By Anthony Rueck
A few nights ago, I was home with my family watching President Trump at a rally talking about the positive performance of 401(k) retirement plans. While a proud supporter of our Commander in Chief, I don’t follow blindly and believe in the “trust but verify” mantra. As a husband and father of three, the sacrifices I make each day as a proud member of Teamsters Local 807 are done so to ensure my retirement and daughters’ college funds are in order.
Not long after hearing President Trump’s comments, I began looking into my own retirement plan and factors impacting its performance. I stumbled across a laundry list of articles highlighting the fact that Wall Street money managers and radical special interest groups seem to be voting my 401(k) mutual fund shares in accordance with something called Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) ratings.
The scary part about these ratings is there seems to be very little rhyme or reason as to how the companies that issue them actually make their decisions. However, there is one thing that is clear: financial performance is not the primary factor in the ratings, thus placing my hard-earned money at risk.
Common sense says if my 401(k) managers are doing their job, they should be investing in a way that shows me a return. Yet, multiple studies including those by Harvard economists have shown that this ESG “strategy” harms returns and could cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time I retire.
What’s more, mutual fund companies are often investing our retirement accounts into certain stocks attempting to force social change through “proxy voting” which is nothing more than ballots cast on behalf of shareholders in their absence or inability to vote. These proxy votes are then outsourced to proxy advisory firms who offer very little insight into their methodologies and in some instances are paid for their “recommendations” by mutual fund companies. In other words, the only people looking out for my hard-earned money on these proxy votes are outside companies who I have no relationship with and don’t support.
Phil Murphy is forcing our state pensions into this absurd strategy which can cost upwards of $300 million to our underfunded pension.
Curiosity led me to look up political activity related to these proxy advisory firms and come to find out Glass Lewis is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund. Given teachers’ pension funds are not known for their measured approach to social issues, it came as no surprise to see that 100% of the contributions have been made to extremely liberal special interest groups and candidates.
I am what they call a swing voter; sometimes voting Democrat and other times voting Republican, put simply I vote person over party 100% of the time. When I see a for-profit company owned by a Teachers fund where 100% of the political contributions go to extreme candidates and causes, I have to wonder whether my retirement returns are foremost on their mind.
Our government should protect our retirement accounts from this ESG folly fueled by radical interests and proxy advisory firms that from all accounts have very little regulation. Last year the U.S. House passed H.R. 4015, the Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act, designed to force big proxy firms to disclose how they come to make proxy recommendations and eliminate the conflicts of interest. Those who call themselves United States Senators should take a hard look at getting this thing passed as I would like my retirement plans to do what they’re supposed to do: make money and not force radical social change.
Anthony Rueck is a resident of Bayville, New Jersey and a truck driver for Teamsters Local 807 based in Long Island City, New York.