When ‘Emperors’ Preaching ESG Purport to Represent Millions of Us, a Lot Can Go Wrong

The misappropriation of the economic freedom of millions of mom-and-pop investors by BlackRock Inc. CEO Larry Fink has unintended consequences.

“We have a new bunch of emperors, and they’re the people who vote the shares in the index funds,” Charlie Munger, business partner of philanthropist Warren Buffett and a big proponent of index fund investing, recently said.

“I think the world of Larry Fink, but I’m not sure I want him to be my emperor,” Munger said.

Fink runs BlackRock, a leading investment management company that sells stock index funds to investors. BlackRock currently holds many trillions of dollars in corporate stocks in these index funds.

Fink is powerful. He has benefited perhaps more than anyone else from the prevalence of index fund investing. He also is a big proponent of what is called Environmental, Social, Governance investing, or ESG.

Here’s how it works: Millions of investors buy a BlackRock index fund because they basically want to own the stock index. Instead of being owners of one company or a few companies, when they buy the iShares S&P 500 Index Fund, for example, they own a fraction of every single stock in the S&P 500, in the same percentage in the stock index at the time they buy.

Index funds earn the return of the index they represent; the return on an index fund investment, then, is equivalent to the return of the stock index itself for however long an investor owns it before subtracting BlackRock’s management fees.

BlackRock in turn buys shares of every company in the index in proportion to the money its customers spend on its index funds. The investment management giant then sells them when its customers sell the index funds, to pay the customer.

The stock market rises over the long run, so index funds are a safer investment than speculating on stocks because individual stocks frequently underperform their indexes and because individual companies can go bankrupt, wiping out investments.

When millions of people buy trillions of dollars of BlackRock’s index funds, the company ends up holding in its accounts an equivalent amount of every stock in the stock index. This is called passive investing, as opposed to active investing, because no one is picking certain stocks as investments on which to earn a gain; instead, investors are simply buying or selling every stock in an index.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, Blackrock held an amount equal to over 28% of the U.S. gross domestic product in passive investments in the company’s accounts for its index fund holders.

Nothing is wrong with index funds. Investments in index funds mimic the returns of the overall stock market because by acquiring an index fund, one owns a tiny fraction of every company in a stock index, such as the S&P 500, or the MSCI World Index of global stocks.

A problem exists, however, with Fink, who votes the stock holdings in BlackRock’s index funds at shareholder meetings as if he is the investor who owns many trillions of dollars of stocks—which he is not.

As of Dec. 31, according to BlackRock’s annual report, Fink, through his company’s index funds, was voting the shares of $6.45 trillion in stock.

Talking heads on television and in the financial press, along with finance professors in colleges and universities, long have preached the merits of index fund investing based on a theory called the efficient-market hypothesis. That theory says that the value of a stock at a given time is closely reflected in its current stock price, making it unfeasible for someone to consistently beat the stock market index by picking individual stocks.

The efficient-market hypothesis is true for the average investor. The success of Wall Street titans such as Buffett and Carl Icahn disproves it as the one-size-fits-all, best option for everyone, as does the success of an untold number of anonymous investors who have made large fortunes but aren’t included in the research findings on the returns of mutual funds.  But that is beside the point.

New York Post columnist Charlie Gasparino recently explained what Fink’s ESG advocacy means, writing that the BlackRock CEO

is known for pushing for something called stakeholder capitalism (which I’ve criticized)—a squishy concept in which corporations look to better the human race as opposed to churning out profits for shareholders. And his embrace of some woke policies through the investment fad known as ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) standards.

In its 2020 annual report, BlackRock states:

We invest our clients’ money in companies of all types and sizes, in every region of the world. These investments provide capital for companies to grow and create jobs, which, in turn, enables economies and societies to prosper. We use our voice as shareholders to urge companies to focus on important issues that will also impact the value of their investments, like climate change, the fair treatment of workers and equality. We are also working through the BlackRock Foundation to expand financial security for low income groups who face barriers to economic participation and may be vulnerable to disruption from climate change.

That focus on climate change is why BlackRock, as ExxonMobil’s second-biggest shareholder, sided with a group of shareholders who owned just 0.02% of ExxonMobil in voting to replace board members with new ones who believe that:

ExxonMobil’s lack of any serious diversification efforts and aggressive spending predicated on heavy long-term oil and gas demand for decades to come, risks massive continued long-term value destruction in a world intent on reducing all emissions …

Is it really for Fink, commanding the votes of millions of shares purchased by other investors, to decide whether a large oil company should reduce its investments in oil and gas that people rely on to survive?

What a bully tactic by a bully who is voting his agenda with billions of dollars of shareholders’ voting rights purchased by others who bought Fink’s index funds. They did so to earn a return on their investment portfolio equal to that of the overall stock market, not so that Fink could pretend he was them at shareholders meetings of virtually every company in the world and vote their shares.

Such interference by Fink and other index fund company chief executives because they presume to know what is good for the planet can have unintended and drastic consequences.

Right now, the average cost of gasoline is spiraling upward. And big oil and gas companies have not been investing in new exploration in recent years, partly because Fink, other ESG advocates, and now President Joe Biden’s administration have been lurking over their shoulders and stigmatizing the fuel we all need to drive our cars and heat our homes.

These players have created a large deal of uncertainty about what the future will be for energy exploration and drilling. In the case of Biden, he put huge restrictions on oil and gas drilling on his first day in office and also canceled the Keystone XL pipeline.

BlackRock’s claim in its annual report that “low income groups . . . may be vulnerable to disruption from climate change” is not worth the paper it is printed on. High gasoline prices hurt the poor the most, and those in cold climates sometimes freeze to death if they cannot live in heated homes, as happened recently in Ukraine.

There is nothing wrong with index funds. Larry Fink is not millions of people who hold index funds, though. Their interests vary widely and are not somehow lined up together, much less with his interests.

Fink and the CEOs at other companies that sell index funds shouldn’t vote trillions of dollars of index fund shareholdings at every meeting of shareholders in the world. They should save the planet in some other way.

By Patrick Tyrell on The Daily Signal

Florida Law Is Pro-Freedom, Not Anti-LGBTQ

The distorted rhetoric—should I say lies?—labeling Florida’s legislation about parental rights in public schools as “Don’t say gay” demonstrates the hypocrisy of LGBTQ activism.

I say hypocrisy because this movement has always showcased itself as being about freedom, rights, and social justice.

But the reality is that LGBTQ activism is not at all about freedom and rights. It is about advancing its particular agenda at the expense of alternative ways of viewing the world.

The Florida legislation, which defines itself at the outset as about parental rights, has 163 lines, out of which a total of five address sex education.

Those few lines simply say that “instruction” in “sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

That’s it. Anyone who wants to publicize this as “Don’t say gay” should also publicize it as saying “Don’t say straight.”

Because that’s what it’s about. Removing discussion about sexual orientation from classrooms of toddlers.

But for LGBTQ activists, anything not actively promoting their agenda is taken as opposition. Therefore, for them, freedom, and the tolerance and neutrality that it requires, is by definition anti-LGBTQ.

As a Christian, my view is that denial of the reality of man and woman, sexual activity outside the framework of traditional marriage, is sinful and destructive behavior.

But I recognize, as do most Christian parents with children in public schools, that our biblical point of view is not going to show up in public schools.

America is a diverse country with many points of view.

I recognize that keeping public schools neutral regarding sex education is the only possible approach in a heterogeneous diverse country.

When the state of Florida enacts legislation to keep discussion about sexual orientation out of toddlers’ classrooms, I don’t see this as anti-LGBTQ or anti-Christian, but pro-freedom.

The headline of an opinion piece in USA Today reads: “Young people in Florida are being told their sexuality or gender identity is so wrong it can’t even be mentioned.”

No. Young people in Florida are being told that they live in a free, diverse country. So, matters of sexuality should be handled by parents at home, and public schools should teach kids how to read and do math.

It helps these young people to become responsible adults, respectful of others with different opinions.

A number of years ago, I mentioned in a TV interview that I had stayed in a hotel that, along with other flags, was flying an LGBTQ rainbow flag. I said that the rainbow flag offended me as a Christian woman as the Confederate flag offends me as a black woman.

My office in Washington was shut down by the tsunami of threatening calls that this comment evoked. And I had to move out of my home because of threats.

I didn’t say these folks should not be allowed to live as they choose. I said, essentially, that just as hotels have removed the Bibles that we used to find in hotel rooms, this shouldn’t be replaced by flying the rainbow flag.

I think this is a big factor on why school choice is only promoted on the right.

Those on the left are opposed because they know that school choice takes away their platform for promoting their social agenda in public schools.

Look at the websites of the two big teachers unions—the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Both promote actively the LGBTQ agenda.

The new Florida law was passed to deal with this problem. Public schools should provide a platform to educate children with knowledge and skills to succeed in a free country. Other agendas should be left to parents at home.

By Star Parker

Repent

Luke 13:1-5 At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And He responded to them, “Do you think these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed, do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No I tell; but unless you repent, you shall all perish as well.” 

Many Will be Deceived

Matthew 24:3-5 While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.

Don't be one of those that are deceived, open that Bible, pray and ask Him to open His word to you so that you are not deceived.

Not Equality Act. Suppression of Christians Act

I’m sure you’ve seen the recent coverage of the trial of Päivi Räsänen, a Finnish member of Parliament who is being charged with three counts of “ethnic agitation,” a hate speech provision in Finland’s criminal code.

The first charge concerns a 2019 tweet in which she questioned the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (her own denomination) to partner with Helsinki’s gay pride parade. Her tweet also featured an image of Romans 1:24-27. The second charge concerns comments Räsänen made about homosexuality in a 2019 radio interview. The third charge concerns a 2004 booklet she wrote articulating her church’s teaching on sexuality.

Now, you might be wondering why we are giving so much attention to an international case. It’s because Räsänen’s situation is a harbinger of the growing threat to religious freedom and the freedom of speech that the Left considers offensive. It’s also because what is happening in Finland could soon be happening here. Unless we pray and act!

You see, in the United States, congressional Democrats are trying to pass legislation that similarly threatens religious freedom, specifically people’s ability to operate in the public square according to their sincerely held beliefs. In Finland, this type of thinking is what led the government to target Räsänen.

One such piece of legislation is the Equality Act, which would overhaul our federal civil rights framework to mandate special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). It has already passed the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives twice in the past few years. But thankfully, conservatives have blocked this radical bill thus far in the U.S. Senate, and the Equality Act appears to be dead for the remainder of this session of Congress.

But the Equality Act isn’t the only cause for concern. The Fairness for All Act is pitched as a grand compromise between the progressive goals of the Equality Act and religious freedom. Although it is a modest improvement over the Equality ActFairness for All fails to adequately address the many concerns that most Americans have with the Equality Act. Fairness for All might prove to be the more dangerous bill, since it currently has 19 Republican sponsors in the House.

A third bill, the Global Respect Act, seeks to create the same changes as the Equality Act and the Fairness for All Act in American foreign policy.

That’s why we need your support today. We need to prevent Päivi Räsänen’s situation from ever becoming a reality here.

Mark my words: despite their appealing names, all three of these bills will gut religious freedom. If these bills become law, what is happening in Finland will happen in the United States.

With the midterm elections fast approaching, Democrats are pulling out all the stops to ram through their agenda, even attempting to change longstanding Senate rules to do so. Democratic leadership knows their fragile majority in Congress is in jeopardy, so they are putting tremendous pressure on those members currently on the fence about supporting this legislation.

We must continue to stand strong against these efforts and bolster support for religious freedom.

You see, if Räsänen would simply apologize for her remarks, this ordeal would all be over for her. But that would mean she would have to turn her back on the truth of God’s word and forfeit her God-given right to freedom of religion. Instead, Räsänen has chosen to boldly stand for truth and the right of people in Finland and around the world to hold and express religious beliefs. She recently said, “I cannot accept that voicing religious beliefs could mean imprisonment. I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.” Because of her stand, she could face up to two years in prison if convicted.

The threat to religious freedom is very real, and we must address it. Would you join us in protecting religious freedom both here at home and around the world?

May God give us all boldness in the days ahead to stand for our faith.

Standing (Eph. 6:13),

Tony Perkins
President
FRC Action

YouTube Labels John MacArthur’s Sermon Hate Speech After He Said God Made Us ‘Male And Female

YouTube has censored a Bible-based sermon, labeling it as “hate speech” because it isn’t pro-LGBTQ+. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, CA, preached a sermon Sunday about biblical sexuality, which as CBN’s Faithwire reported was part of an effort by pastors across North America to protest a new Canadian law that took effect […]

YouTube Labels John MacArthur’s Sermon Hate Speech After He Said God Made Us ‘Male And Female

Secret Teacher Portals Reveal ‘Pronoun Survey,’ ‘Black Lives Matter Curriculum

The school district of Loudoun County, Virginia, may have made the headlines for aggressively pushing far-left content onto students, including pornography and critical race theory, but other districts throughout the country are no better off.

At the Santa Barbara Unified School District in California, teachers are given a plethora of politically radical resources that they are expected to implement in the classroom, which are now coming to light.

Christy Lozano, a teacher at the Santa Barbara Unified School District, has revealed that teachers are expected to access a password-protected portal for teaching “culturally responsive material.” She has exposed the far-left content with Laura Ingraham, and she recently provided me with the materials as well.

The materials are laid out in numerous webpages, each encompassing a different progressive cause. Some of the category headings include “Black Lives Matter,” “Bilingual/Multilingual Advocacy Month,” and “LGBTQIA+ Month.” When I started to dig into the materials, it quickly became apparent that they were not simply educational tools.

Let’s begin with the Black Lives Matter materials. The page contains links to various BLM-related resources, segregated by age group. Under the preschool-to-second grade heading, there is a link to Black Lives Matter at School, an activist group dedicated to spreading the teachings and activism of BLM throughout the K-12 school system.

Santa Barbara Unified School District
This image depicts the various Black Lives Matter materials found in the teachers portal. (Photo: Kenny Xu)

Its page includes recommendations on how to organize students to fight against “systemic racism,” including a link to a PowerPoint encouraging students to demand “restorative justice” from their district.

“Systemic racism” is the idea that racism is the normal state of affairs in American society, meaning that the ordinary American is racist. “Restorative justice” is the idea that the U.S. justice system is responsible for rehabilitating and emotionally caring for criminals. Make no mistake: The U.S. justice system, which is necessarily and obviously punitive, should not be remotely associated with the activities of a day care. 

Santa Barbara Unified School District
The teaching portal includes a section titled “Specifically for White Folx.” (Photo: Kenny Xu)

It also links to the 13 Guiding Principles of BLM, one of which includes “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”

But the most shocking information was contained under the LGBTQIA+ page. The linked articles and discussion guides cannot be considered anything less than grooming, which is the emotional manipulation of children to make them more susceptible to sexual exploitation by adults.

Under a “Elementary Lessons and Resources” heading, the page links to several videos and written guides meant to be used in preschool-second grade classrooms. It includes a video and accompanying guide for “Sparkle Boy,” a story about a young boy who enjoys crossdressing. The guide claims “Teachers can challenge traditional gender bias” via the story and calls on teachers to help students “explore gender identity.”

It also links to a video and guide for “When Aidan Became a Brother,” a book about a young girl who “transitions” to a boy. The guide notes that teachers must be very careful to help students use proper terms and pronouns to refer to trans people. One of the reader’s response questions is, “How might your understanding of ‘being yourself’ have changed after reading ‘When Aidan Became a Brother’?”

Preschool-aged children are highly impressionable, and using books like “Sparkle Boy” and “When Aidan Became a Brother” are bound to create an unhealthy focus on one’s own sexuality at an extremely vulnerable age. It is quite conceivable that a normal 5-year-old girl, upon reading one of these books, suddenly decides she is trans based upon a classroom experience.

Conditioning children by presenting these ideas as objective truth begins the dangerous path of grooming them for future gender activism and self-doubt about their identity.

The programming continues for older children as well. At the high-school level, the resources include a TED Talk playlist about coming out, a biased gender term list put out by a leftist advocacy group, and a documentary exploring “the struggle for queer rights.” It also links to Gender Spectrum Groups, confidential online communities for students to explore their gender identity and sexuality.

Every single link on the teacher portal takes the reader to a queer ideology-affirming resource that promotes the queering of society.

Santa Barbara Unified School District
The lengthy list of content found on the LGBTQIA+ page. (Photo: Kenny Xu)

The grooming nature of these materials is compounded by a “pronoun survey” disseminated in the district. One teacher required their students to fill out a Google form sharing their pronouns, with some of the options including “they/them/theirs,” “he/they,” and “other.”

Later there was a yes/no question asking whether the teacher could use the student’s preferred pronouns when contacting home, insinuating that the teacher would be complicit in hiding any changes in the student’s gender identity from the student’s parents.

In fact, one question goes on to state, “If you would like me to use different name and pronouns when calling home or talking to other teachers—please state this name and pronouns.”

Santa Barbara Unified School District
A screengrab of the “pronoun survey” that one teacher made students take. (Image: Kenny Xu)

The final yes/no question is, “Would you like to follow up with me (in a private conversation) about your pronouns?” To be clear: There is not a single situation in which it is remotely appropriate for a teacher to have a private conversation with a high school student about their gender identity and sexuality.

Taken in conjunction with prior questions that encourage deceiving one’s parents and adopting progressive ideas of gender, it would require numerous logical backflips to rationalize this classroom situation as anything short of grooming psychologically unstable minors.

There are two problems at the core of all these materials. First, they are unilaterally slanted in favor of progressive politics. While educational environments should certainly encourage students to consider controversial ideas, they must be balanced by opposing viewpoints as well.

Within the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s teacher portal, there is not a single resource that affirms biological reality or traditional views of gender, or questions whether the Black Lives Matter movement is anything but a pure struggle for moral advancement.

Secondly, there is no community transparency or accountability. Had these materials not been leaked by a teacher working in the school, neither I nor the public at large would have any idea of how deeply ingrained these ideas are in the district.

Parents have the right to know that their children are being exposed to radical propaganda at school and to respond accordingly if they disagree with the contents of a class.

With these materials coming to light, parents must demand their districts tell them the truth: Are they brainwashing our children? Are they hiding our children’s struggles with identity? Are they forming our children into progressive activists right beneath our noses?

Unless parents demand transparency, school districts will continue to shape the minds and very identities of our most vulnerable population.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.