Three top Senate Republicans have voiced concern to the Biden administration’s Labor Department that it is prioritizing social justice above the interests of American workers.
Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania—the respective ranking members of the Senate’s Labor, Finance and Banking committees—wrote a letter Thursday responding to the Labor Department’s recent announcement that it would prioritize so-called environmental, social, and governance objectives.
The Labor Department said earlier this month that it wouldn’t enforce two rules issued by the Trump administration in 2020, which required private-sector retirement plans to make investment decisions based on the financial interests of workers and retirees. The rules prevented retirement plans from investing in companies based on how well they met environmental or social standards.
The Labor Department “should immediately reverse its ill-considered decision to not enforce these rules,” the Republican senators wrote.
“The final rules are based on the commonsense, unobjectionable principle that fiduciaries of retirement plans must put the financial interests of plan participants and beneficiaries first,” Burr, Crapo, and Toomey wrote.
The Senate leaders added that the Trump-era rules are unobjectionable and failure to enforce them will hurt Americans’ retirement savings. Social justice, diversity quotas, and lower carbon emissions are examples of standards that may be prioritized in the absence of the rules.
Burr, Crapo, and Toomey noted that Wall Street asset managers interested in promoting environmental, social and governance funds, known as ESG funds, have lobbied the Biden administration heavily.
The Labor Department, however, will explore ways it can uphold workers’ financial interests while promoting social justice standards, Ali Khawar, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, said earlier this month.
“We intend to conduct significantly more stakeholder outreach to determine how to craft rules that better recognize the important role that environmental, social, and governance integration can play in the evaluation and management of plan investments, while continuing to uphold fundamental fiduciary obligations,” Khawar said in a March 10 statement.
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