April 26, 2022
Waking Up to ‘Woke’ Corporate Discrimination
A new trend is emerging in the business world. Business leaders are waking up to the destructive “woke” policies being foisted on businesses by boardrooms more concerned with virtue signaling than their primary responsibility of ensuring corporate profitability and enhancing shareholder values.
In short, the “woke” buck stops here, more corporate executives are saying. Mixing the politics of culture wars with business is a losing strategy.
Former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi is leading the charge. He ran McDonalds from 1991-1997, bringing the chain’s McNugget to market and also served on the boards of Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, Great Wolf Resorts and Snap-on Inc. These days, he’s launching The Boardroom Initiative, comprised of three conservative advocacy groups — The Job Creators Network, which was founded by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, The Free Enterprise Group and Second Vote. The goal: get business back to business and out of politics.
“Corporations have no business being on the right or the left because they represent everybody there and their sole job is to build equity for their investors,” Rensi told FOX Business.
Rensi knows how to grow a business. While leading McDonalds, he saw U.S. sales double to more than $16 billion, the number of U.S. restaurants grow from nearly 6,600 to more than 12,000 and the number of U.S. franchisees grow from 1,600 to more than 2,700.
“It is not the providence of board members or executives that take shareholder money profit and spend it on social matters,” Rensi explained. “Corporations should not get involved in social engineering.”
Corporate adoption of “woke” policies that attempt to sway public policies on everything from energy investments to the Second Amendment is crippling businesses. Corporate discrimination is nothing new to the firearm industry. It’s a battle NSSF has been engaged in for years.
Corporate banks are engaged in “woke” discrimination against firearm businesses. Banks including JPMogran Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have all adopted discriminatory policies unfairly denying financial services to firearm-related businesses simply because they don’t like the products that are lawfully made and sold. They want gun manufacturers to adopt policies that exceed federal and state law and would deny Americans their Second Amendment rights, including demanding a ban on the sale of Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) and standard capacity magazines as well as instituting age-based gun bans that deny law-abiding adults under 21 their complete civil liberties.
The “woke” gun control policies aren’t just embraced by corporate boardroom executives that are unaccountable to American voters. Investor groups and state treasurers have their own pressure campaign to divest state retirement funds from firearm businesses to financially starve them too.
California’s Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, has been active in the divestment game to discriminate against firearm businesses at the cost of their own investors. Fund managers ignore their fiduciary responsibility to California’s public workers and instead advance a “woke” discriminatory gun control agenda. As of 2019, these discriminatory policies cost CalPERS over $11 million to cover retirements that is underfunded by as much as $600 billion.
Even the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett isn’t immune to “woke” policies being driven by special-interest investors. Buffett refused to divest Berkshire Hathaway’s funds in firearm company investments in 2018. He told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, “I don’t believe in imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses.”
These days, CalPERS is attempting to strip Buffett of his Berkshire Hathaway chairmanship. CalPERS has a .3 percent stake in Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett’s return on investments is nearly triple that of CalPERS over 20 years. Yet, it’s CalPERS ignores profitable investments for “woke” policies and think they know better than Buffet when it comes to investing.
Connecticut’s Democratic state Treasurer Shawn Wooden announced in 2019 that he directed $30 million in equity investments tied to firearm manufacturers to be divested from the state’s pension fund. In 2021, Connecticut was rated as having the worst-funded state pension fund in the country. Not surprisingly, Treasurer Wooden announced just weeks ago he wouldn’t seek re-election.
There’s also the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) that purchased nominal shares in Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger & Co. They used their shares to attempt to force Smith & Wesson to adopt a statement on human rights and to make a public accounting of the cost of criminal misuse of firearms. Their last attempt in 2020 was rejected by shareholders. ICCR teamed with the investment giant BlackRock to force the company to produce a report on the “development of safer firearms.”
BlackRock’s founder and chief executive Larry Fink wrote a letter in January defending investor activism, writing, “Capital markets have allowed companies and countries to flourish. But access to capital is not a right,” Fink wrote to chief executives according to The New York Times. “It is a privilege. And the duty to attract that capital in a responsible and sustainable way lies with you.”
That’s Fink using the power of his purse to tell publicly traded companies to kowtow to “woke” capitalism.
These “woke” policies aren’t just being rejected by business leaders for being destructive to business. Woke politics is being rejected by elected officials. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva rejected “woke-ism” that is wreaking havoc in his county and says midterm elections will be a referendum on their failing legacies. Los Angeles’ “woke-ism” led to record homelessness and out-of-control crime.
“Woke-ism is on the ropes. Let’s put it out of its misery in 2022,” Sheriff Villanueva told Fox News. “My only goal is to make LA livable again.”
When it comes to “woke” gun control targeting the firearm industry, governors and legislatures are standing up. Texas Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott signed the Firearm Industry Nondiscrimination (FIND) Act into law in 2021. That bill bars states from holding municipal contracts while discriminating against firearm businesses. Six sitting Republican governors attended NSSF’s first-ever Governors Forum at SHOT Show 2022 and told the audience they wouldn’t tolerate discrimination against gun companies.
Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt told Breitbart, “We believe in freedom for businesses, but the distinction is, we will not let a bank do business with the state of Oklahoma and also discriminate.”
FIND Act legislation similar to Texas’s law is pending in Oklahoma. Missouri and Arizona have similar bills waiting for Senate votes. U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) introduced similar legislation, H.R. 6970, in Congress. That’s in addition to the Fair Access to Banking Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) as S. 563 and Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) as H.R. 1729. Those bills would stop corporate banks from picking winners and losers based on executives’ personal politics. It also protects banks from outside pressure by special interest groups seeking to use the banks as a political weapon to advance their agenda.
Louisiana’s House of Representatives Republican Majority Leader Blake Miguez has reintroduced the FIND Act in his state after it was vetoed last year by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. That legislation has the support of the Republican state Treasurer John Schroeder and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Louisiana’s Bond Commission, on which AG Landry serves, removed JPMorgan Chase from a $700 million gas-and-fuel tax bond series in November 2021, after the bank failed to respond to questions about its firearm lending policies.
It wasn’t the first time Louisiana told banks that the Second Amendment wasn’t for sale. The state barred Citigroup and Bank of America from taking part in a debt offering in 2018, citing their “restrictive gun policies.”
“Woke” capitalism isn’t just bad policy. It is a dangerous policy. It supplants public policy-making by elected officials who are accountable to voters by unaccountable corporate boards executing policy by corporate fiat. It leaves American rights, especially Second Amendment rights, vulnerable to a series of “corporately-endorsed privileges” and not a right of the people at all.
Turns out, that’s bad business too.