DeSantis Signs Bill Curbing Financial Use of ‘Woke’ Investment Principles

Dan M. Berger
By Dan M. Berger
May 2, 2023Politics

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill curbing financial companies’ use of ESG principles to govern investment or lending decisions in the state.

According to DeSantis ESG—environmental, social, and governmental—has become a backdoor way for companies to impose woke values on communities that would never approve such things at the ballot box.

At a signing ceremony in Jacksonville on May 2, the governor said the state had already moved last year to prevent ESG criteria from being used to invest public employees’ pension funds.

He said the state has already pulled $2 billion from giant asset management firm BlackRock.

NTD Photo
Young Socialists Switzerland (JUSO) activists take part in a protest against U.S. investment company BlackRock calling for a climate tax on the rich, on the eve of the WEF annual meeting in Davos, on Jan. 15, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

“We do not want them to engage in the ideological joy ride. That was not good for the people of the state of Florida.”

This year’s bill expands on that.

According to the governor’s office, it prohibits financial institutions from discriminating against customers for their religious, political, or social beliefs—like owning a firearm, securing the border, or increasing the nation’s energy independence.

It bans financial businesses from considering “social credit scores” in lending and banking decisions to prevent Floridians from obtaining financial services like loans, lines of credit, and bank accounts.

Maximise Returns

It blocks the use of ESG in all investment decisions by state and local governments, ensuring that only financial factors are considered the maximize the return on investment. That protects retirees and taxpayers alike.

State and local governments are banned from using ESG in their procurement and contracting processes and when issuing bonds.

And it directs the attorney general and commissioner of financial regulation to enforce these to the fullest extent of the law.

“You’ve seen this with asset managers who will go and say, ‘You’ve got to do this certain ESG project,'” DeSantis said.

“Understand, ESG is basically just window dressing for doing whatever these people want us to do.

“They go to a place like Davos and say you’ve got to do all this. And then they try to impose that agenda. So it’s really an elite-driven phenomenon. The ESG is just a way to dress it up.”

NTD Photo
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and his wife Casey (C) are escorted to their seats for a meeting with the Japanese foreign minister at the Iikura Guest House in Tokyo on April 24, 2023. (Eugene Hoshiko/AFP via Getty Images)

“At the end of the day, they’re trying to exercise power over our society. They’re trying to change society. They’re trying to change policy when it comes to things that they don’t like.”

Sometimes, ESG-driven companies can be suitable investments, and he said the new state law doesn’t prohibit pension funds from investing in them.

“What you don’t do is—you don’t circumscribe that they can’t invest in other things like energy and other types of things that are profitable, because that’s not good for the people who are retired teachers, retired cops, and the like.”

ESG principles have been used to punish businesses like irrigation or traditional energy production, he said. “If you have a gun store or you’re a gun owner, they don’t like that.

“There’s certain things they don’t like, and people feel the brunt of that.”

Congress in March passed a measure overturning a pro-ESG Labor Department rule, but President Joe Biden vetoed it, DeSantis said.

Pursuing Ideology

“So Biden stood with asset managers like BlackRock over hardworking pensioners, and he’s pursuing ideology over the best interest of their retirement. And that is wrong, and that’s not gonna fly here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said Florida banks enjoy a special status as the only place where a state with $40 billion in general revenues deposits its money, as opposed to credit unions and other financial institutions.

He said they must pay attention to the new laws to keep that business.

“We don’t want any banking or lending practices to be imposing an ideological litmus test on your ability to get a loan, a line of credit, or even a bank account,” the governor said.

He added that Florida businesses should not be using social credit scores, as is done in China.

DeSantis said he favors banning the use of a central bank digital currency—a type of crypto issued by the federal government—because he fears the federal government will impose social credit scores as part of its use.

The Florida Legislature passed a ban on central bank digital currency in the state.

Problems Opening Bank Account

Laura DiBenedetto, a Jacksonville area ammunition manufacturer and retailer, talked about how she and her husband moved from Maui to Florida at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic because DeSantis was the only governor pushing against lockdown restrictions on businesses.

“We made the bittersweet decision to say ‘Aloha, Maui’ and a very hearty ‘hello to the Free State of Florida.”

She described the problems they had opening their federally licensed business retailing ammunition online. It’s a woman-owned business, and her husband is a veteran, she noted.

Waiting to open a bank account, they had to wait an hour while the branch manager sought permission to do it.

When they signed up for accounting software, the financial people told them they could “get away with it”—DiBenedetto made quote marks with her fingers as she spoke—but would be kicked off the platform eventually when the compliance manager learned of them.

In seeking credit card processing for their customers, they were denied by numerous providers, she said. They couldn’t borrow from a bank and had to seek private funding. At one point, their bank accounts were frozen.

And their business has allegedly been censored on social media. She’s not allowed to promote it, or post photos or links to the Second Amendment, she said. All of this has hurt her business.

Frozen Accounts

Tina Descovich, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a nonprofit parental advocacy group, told how they had grown rapidly and taken in $300,000 in the first year after their 2021 founding.

Their online payments company froze their accounts just as they raised another $100,000 in April 2022.

It took weeks for them to get the money released, and they went to a different platform, but some recurring donations were still locked in at the old place.

She said the company released those donations just as DeSantis was the keynote speaker at their national convention last July.

“They held it for about a month until Governor DeSantis was invited to speak at this conference, [and then] within 24 hours there are no more problems.”

Taking questions from reporters afterward, House Speaker Paul Renner discussed the budget containing $75 million to build a University of Florida campus in Jacksonville.

The university, based in Gainesville, doesn’t have a big city around it, and Jacksonville doesn’t have a major university.

“This is a big win-win for both. I think it’s transformational for the city,” Renner, a Jacksonville-area representative, said.

Jacksonville’s business community is highly supportive, he added.

Renner said that planners hope well-skilled college graduates in tech and financial fields will find jobs in Jacksonville after college rather than moving out of state.

He said they hope to emulate Silicon Valley and Boston’s success in retaining their graduates, who find many opportunities right where they are.

From The Epoch Times

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