Vanguard Withdraws from ESG Initiative Following Attorney General Cameron’s Challenge to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Application

FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 8, 2022) – Days after Attorney General Cameron and 12 other attorneys general challenged Vanguard Group Inc.’s (Vanguard) application before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the investment company announced it will withdraw from the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative. The attorneys general had expressed concern that Vanguard’s promise to FERC to not control utilities or impact electricity prices contradicted the company’s environmental social governance (ESG) climate commitments to NZAM.

“Vanguard’s decision to leave the Net-Zero Asset Managers initiative is a victory for the retirement accounts of hard-working Kentuckians and the energy needs of our Commonwealth,” said Attorney General Cameron. “This is an important step toward stopping ESG driven policies that endanger Kentucky’s economy and threaten the availability of affordable and reliable electricity.”

On Wednesday, Vanguard issued a statement announcing its withdraw from NZAM. In its statement the company described the decision as an effort to “provide the clarity our investors desire about the role of index funds and about how we think about material risks, including climate-related risks – and to make clear that Vanguard speaks independently on matters of importance to our investors.”

Last week, Attorney General Cameron joined a coalition of 13 attorneys general in a motion challenging Vanguard’s application to extend its blanket authorization under the Federal Power Act, which would allow it to purchase a significant number of shares of publicly traded utility companies.

In their filing, the coalition warned federal regulators that allowing Vanguard to continue its investment in utility companies could result in rising electricity costs given Vanguard’s recent commitment to radical ESG climate initiatives like NZAM. The attorneys general wrote, “By making net zero commitments, Vanguard necessarily abandoned its status as a passive investor in public utilities and adopted a motive consistent with managing the utility. These commitments, on their face, further suggest that Vanguard has already undertaken and is currently undertaking corresponding activities that may constitute attempts to manage utilities—the precise actions Vanguard represented in its 2019 application and its pending application that it would not take.”

They also urged the FERC to hold a hearing to determine if the affordability and reliability of electricity would be impacted if Vanguard’s purchase was approved.

Attorney General Cameron joined attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah in challenging Vanguard’s application.

View a copy of the motion here.