This year marks the tenth anniversary of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), a 501(c)(3) established to promote fiscally responsible public policy and help states uphold the tenets of democracy. SFOF partners with state financial officers and key stakeholders in the private and public sectors to push back against policies that undermine economic freedom and hamper fiscal growth.
Their recent work focuses on educating state treasurers and others about the financial consequences of Environmental, Social and Governance policies, which companies increasingly are adopting for investors to track things like social goals and company leadership. While these policies may seem well-intentioned, SFOF warns they could lead to unintended consequences for Americans.
The Roundtable recently spoke with SFOF’s CEO, Derek Kreifels, about the organization’s work and priorities for 2022.
What is the State Financial Officers Foundation’s mission and main objective?
State Financial Officers Foundation’s mission is to drive fiscally sound public policy by partnering with key stakeholders and educating Americans on the role of responsible financial management in a free-market economy.
Our organization equips and empowers principled, fiscally responsible state treasurers, state auditors and other state financial officers to be steadfast champions for economic freedom. This network of pro-freedom treasurers and auditors is fostering collaboration, sharing best practices and developing models to best advance fiscally responsible practices in their states.
An issue that SFOF has prioritized this year is educating state financial officers on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies and how they undermine state economies and erode opportunity. State financial officers are a frontline defense to push back against these types of far left ESG policies and protect public pensions from activist investors.
We are turning high-level state finance issues like this one into “kitchen table issues” through a new targeted messaging campaign that will inform and engage the American public about how ESG policies negatively affect them and their personal finances.
Many public funds and state pensions are invested in ESG-centric funds that underperform and don’t deliver on their promises. The mishandling of these public funds — trillions of dollars — will have damaging effects on retirees, state employees and business owners. SFOF provides research and monitors attempts at the state level to advance these misguided policies.
SFOF will stop the advance of destructive ESG practices by empowering state financial officers to stand against these policies and raise awareness about their pitfalls to the public.
What has been the biggest obstacle in conducting SFOF’s work?
The biggest obstacle to SFOF’s work is a lack of awareness in two areas:
First, many people do not know the names of their congressional representatives, much less their state financial officers. They remain largely unaware that state treasurers and auditors wield enormous power and shape the fiscal policy of their states.
Second, there is a lack of knowledge about ESG policies and how they affect Americans at a personal finance level. ESG policies have quietly been adopted by the largest fund managers in the U.S., but these fund managers abuse the public’s naivete and talk about ESG in a way that belies its real, destructive impact.
SFOF is helping state financial officers raise awareness about ESG and how it impacts their constituencies.
What is something you have learned along the way that has been surprising?
I have been surprised to see the impact that a small group of people, standing up for what is right, can make. Earlier this year, Riley Moore, state treasurer for West Virginia and a SFOF member, took a stand against asset manager BlackRock for its decision to cut investments in coal and bet against West Virginia, the second-largest coal producer in the country, by pushing carbon neutrality. Meanwhile, BlackRock is investing heavily in China, even as it opens 43 coal-burning power plants. As a result of this, Moore will no longer allow the company to manage his state’s public funds.
You can read about this in more detail on our website, but Riley’s actions are causing state treasurers and auditors to examine the investment practices of their fund managers and consider similar actions. When state treasurers make decisions that are in the best interests of their constituents, Americans win.
How can those interested in supporting your work go about doing so?
We look forward to partnering with people who believe, like we do, that empowering state financial officers is critical to achieving economic freedom and sound financial principles — and pushing back against far-left ESG ideas.
I would be thrilled to discuss how other concerned Americans can get involved with SFOF and share more details on our work, including the impact we are having and our efforts and goals for 2022 and beyond.
If you are interested in learning more about the State Financial Officers Foundation, visit sfof.com.