Jim Jordan Subpoenas Vanguard and Arjuna Capital in ‘Woke’ Investing ESG Probe


The House Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas to two major asset managers in relation to an antitrust probe.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Dec. 11, issued subpoenas to Vanguard and Arjuna Capital, related to the committee’s investigation into whether the companies engaged in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing coalitions in ways that violate antitrust laws.

In separate letters to the two investment firms, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) expressed frustration that the companies were allegedly dragging their feet in relation to earlier requests for records on how each of the companies advanced their ESG policies.

“Corporations are collectively adopting and imposing progressive environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-related goals, and The Vanguard Group Inc. (Vanguard) appears to have entered into collusive agreements to ‘decarbonize’ its assets under management and reduce emissions to net zero in ways that may violate U.S. antitrust law,” Mr. Jordan wrote in a letter to Vanguard, with a similar letter addressed to Arjuna Capital making an identical claim.

“To advance our oversight and inform potential legislation related to collusive ESG policies, the Committee must understand how and to what extent Vanguard may have colluded to promote ESG-related goals,” Mr. Jordan continued.

Vanguard and Arjuna Capital are investment firms that, following an initial records request in July and August, have already submitted thousands of pages of records to the House Judiciary Committee as part of the panel’s long-running probe into whether companies’ participation in coalitions like Climate Action 100+ break antitrust rules.

Arjuna is part of Climate Action 100+, a coalition of hundreds of global investors representing some $68 trillion in assets, while Vanguard is not.

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Arjuna also participates in the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, which similarly represents hundreds of investors with about $66 trillion in assets, while Vanguard left the group in December 2022.

Asked to comment on the subpoenas, both companies expressed their willingness to cooperate with the committee’s requests.

A Vanguard spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that the company is “committed to working constructively with lawmakers and has cooperated with the Committee’s requests, including producing tens of thousands of pages of relevant documents to date.”

A spokesperson for Arjuna said that it had already responded to the House Judiciary request and intends to “fully comply” with the subpoena.

Other investment firms have received requests from the House Judiciary Committee for ESG related documents since the panel launched its probe in December 2022.

Investment firms have faced growing pressure from GOP lawmakers over their use of ESG factors in picking and managing securities, with Republican accusing such companies of undermining America’s national security by starving fossil fuel companies of investment capital in the name of fighting climate change.

Companies May Be Violating Law

In December 2022, House Republicans launched an investigation into whether major climate groups that spearhead the ESG movement are acting in ways that run afoul of U.S. antitrust laws.

“Woke corporations are collectively adopting and imposing progressive policy goals that American consumers do not want or do not need,” reads a 2022 letter by Mr. Jordan and other GOP lawmakers to the leaders of the Climate Action 100+ coalition, demanding key documents surrounding the use of ESG policies to advance a “progressive” agenda.

“An individual company’s use of corporate resources for progressive aims might violate fiduciary duties or other laws, harming its viability and alienating consumers. But when companies agree to work together to punish disfavored views of industries, or to otherwise advance environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, this coordinated behavior may violate the antitrust laws and harm American consumers,” they added.

The lawmakers alleged that a coordinated effort was underway between banks, asset managers, and Climate Action 100+ to restrict investment in fossil fuels, driving up energy prices and undermining U.S. energy security.

According to its website, Climate Action 100+ is an international “investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change.” The coalition is supported by five investor networks, which provide technical assistance and help with engagement.

Critics of ESG-focused asset managers argue that they fail to act in the best interest of people whose money they manage.

“ESG is, at its heart, radical partisan activism masquerading as responsible corporate governance,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), one of the signatories of the letter, said in a statement. “These corrosive practices may violate our nation’s antitrust laws, and we must be relentless in investigating them.”

Another focus of criticism has been the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, which was launched in late 2020 to encourage fund firms to reach net zero emission goals by 2050 and try to cap the rise in global temperatures.

Vanguard, which manages roughly $7 trillion in assets, exited the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative at the end of 2022, though the company insisted that the move “will not affect our commitment to helping our investors navigate the crisis that climate change can pose to their long-term returns.”

The investment firm said that, despite exiting the net zero coalition, it would continue to offer a range of investment products with ESG objectives.

‘Woke’ Business Backlash

Most Americans don’t want businesses to take public stances on political and social issues, according to a recent poll, which comes amid a broader backlash against “woke” corporations pushing various left-leaning agendas.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans—up from 52 percent last year—believe businesses shouldn’t take public stances on current events, according to a new poll from Gallup.

There’s a staggering partisan dimension to the findings, with political party identification the strongest indicator of whether Americans think corporations should take a public stance on current affairs.

A whopping 62 percent of Democrats—compared with 17 percent of Republicans—favor companies’ taking public stands on current issues.

Backlash to corporate social activism has become more pronounced in recent times, including conservative boycotts against Bud Light over the brand’s marketing partnership with transgender social media personality Dylan Mulvaney and lawsuits against Starbucks over race-based hiring policies.
Scott Shepard, a fellow at the free-market public policy group National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Epoch Times in a recent interview that opposition to ESG is gaining steam.

“We’re seeing something very different this time because it’s not just the conservatives, who are always interested in this sort of thing; it’s the whole country,” Mr. Shepard said of the boycott calls facing brands such as Bud Light and Target over their embrace of left-wing principles.


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