© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign for BlackRock Inc hangs above their building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018/File Photo
By Ross Kerber
(Reuters) – Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has questioned 19 financial companies to clarify their investment policies on fossil fuels, his office said on Wednesday, showing the breadth of a review that could see firms losing state pension mandates.
Letters were sent to companies including BlackRock Inc (NYSE:),, JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:) & Co among others “that may be boycotting the fossil fuel industry,” according to a statement and other material sent by a spokesman for the Republican state official.
Even if companies currently hold oil and gas investments today, some may be “selling the hope of a ‘green’ tomorrow with promises to divest or reduce” fossil fuel exposure, Hegar said in the statement.
Another round of letters will soon be sent to more than 100 other publicly-traded investment companies “that appear to have one or more funds boycotting fossil fuels,” according to Hegar’s letter.
Under a new state law, Hegar will draw up a list of financial companies found to boycott fossil fuels. Those firms could then be barred from managing state pension money. Hegar told companies they have 60 days to provide details.
At stake is access to state pension funds like the $197 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which has about $2.5 billion with BlackRock for example.
Major investors face balancing acts as some pension funds and endowments move to divest from fossil fuel stocks over climate change concerns. High energy prices have helped keep other investors in the stocks however.
A spokesman said Hegar was not available for further comment.
Representatives for BlackRock, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo did not comment. In a previous letter, BlackRock had argued to Texas officials that as a long-term investor in fossil fuel companies, “we want to see these companies succeed and prosper.”
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