Rokita: No ‘woke’ criteria allowed in pension investments

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Todd Rokita

Indiana and its investment managers can’t make government employee pension system investments based on environmental, social or governance criteria, Attorney General Todd Rokita wrote in an advisory opinion released Thursday.

Under state law, Rokita said, those decisions can only take the financial interests of Indiana employees and retirees into account.

“Woke big businesses are collaborating with their leftist allies to subvert the will of the people,” Rokita said in a virtual event Thursday. “This includes investing Hoosiers’ pensions in ways that work against the best interest of Indiana families.”

So-called ESG framework seeks to use specific criteria—rather than general terms—to evaluate a company’s or a particular investment’s environmental impacts, human rights policies and governance structures. But the framework has drawn ire from conservatives who say it promotes a “woke” agenda.

“For example, ESG investors make deliberate decisions not to invest in any fossil fuel companies, regardless of prospects for financial investment return, simply because investors are more committed to battling what they think is global climate change, than to making a return to savers,” Rokita said. “Other ESG goals include implementing critical race theory in corporate training programs.”

In the advisory opinion, he concluded that Indiana law blocks the Indiana Public Retirement System’s board from choosing investments based on ESG criteria, from voting based on the criteria and from retaining investment advisers that use the criteria.

State Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, requested the opinion from Rokita, who serves as the legislature’s attorney.

But Rokita stopped short of criticizing the 501,000-member system’s board itself. The pension system ended fiscal year 2021 with about $45.8 billion in assets, according to its website.

Instead, he criticized the firms hired to manage Indiana’s pension investments.

“I want to be clear, the [system] board members … have steadily worked hard to serve the best interests of Hoosiers,” Rokita said. “And we’re grateful for them, but increasingly actions by outside investment firms—those that they are, more often than not, forced to deal with—threaten to ultimately erode this financial stability.”

“The increase of ESG investing has begun to negatively negatively affect state pension funds across the nation. I don’t want that to happen here in the state of Indiana,” Rokita said later. His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for examples.

Rokita said his office was working with Arizona to examine major investment management players like BlackRock, The Vanguard Group and State Street Corp., as well as with Missouri to look at financial services company Morningstar Inc.

Indiana on Thursday joined Missouri in another investigation of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, launched in April 2021. The United Nations-convened, industry-led group of banks wants to cut emissions from members’ lending and investment portfolios to net zero by 2050.

Rokita gives update on abortion lawsuit

Rokita also said Thursday he would “proudly” defend Indiana’s abortion ban, set to go into effect Sept. 15, from a legal challenge filed Tuesday by a group of Indiana abortion providers.

Rokita said he personally believes Senate Enrolled Act 1 should have “no exceptions”—it has four narrowly defined ones—but said his job is to “defend  whatever the Legislature passes.”

A nearly 50-day investigation into Indiana obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio—is ongoing, Rokita said. His office says it’s investigating whether Bernard violated reporting and patient privacy laws.

Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, told the Indianapolis Star in July that it found no privacy law violations in its internal review of the case. And the Indiana Department of Health released a terminated pregnancy report that appeared to clear Bernard on the reporting issue.

Asked why the investigation hadn’t yet concluded, Rokita said, “We’re gonna go where the facts take us, like we take all our investigations.”

“The speed at which it’s concluded is really going to be determined by the cooperation we get, not only from the subjects, but also third parties that are involved and [that] we need information from,” he added.

Rokita spoke in an event live-streamed through Facebook. His office required both credentialed journalists and everyday Hoosiers email written questions before and during the event, which a spokeswoman read aloud to Rokita.

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40 thoughts on “Rokita: No ‘woke’ criteria allowed in pension investments

    1. They do t say it anymore because it has such a negative connotation.
      A bad connotation that is deserved.

    2. Keith B. ~ “Woke” means “aware,” and nothing more. Apparently Rokita and you want us to be unaware (i.e, ignorant).

    3. Brent B.

      Evidently you are the one that hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on.
      The Woke crowd isn’t about being aware. It’s about destroying anyone
      that has not bought into their rigid conformist social justice ideology.

      Wake up.

    4. “Woke” is just Republicans pouting because all it really means is, “Treat others with respect, correct past wrongs, and don’t do things that hurt other people.” Nothing more, nothing less. Republicans absolutely hate that, because the core of their platform is based on marginalizing minority demographic groups.

    5. The moron using “woke” most often is DeSantis. It’s obvious Rokita is trying to build a little platform to stand on to get DeSantis’ attention so he’ll get selected as the VP candidate and propel himself into being POTUS [in due time]. Just as DeSantis thinks of himself as Donald T. Rump with brains, Rokita thinks of himself as a compassionate (*cough* *gasp* *sputter*) DeSantis…so long term, Rokita is planning to run for POTUS in 2032…

  1. Answer without a problem. Unless and until Mr. Rokita brings evidence that suggests IPRS has failed its mission, this is just political advertisement performed free by the IBJ. “The increase of ESG investing has begun to negatively negatively affect state pension funds across the nation. I don’t want that to happen here in the state of Indiana,” – says Rokita? And we know this is fact because he has personally taken steps to learn about the effects of applying an ESG framework to investment portfolios – in other states? How much free time does this guy have? This is not news reporting. You can do so much better IBJ. You know what might make this news worthy? A comment from IPRS. What do they have to say about it? Or, what if you talked to someone who does advocate for applying a ESG framework to investing? Would they agree? Or might they say that Rokita’s position is a partisan attack on a concept that is woven into our financial systems – investment in those industries, people and institutions that we believe best represent our future. I guess we’ll never know, will we IBJ? Do better IBJ.

    1. All good comments, Randall. Jeff, if IBJ has it on their website and send an email where you can click through, they shoudl own it journalistically and consider the missing questions Randall poses.

    2. Well said. The facts do not support Rokita’s position. Rokita is simply parroting DeSantis’ unfounded position – a position that has been dismissed as antagonistic to the rules of investing in Florida, i.e. that the goals of investing the state funds are to “maximize returns” which are only attainable by considering all options, especially those outperforming the market. Even a cursory review of the facts shows that ESG as an evaluation framework results is higher returns – something that should be baked into any goals for investing. The market is not with Rokita’s uneducated position. Indiana cannot afford to bury their heads on this major trend in the market if it wants its investments to perform well. Rokita’s personal political agenda comes at the expenses of ethical practices and the financial security of those relying on these funds.

    1. ROI shouldn’t be the goal if it means sacrificing the long-term health of environment and the public. Government is meant to work for everyone (at least in theory) and it should do so in practice. Don’t enable bad-faith actors through government investment.

    1. “Woke” is just a trigger word demagogue loons like Rokita utter on a regular basis because they think it will gin up their base of supporters. Hopefully, the voters will give this buffoon the political retirement he so richly deserves.

    2. JOLF R.
      Woke is social justice going to the extreme.
      Many examples of WOKEISM. Such as seeing a person’s skin color first and
      foremost. Character in Woke world is so overrated.

    3. @ Keith B ” Seeing a person’s skin color first and foremost” Wait, you mean Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are WOKE?….

    4. No! I mean your leftist Woke that obsess on race 24/7.
      The leftwing Woke see you first and foremost by your race. It’s your whole
      identity to a leftist.

    5. Keith B. demonstrates that the right wing doesn’t even know what “woke” means and they just use it as a dog whistle for whatever they don’t like.

    6. “Treat others with respect, correct past wrongs, and don’t do harm unto others.” That’s the extent of what “woke” means and Republicans hate that.

  2. Does Rokita desperately need to take a nap? He is constantly babbling about “wokeness.” What an absolute nutcase and embarrassment he is to the State of Indiana!

  3. Hmmm…. I worked for AES, a coal burning energy supplier, and even 10 years ago they were setting goals of becoming greener by having majority of their generating capacity renewable in the near future. Rokita is going to have a hard time finding a company that is not “woke”, to invest in.

    By the way, Rokita might think “woke” is a derisive term, but in my experience “woke” applies to somebody that stayed awake in science and history class.

    1. Great point, and perfect definition of “woke” as used throughout right-wing extremist organizations.

    2. Yup. Oil and gas, while it will continue to have a presence for the foreseeable future, will have a declining role in a large sector of their business (fuel). More and more investment groups and businesses are pulling away from investments in oil and gas and other businesses that have done shady businesses practices/acted in bad faith against local populations. It’s just bad business.

  4. Great comments by the panel above. Indiana AG is indeed out of touch and is grand standing by any measure. His public statements and written opinions make many sit back, shake their heads, gasp, and question; How did we get this guy as a State wide public office holder? Ugh!!

  5. The usual crock from Rokita. His “opinion” has nothing to do with the law he was elected to uphold, and everything to do with radical right-wing politics. What a disgrace to Indiana. Does he EVER do his actual job? And by the way… there is a reason many companies are interested in ESG considerations. It simply is good business. Rokita claims that such considerations are hurting other pension funds, but offers no evidence at all. It is just as possible that either now or someday soon investments will be negatively impacted by NOT making these considerations, in which case Rokita’s backwards views would actually cost state employees real money. If that were to happen, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time radical right ideology hurt real people.

    1. Is there any action or comment that Rokita makes which is not based on being a provocative partisan jerk? Everything he says he claims to be acting for the benefit of Indiana citizens, but it’s very clear that he’s only about promoting himself. Having zero exceptions for abortions is not aligned with the citizens’ point of view. And if there is evidence that ESG considerations can also result in superior returns (as is highly likely if not now then in the near future), these criteria should not be ruled out. The accountability is to produce returns at an acceptable level of risk. You don’t get to also dictate how the returns should be produced based on your own completely biased political view. This guy has got to go!

    1. Randy S.

      Lol….South Africa is a huge mess. So much for social justice.
      South Africa replaced one category of racism with another.

    2. Keith, for shame. Like so many African countries, most importantly those that were colonialized by Europeans and economically raped in the process, South Africa is a mess. If you think their current condition is due to dismantling Apartheid, I imagine you think they should return to those horrific days. And maybe we should put Mandela’s corpse in a jail cell for good measure, right?

    3. Randy S.
      Do you think your version of social justice has improved the lives of
      South Africans?? Do you think the version of South Africa you support
      is any better??? So racism is ok if it’s your version of racism.

      Here’s an idea. The best way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating.
      Seems I’ve heard that somewhere before? Hmmmm.

      The Black African National Congress is racist to its core and is Marxist.
      That’s who is running South Africa and they are just as brutal as anything that
      preceded them.

  6. Rokita’s “investigation” of Dr Bernard should be spelled “intimidation”. This is the sort of thing Rokita does. It will be a shame if Indiana voters give a man of Rokita’s character a position of political power in the future. If they do we will see worse.

  7. These comments from TR are almost unbelievable, but ultimately not surprising. He always comes off as such a bully. He seems like a tinfoil hat wearing type that would follow this Q bs on the interwebs.

    1. Apparently, so boring you took the time to read through the comments and then post your own trite comment about how everyone else is “so boring.” Yawn, indeed.