Attorney General Kris Mayes halts ESG investigation started by predecessor

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FILE - Kris Mayes Ross D. Franklin

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is ending the state’s role in investigations backed by her predecessor into a business practice emerging in corporations throughout the country.

The most notable example is when former Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich took part in an investigation related to several banks’ use of environmental, social, and governance-related strategies (ESG), which he and other Attorney General’s throughout the country worried could lead to certain individuals or organizations being turned down for loans.

“While my predecessor’s administration spent time and resources launching politicized investigations into the environmental sustainability efforts of major financial institutions, my administration is committed to using the tools and resources at our disposal to protect and secure the rights of Arizonans on matters that affect their daily lives,” Mayes said in a statement on Monday. 

“Arizonans can expect my office to be laser-focused on issues like protecting Arizona’s natural resources – including water, combating fraud and scams, and safeguarding vulnerable groups like seniors and children,” she added.

Mayes defended ESG, saying that corporations are free to make choices about environmental policy within their own structures.

“Corporations should be permitted to access capital markets in ways that they feel are necessary for the advancement of their investor objectives and for society, as long as they are doing so in a lawful manner,” she said. “Corporations increasingly realize that investing in sustainability is both good for our country, our environment, and public health and good for their bottom lines. The state of Arizona is not going to stand in the way of corporations’ efforts to move in the right direction.

Brnovich was specifically concerned with the banks’ ties to the United Nations Net-Zero Banking Alliance, which promotes investing to get closer to “net-zero emissions by 2050”, according to a UN website. 

In an October 2022 statement, the Republican said that financial institutions should steer clear of political involvement, especially if it results in discrimination against those in agriculture or in the fossil fuel industry.

“American banks should never put political agendas ahead of the secure retirement of their clients,” he said. “These financial institutions are entrusted with protecting a different type of green.”

Brnovich also launched an investigation in November 2021 into Climate Action 100+, another initiative used by investment firms.

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.