Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was applauded for withdrawing $2 billion in assets from BlackRock, one of the world's largest investment firms, with one commentator calling environmental, social and governance investing, also known as ESG, "an illegal leftist scam."
Florida joined a growing list of states pushing back against the rise of ESG investing, especially by firms like BlackRock, which control trillions of dollars in assets.
"Using Florida's cash to fund BlackRock's social-engineering project isn't something we signed up for," tweeted Jimmy Patronis, Florida's chief financial officer, Thursday.
Steve Milloy, who served on President Trump's transition team, called it a "bad day" at BlackRock. "ESG is an illegal leftist scam for circumventing democratic processes to impose arbitrary standards on corporations to hijack them for political purposes," he tweeted.
Former Republican congressional candidate Dr. Willie Montague celebrated the news on Twitter. "It's a great day when Florida's Chief Financial Officer says they're pulling $2 BILLION worth of BlackRock-managed assets. ESG policies need to die in a ditch."
Florida is not the only state that has pulled its investments from BlackRock. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that "Texas was the first state to ban BlackRock from doing business" with the state. "I signed a law in 2021 to ban financial companies that have ESG policies that discriminate against the oil & gas sector. That includes BlackRock and several other financial companies."
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis explained the reasoning behind his decision to withdraw billions of dollars from BlackRock in an interview with Fox News Friday. "I’ve lost confidence" in BlackRock, Patronis said, adding that the company shouldn't "use the taxpayers of Florida’s money" to influence politics.
ESG has come under fire from other business executives, such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has repeatedly and publicly sounded off on the issue.
"ESG is the devil," tweeted Musk last week, after business commentator Carol Roth reminded Twitter users that Tesla was removed from the S&P 500's ESG index, while oil and gas giant Exxon remained.
"Remember when @ElonMusk wanted to bring free speech to Twitter and then S&P removed Tesla from their ESG 500 index, but kept in Exxon? ESG is business social credit. It's a means to control capital, keep business people in line with the narrative, and, ultimately, control you," Roth tweeted.
BlackRock said in a statement it was "surprised" by Florida's move.
"As a fiduciary, everything we do is with the sole goal of driving returns for our clients," the investing giant said. "We are surprised by the Florida CFO’s decision given the strong returns BlackRock has delivered to Florida taxpayers over the last five years."
"Neither the CFO nor his staff have raised any performance concerns," BlackRock added. "We are disturbed by the emerging trend of political initiatives like this that sacrifice access to high-quality investments and thereby jeopardize returns, which will ultimately hurt Florida’s citizens. Fiduciaries should always value performance over politics."