Fidelity, BlackRock Reject Trump Limits on 401(k) ESG Investing

The world’s largest asset managers are speaking out against a Trump administration plan that would make it more difficult for them to incorporate environmental, social and governance factors when making investment decisions, a move that could limit green investing in 401(k) plans.

Fidelity Investments wrote in an 11-page letter to the U.S. Department of Labor that the proposal’s assumption that ESG investment strategies sacrifice returns, increase risks and promote goals unrelated to financial performance isn’t “well grounded or supported by much of the emerging data.” BlackRock Inc. said the recommendation is “overly prescriptive and burdensome.” State Street Global Advisors, Putnam Investments and Legal & General Investment Management are among numerous other firms that also oppose the plan.

The outcry follows the Labor Department’s decision in June to propose the new rule, which would change the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to require those overseeing pension and 401(k) plans to always put economic interests ahead of so-called non-pecuniary goals.

The agency specifically focused on ESG investing. The announcement followed a call from the White House to examine retirement plans’ investments in the energy sector. The fossil fuel industry is a major supporter of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly expressed skepticism toward efforts to fight climate change, calling widely accepted science about global warming and its intensifying impact on the planet a “hoax.”