Treasurer Oaks joins multi-state effort to defend Americans’ investment returns against politicized shareholder proposals

State treasurers, auditors and financial officers send letters to largest asset managers and proxy advisory firms seeking answers to firms’ questionable proxy voting practices and recommendations

SALT LAKE CITY – May 17, 2023 – Utah Treasurer Marlo M. Oaks joined 21 other treasurers, auditors and financial officers from a total of 19 states in letters to the nation’s largest asset managers and proxy advisory firms to determine if they are in violation of their fiduciary obligation to American workers by voting for politicized shareholder proposals.

“For both the 2022 and 2023 annual meeting seasons, activists have hijacked the proxy voting process with hundreds of shareholder proposals demanding that companies sacrifice growth and competitiveness to pursue political agendas,” Treasurer Oaks said. “Treasurers and other state financial officers are fiduciaries—legal stewards of Americans’ retirement assets. As such, we must ensure that our investors’ proxy votes are cast in favor of our beneficiaries’ economic interests.”

The letters sent to proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Solutions (ISS) and Glass Lewis, and 20 asset managers, including BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and Fidelity, ask pointed questions about how they are fulfilling their fiduciary obligations to the underlying investor and demand an economic analysis that justifies their support for shareholder proposals requiring racial equity audits, Scope 3 emissions reporting, and linking executive pay to sustainability measures.

Treasurer Oaks and other Utah officials have been leaders in the national fight against the politicization of the capital markets through a practice known as ESG, short for Environmental, Social, and Governance.

Utah passed legislation this session upholding the traditional understanding of fiduciary standards for public investments and requiring that government entities’ proxy votes be cast in accordance with the best economic interest of beneficiaries. Other bills took a stand against the use of social credit scores to discriminate against Utahns based on their political or religious beliefs and collusive practices and economic boycotts that seek to cut off necessary capital and insurance from politically disfavored yet critical industries like traditional energy.

“We have political bodies comprised of democratically elected officials accountable to voters to address political issues. Those managing other people’s money have an obligation to focus solely on the financial best interests of their clients, and not to pursue political agendas,” Treasurer Oaks said. “We must depoliticize the capital markets, or we all will suffer.”

Treasurer Oaks and Oklahoma State Treasurer Todd Russ penned an article for the Wall Street Journal on the issue.

The letters sent to asset managers and proxy advisory firms be viewed here: