesty as “outmoded” and “failed concepts.” At least, though, they’re honest enough to admit that they’ve gone fully partisan.
Vanguard and State Street, two of the Big 3 investment houses that control so much of other Americans’ money – and that have tried diligently to fasten the Biden Administration’s “whole-of-government” goals, such as equity-based discrimination, political-schedule decarbonization, and censorship by public/private partnership – demonstrate no such honesty. Rather, they insist that their actions are non-partisan, unbiased and motivated only by their clear-eyed embrace of their fiduciary duty to investors and, in State Street’s case, shareholders.
This is nonsense.
Consider State Street. That company claims that its efforts to chivvy companies are neutral, objective and without partisan content. It further defends it positions by claiming that it does not – at least in its public support for shareholder proposals – favor those proposals that would require changes in company policy, but rather only those that seek disclosure of information by those companies.
State Street does not, however, support all shareholder proposals that seek information disclosure, though, and it is there that its partisanship becomes blatant. Rather, it only supports efforts to force companies to disclose information its executives consider important.
And what do those executives consider important? This deep into the enwokification of the corporate elites, need you ask?
With regard to environmental policy, State Street supports corporate disclosures consonant with the Taskforce on Climate-Related Disclosures. The Bloomberg Taskforce. The disclosures advocated by the guy who just gave half a billion dollars to “finish the job” on coal by eliminating that affordable and reliable energy source completely while drastically cutting other cheap and reliable sources – eliminating 40 percent of U.S. energy production by 2030. The guy who still clings to the increasingly threadbare notion that carbon emissions mean human catastrophe in 3 or 6 or 9 or 20 or however-many years – for sure this time, you guys – so that all of us (but not him) must resign ourselves to a future of bug-based food.
Mike Bloomberg is hardly an objective analyst, nor are his Taskforce’s recommendations objective. The Taskforce of course demands reams of information that tends to lend weight to calls for decarbonization on Bloomberg’s own politicized schedules, but nothing that would tend in the other direction. The Taskforce is uninterested in the total portion of the world’s carbon emissions a company produces (essentially none) or the trend of that number (spiraling ever further toward absolute zero, even if the company makes no carbon reductions). It cares not about the cost per unit of carbon reduction, nor the costs that the company will face in the form of stranded assets if it turns out – as is increasingly obvious – that the “net-zero transition” is a colossal chimera.
By relying on Bloomberg’s Taskforce to decide what sorts of disclosures to demand and to reject, State Street adopts all of his partisanship in this arena – which is to say, it becomes wholly partisan.
Its track record is the same throughout the rest of its behavior-forcing processes. It relies on sets of standards that already inculcate the partisanship that drives both the “standard” ESG movement and the Biden Administration (funny how those goals are essentially the same, if ESG is somehow non-partisan) in deciding what information to force companies to disclose, and which to allow them to keep to themselves. Instead of admitting this, though, State Street claims that its demand for such disclosures are somehow non-partisan and are merely fulfilling its objective fiduciary duty.
Such claims seem to require either vast stupidity or mendacity of the type that would make Big Daddy howl. State Street is an organization with quite a lot of assets under management. Could vast stupidity allow it to function at that level?
Vanguard, because it is not a publicly traded company, and because it’s run by a CEO who can keep his mouth shut, doesn’t receive anything like as much attention as BlackRock, or even State Street. But Vanguard is nearly as deep in bias as State Street. All of the above applies, and like State Street it even applies different standards of behavior in its basic treatment of shareholder proponents – happily meeting with proponents pushing companies to the left, but ducking, dodging and stonewalling to avoid any possibility of supporting shareholders who wish to get companies back to political and social neutrality.
Investors beware, including investors responsible for the funds of red-state voters. And perhaps both investors and legislators in those states should consider whether State Street and Vanguard’s po-faced claims of objectivity constitute actionable fraud.