Monday, 27 Mar 2023

Opinion | A Conservative Pushback on Socially Conscious Investing

More from our inbox:

To the Editor:

Re “The Cultural and Partisan Divide of Socially Conscious Investing” (front page, March 1):

As an attorney recently retired from several decades representing investment funds and their trustees, I think it’s important to point out that the recent move toward environmental, social and governance investing has been led not by Wall Street but by the investing public.

The explosion of interest in E.S.G. investing came during the Trump administration, when huge numbers of individual investors, appalled by Donald Trump’s environmental and social policies and embarrassed for their country, sought out “socially responsive” or “sustainable” mutual funds as a way to make their voices heard and “vote” for a sustainable future.

Wall Street followed by creating a host of new “green” products and policies to meet the new demand — to the point where the S.E.C. staff even found it necessary to make sure that funds labeling themselves as “green” really were, and not just the old products with a coat of green paint.

Republicans may find it politically expedient to attack big Wall Street names, but in reality they’re attacking and undermining a large segment of America’s investing public.

Arthur Delibert
North Bethesda, Md.

To the Editor:

Now let me see if I have this right: Conservatives, who howl routinely about the evils of government interference in the free market, are now demanding that the federal government act to keep private companies from considering priorities they associate with the left when deciding where to invest their money.

The hypocrisy of this effort just stands up and screams. Evidently what these people are really opposed to is private-sector investment guided by the “wrong” principles, which is to say anything they don’t like — and never mind that they choose to invest in things their perceived enemies don’t like.

In other words, what they want is all that ought to matter, and if the market doesn’t cooperate they’re perfectly willing to demand that the government step in to make it do so.

Adam Smith must be spinning in his grave.

Eric B. Lipps
Staten Island

To the Editor:

The E.S.G. investment rule bill recently passed by Congress, waiting for a veto by President Biden, is an astounding travesty. Let’s consider some facets of this issue.

First is the notion of freedom. Corporations should be free to make their own investment choices without the strong arm of the government telling them what to do.

If they choose to not consider those impacts and consider only profit as criteria, well, in the “free market” they can do so. It’s not a free market if the government tells you what you can and cannot consider in investment decisions.

It is a wise corporation that asks, What impacts will our actions have on the environment in which we operate? If those actions cause harm, might we not be destroying the market from which we derive profit?

Finally, we should look at the complaint that by considering the environment, and in particular the climate crisis, we might be disinvesting in the fossil fuel business. My first reaction to this is “well, duh!”

If we have any hope of solving the climate crisis, fossil fuels have to be eliminated from energy production. Will this be hard on those who work in that industry? Yes. A real leader, though, will be working to develop programs to help those affected, helping them to get jobs in the clean energy sector and helping solve the climate crisis.

To those so-called leaders who want to pander to their base and ignore the grave problems we face, I say, “Wake up!”

Paul Harper

Blame for Bank Failures

To the Editor:

Re “These Bank Failures Were Entirely Avoidable,” by Elizabeth Warren (Opinion guest essay, March 14):

Senator Warren is correct. The deregulation of the banking system by Congress in 2018 and the subsequent lax regulation by the Fed, allowing banks to materially increase their level of high-risk assets, threatened the stability of the system.

All of these ill-advised regulatory changes must be rolled back. And the bank executives who behaved irresponsibly must be made to pay for the breach of their fiduciary duty to depositors and of their responsibility to the system as a whole.

Nevertheless, President Biden was correct to protect depositors and the system from greater risk, and not repeat the same mistakes that led to the Great Depression.

President Biden acted sensibly and responsibly here. And he is correct: his actions cannot properly be characterized as a bailout. They were necessary steps to stabilize the banking system as a whole, to restore the confidence of depositors and prevent the panic that leads to runs on banks and financial ruin to America.

Robert J. Firestone
New York

To the Editor:

I supported Senator Elizabeth Warren for president. Too bad others did not appreciate her humanity and her understanding to create a just country. Billions for banks and defense; not so much for student loan forgiveness.

Mark I. Berson
Orleans, Mass.

Personality Tests: Are People Being Honest?

To the Editor:

Re “The Value of Looking Beyond the Résumé” (Sunday Business, March 5):

This article about personality tests discusses their design quality without examining the key issue of bias in how people respond to questions when they know that answers can affect their careers. People understandably try to be perceived the way they believe managers want them to be.

As a career coach in tech and biotech using assessments for 25-plus years, I have seen social desirability affect responses intentionally or unconsciously. For example, employees often hesitate admitting to qualities such as being introverted, disorganized or less than collaborative.

Assessment design tries to avoid response bias, but I’m not at all sure the tests are smarter than the users, especially when they’re strongly motivated to land a job or promotion or be seen as leaders or team players for their career development.

I just took the Plum assessment mentioned in the article and would have never answered so openly in an actual workplace, let alone in a hiring situation.

Linda Artel
Berkeley, Calif.

Addressing Polarization and Aggression in Society

To the Editor:

Re “How Police Culture Has Reshaped America,” by Cristina Beltrán (Opinion guest essay, March 1):

Ms. Beltrán makes a powerful argument for how our police, border and military cultures are creating an increase in violent behavior in American society, including in communities of color that are often the victims of such aggression.

In addition to acknowledging this serious cultural shift, what might be ways to “combat” it? How about some form of required national service for all 18-year-olds?

Such a program would mix people of all backgrounds for a month or two of training, fostering a sense of national connections across race, class, gender and geography, and then permitting some choice between the military and public service along the lines of AmeriCorps.

Our national culture indeed needs some significant attention. A year of national service might alleviate our growing partisan divide as well as our over-aggressive tendencies.

James Berkman

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