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Congress Passes Bill to Repeal DOL Rule Promoting ESG Investing

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 2, 2023

Both houses of the U.S. Congress have passed a bill to repeal a Department of Labor (DOL) rule that makes it easier for fund managers to make investment decisions based on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors, Reuters and other news organizations reported.

The U.S. Senate passed the bill by a 50-46 margin on Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed it earlier in the week. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), voted with the Republicans. President Joe Biden is expected to veto it.

This move is another strike against so-called “woke investing.” This is a term invoked by several Republican-led states to target banks and investment firms that allegedly “boycott” fossil fuel companies, with the intention of stripping those banks and investment firms of their responsibilities for managing various state finances, such as pension funds.

The rule took effect in January and covers plans that collectively invest $12 trillion on behalf of more than 150 million people, Reuters reported. A rule reportedly more hostile to ESG investing was promulgated under the Trump Administration, but a Harvard Law School analysis found that “the changes in the Biden Rule from the Trump Rule are … cosmetic: changing the terms “prudently” to “reasonably,” and “material” to “relevant.””

Although the intention of the bill is to prevent fund managers from basing investment decisions on ESG factors primarily, the sponsor of the Senate bill acknowledged that it would not stop funds from considering ESG issues altogether.

"This just simply says that the primary criterion has to be the financial return on investment," said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), the sponsor.

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