TROY — Economic expert Andrew Puzder warned on Tuesday during a speech at Troy University of the perils environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing might have on the average American.

Puzder, a former chief executive of CKE Restaurants and economic expert, is a senior visiting fellow for business and economic freedom at The Heritage Foundation. In his role as senior visiting fellow, Puzder focuses on the consequences of ESG activism and the impact of shareholder resolutions. 

Puzder began his career as a commercial trial lawyer in St. Louis in 1978 and later served as the personal attorney for entrepreneur Carl Karcher. He went on to become CEO of the well-known fast food powerhouses Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains in 2000, expanding to 3,800 locations and leading the company out of serious financial difficulties.

Puzder told attendees during the speech hosted by Young America’s Foundation and the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy that an attempt by BlackRock to add multiple environmentalists to Exxon Mobil Corp’s board in 2021 woke a lot of red states up to the dangers of ESG.

Puzder called ESG a “progressive economic agenda.”

ESG measures how a corporation aligns itself with social goals beyond earning a profit for its shareholders, such as reducing carbon emissions, supporting specific social movements and promoting "diversity, equity and inclusion."

“The good news is that people have noticed what happened with Exxon. Exxon was a big deal and it woke up some red state governors, treasurers, attorneys general, legislators, and activist groups. It was patently obvious that asset managers such as BlackRock were successfully using red state monies to advance a progressive political agenda. So in 2021 red states started passing legislation to resist this ESG juggernaut, making it clear that it’s a breach of fiduciary duty to invest other people’s money or to vote the shares you hold beneficially on behalf of others to advance your political or ideological objective,” Puzder said. 

Puzder said, “It’s important to understand that ESG is more than an effort to advance specific issues.” 

“At its core, ESG is a rejection of our founding principles and our Judeo-Christian values. It undermines our representative democracy, our economic freedom, and our individual liberty,” he added. “It threatens our democracy because it’s a short cut around the ballot box that massive investment firms use to implement leftist policies that lack popular support. It threatens our economic freedom because they use their massive shareholders to compel the CEOs of the companies in which they invest to put these leftist policies above their obligations to generate returns or generate profits for the companies that they run. It threatens our individual liberty because they use our money to do it. Our 401k plans. Our pension plans. Our savings. ESG is a tool to empower corporate and government elites to use the American private sector as a means to avoid the inconvenience and the messiness they see in our representative democracy and our free market economy, both of which put decision making power in the hands of the people.”

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