GOP reps warn ESG efforts could violate antitrust laws, demand answers from key players

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Several Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee are warning that corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts may run afoul of federal antitrust laws, if there is a concerted effort by different companies to advance certain goals.

Ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Reps. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., Matt Gaetz,R-Fla., Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., Tom McClintock, R-Calif.,and Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., expressed their concerns in a letter to two members of the steering committee for Climate Action 100+, a group that works to get corporations to take action against climate change.

"Woke corporations are collectively adopting and imposing progressive policy goals that American consumers do not want or do not need," the letter said. "An individual company’s use of corporate resources for progressive aims might violate fiduciary duties or other laws, harming its viability and alienating consumers. But when companies agree to work together to punish disfavored views or industries, or to otherwise advance environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, this coordinated behavior may violate the antitrust laws and harm American consumers."

The letter likened Climate Action 100+ to a "cartel" that gets businesses to change policies and practices to meet its goals.

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The letter was addressed to Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, which works to get corporate leaders to take action related to the environment, and Simiso Nzima, and the Managing Investment Director for Global Equity at the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

Fox Business reached out to Ceres, CalPERS, and Climate Action 100+ for comment, but none immediately responded.

"Many domestic corporate interests increasingly march in unison in advancing progressive policy goals," the House members continued, noting that this may be contrary to the public's wishes and interests.

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"At its core, ESG is merely partisan politics masquerading as responsible corporate governance," the Republicans said, noting that a central "policy centerpiece" of ESG is "stifling investments in oil and gas," while other goals could include gun control, abortion access, and "fake news dissemination."

"Corporate America’s collusion in pursuit of ESG goals may violate federal or state antitrust laws," the lawmakers continued, arguing that "cooperation among competitors" is frowned upon regardless of the purpose.

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"When enterprises like Climate Action 100+ or Ceres invite or facilitate collusion to achieve progressive policy goals, that activity can aid anticompetitive and unlawful agreements and behavior," they added.

The Republicans are requesting documents and communications related to subjects including markets and industries where Ceres and Climate Action 100+ try to advance ESG goals,  and efforts "to obtain or solicit agreements, commitments, or other types of participation from any investors, members, or other companies[.]"

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The letter follows the announcement from Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., of a new bill opposing the Securities and Exchange Commission's proposed new rule requiring public companies to provide extensive information on how their operations affect the climate.

Fox Business' Eleanor Terrett contributed to this report.

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