Never mind rate risk – SVB collapsed because it was too woke.
Well, that’s what some Republicans seem to think, with presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, Senator Josh Hawley and Donald Trump Jnr all suggesting the Silicon Valley lender was too focused on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) matters. Such culture war guff is depressingly normal in US politics.
More surprising, perhaps, was that such sentiments could even be found in the Wall Street Journal. SVB’s board was 45 per cent women and had one black member, one LGBTQ+ member, and two veterans, noted WSJ columnist and businessman Andy Kessler, adding: “I’m not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.”
ESG has many faults but this kind of motivated reasoning is beyond silly. Unfortunately, some people take it seriously. Last year billionaire BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink was forced to reject accusations that stakeholder capitalism was “woke”. More recently a number of anti-ESG exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have launched.
More companies will get into trouble as 2023 progresses. Don’t be surprised to hear the usual suspects blame it on woke investing practices.