DeSantis Attack on ESG Repudiates Its Superior Returns

Why is the first-term governor of Florida the most visible opponent of Wall Street's fastest-growing and best-performing business? If you're 43-year-old, Yale University and Harvard Law School-educated Navy veteran Ron DeSantis, getting everyone's attention makes perfect political sense, if only to bolster your position as the preferred Republican successor to Donald Trump.

Revoking Walt Disney Co.'s special tax and self-governing privileges when the state's largest private employer criticized the DeSantis law prohibiting classroom instruction about sexual orientation was just his first provocation this year. That was followed by his redrawing of a congressional map diminishing Black representation, suspending the elected state prosecutor of Tampa for refusing to enforce the state's 15-week abortion ban and announcing new election police pressing criminal charges against 20 people for mistakenly voting in 2020 in a dubious crackdown on insignificant voter fraud.

The latest salvo from DeSantis assails the giants of money management for opposing fossil fuel, voter suppression and the criminalizing of reproductive rights (policies the governor champions) while embracing investment strategies furthering sustainability or meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Asset allocation based on environmental, social and governance –- ESG -- criteria is at least a $35 trillion industry, a figure 53% greater than the US economy in 2021, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. DeSantis would have us believe that the third most-populous state will have no part of ESG in Florida's $240 billion portfolio of more than 30 pension and disaster funds.