That’s the position taken by Rolling Stone. In an article published in August, writer David Bradley Isenberg points to an April 2019 executive order from President Trump that promoted the oil and gas industry and tasked the DOL to analyze how retirement plans were investing in the energy sector. In that order, Trump references America’s “abundant supply of coal, oil, and natural gas,” he cites the need for “infrastructure capable of safely and efficiently transporting these plentiful resources to end users,” and he confirms that it’s U.S. policy “to promote private investment in the Nation’s energy infrastructure.”
During the 30-day comment period, the DOL proposal generated 1,101 comments, plus petitions with thousands of individual signatures. According to an analysis by The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (USSIF), 95% of the comments and signatures opposed the rule. Notable opponents included members of the U.S. Senate, Fidelity, BlackRock, and the American Federation of Teachers.
Fidelity attacks the rule on several fronts, including the following arguments:
- Prohibiting plan administrators from making decisions based on non-financial factors will have broad unintended consequences.
- The definition of a fiduciary’s responsibility in the rule’s language is unclear.
- The singling out of ESG investments is inappropriate since ESG factors often mitigate risk for investors with improved disclosures and transparency.
- The proposal overlooks the extent to which ESG factors can be financially material.