We Give an F to The WSJ’s Grades for “Woke” Proxy Votes

The Wall Street Journal’s hysterical pearl-clutching about ESG is getting to the point of derangement. The one thing we thought we could count on them for was, well, counting, but real math would not make their point, so they’re touting a disgracefully skewed report. The bias is evident in the Journal’s language. “Strangling” fossil fuels? Really? Does the fact that many corporations have made a business decision to conduct DEI audits to do better with the employees they say are their most important asset suggest that proposals along those lines might be effective risk-management?

We point out for the millionth time that groups with bland but faintly patriotic names with Orwellian overtones are almost always the opposite of what their name suggests. That the Journal would think of presenting anything prepared by The Committee to Unleash Prosperity as legitimate shows how desperate they are. This group was founded by the utterly discredited supply side advocates, ALEC economists Arthur Laffer.and Steven Moore. (They claim they’re not prompting trickle down economics, but they are.)

Their board member Cleta Mitchell was so unethical in her work with President Trump to overturn the election that she lost her law firm partnership. She is not working on various projects to suppress votes in another fake front group, with a NewSpeak name: FreedomWorks. And, as so often happens, it all goes back to the Kochs. Phil Kerpen, a Principal of Committee to Unleash Prosperity, was the vice president of Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing political advocacy group founded by the Koch Brothers in 2003.

The Journal says:

Many asset managers proxy vote in favor of woke shareholder proposals to do racial audits or strangle fossil fuels.The table nearby shows the score. It’s from a report by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, which examined “4,814 non-ESG branded funds” to see how proxy votes were cast on “50 of the most extreme ESG-oriented shareholder proposals from 2022.” One proposal wanted Home Depot to perform a “racial equity audit” to identify “adverse impacts on nonwhite stakeholders.” Another called on Costco to set climate targets for “Scope 3” emissions, including due to “land use change” and “deforestation.” Neither has anything to do with the bottom line. [Emphasis added]

The ESG Proxy Vote Ranking – WSJ

On the contrary. The proponents explain in detail why their proposals are exclusively and credibly all about the bottom line. It is this faux Committee and the WSJ who claim without documentation that they are not. It is disgraceful that people who purport to stand for free markets to claim without any proof that the most sophisticated financial institutions in the world who are also, as fiduciaries, subject to the strictest legal standard in our system, are making decisions for any other reason than risk and return.

On LinkedIn, Matt Moscardi of Board Sabermetrics called the piece “breathlessly stupid.” Remember how we’ve been warning you about “clone” proposals from ultra-right fake front groups? Well Moscardi pointed out that these dimwits classified those as “woke” proposals and assigned grades accordingly.

He also hits them on their arithmetic. “The grades assigned by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity were on an A to F- scale – basically a 5 letter scale with the bottom letter cut in half for emphasis. But the score ranges they used weren’t a 10 point score divided by 5 – it wasn’t your standard scoring style. No, it was a skewed score so that some bands larger (the bottom grades) than others (the top), but almost randomly so. Why? Because if you use a standard scoring methodology, BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase & Co. would have gotten B grades. In fact, the largest asset managers in the world would have ALL gotten top marks with the exception of State Street at a C. But that certainly doesn’t look anti-woke to say BlackRock is a B, does it?”

And these are the people who think they know better than large institutional investors what makes a proposal worth supporting?


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