Jack McEvoy on November 29, 2022
A group of 13 Republican attorneys general has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to step in and block large asset manager Vanguard from buying shares in publicly traded electricity providers due to the firm’s history of “environmental activism.”
Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and 12 other Republican attorneys general requested that the commission hold a hearing to determine whether Vanguard should be allowed to purchase significant portions of public utility shares, according to legal documents filed Monday. Although Vanguard previously pledged to not exercise control over the companies or affect electricity prices, the attorneys general claimed that the firm may have broken such promises as it has used its financial influence to “manipulate the activities of the utility companies in its portfolio.”
“Consumers across our country are already feeling the sting of skyrocketing electricity bills, and Vanguard’s request to extend its authorization, coupled with its commitment to imposing net-zero requirements on publicly traded utilities, would only increase these costs,” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
In May, Vanguard pressured Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which owns the Utah public utility PacifiCorp, to publish climate disclosures, according to a Vanguard shareholder proposal. The motion claims that consumers would suffer from less dependable and more expensive electricity should Vanguard’s alleged climate agenda force PacifiCorp to shut down its coal or natural gas-producing facilities early.
“Vanguard’s own public commitments and other statements have at the very least created the appearance that Vanguard has breached its promises to the Commission by engaging in environmental activism and using its financial influence to manipulate the activities of the utility companies in its portfolio,” the filing reads.
Consumers’ Research, a conservative nonprofit, also filed a motion to oppose Vanguard’s acquisition of public utility companies and argued that Vanguard along with other asset managers like BlackRock, could drive up electricity costs due to the company’s stance on climate change. The nonprofit noted that Vanguard votes on shareholder proposals to push companies to comply with its climate targets which could raise energy prices.
“We took this action on behalf of American energy consumers because time and time again we see massive wall street firms pretending to ‘passively’ manage their shares, but instead they use those assets to bully utility companies into adopting radical left-wing policies that drive up electric bills and risk the stability of our power grid,” Consumers’ Research Executive Director Will Hild said in a statement provided to the DCNF.
Vanguard has embraced environmental, social and corporate (ESG) investing to help its clients support “socially responsible” businesses and make money at the same time, according to its website. ESG funds performed 9% worse than more traditional investment portfolios from June 2021 to June 2022, The Financial Times reported in July.
“FERC’s job is to defend utilities from exactly this type of reckless interference … they should act to protect these utilities and American consumers from fat cat wall street wreckers who blithely endanger our electricity supply, Hild said.
Vanguard and FERC did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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