Mr. Adkins said that if ESG results in better returns for the systems’ beneficiaries, then “by God, we want that to be one of the tools in our toolbox. So I don’t mean to tell anybody to go pound sand, but we just don’t need to be caught up in what is going to increasingly be one of a litany of issues that are grievance-based that have nothing to do with solving problems of advancing the interests of our beneficiaries.
“I would have (sent) a very short and sweet letter back to the AG thanking him for his input and that we got this,” Mr. Adkins said. “This is a political, pure political issue that has nothing to do with the merits of it. And I don’t need to be drug into that.”
Mr. Eager responded, “I couldn’t agree more, and I’ve been fighting this battle for 30 years.”
Trustees agreed to draft the letter saying they intend to follow the law and provide a copy of the investment policy.
At its Dec. 5 meeting, the County Employees’ Retirement System’s board approved the draft letter included in meeting materials, according to a webcast of that meeting.
“I think we’ve taken the position that we simply want to be perceived as responsive as we possibly can to the request that’s been made from our elected officials,” said Ed Owens III, CERS CEO, at the meeting.
In the draft letter, Mr. Owens noted that the board at its Nov. 10, 2021, meeting amended its investment policy with a passage in which “the CERS Trustees recognize the importance of responsible investing.”
“Accordingly, the Trustees acknowledge that integrating Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) policy principles that engage the issue from a risk, opportunity and fiduciary duty perspective will enhance investment results. The overriding consideration for the Trustees will continue to be investing to maximize the long-term returns for plan beneficiaries,” according to the amendment.
Further, Mr. Owens in his letter writes, “The investment policy is designed to acknowledge that in some instances considering ESG factors may minimize risk or highlight opportunities but must always be done with an eye toward the unwavering fiduciary duty owed to every member of the Plan. The policy is emphatic. The overriding consideration for every investment will be the decision which enhances the long-term return for beneficiaries.”