The Moral Incoherence at the Heart of “Ethical” Investment May Explain Why It Has Become a Tool for Israel’s Enemies

Last year, it came to light that Morningstar, one of America’s leading investment-research firms, was systematically issuing corporations that do business with Israel low “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) ratings. These ratings have significant economic outcomes, as they are used by the sizable number of investors who want to feel that they are employing their money ethically. Yet, despite complaints from Jewish organizations, and investigations in several states for possible violations of anti-BDS laws, Morningstar has done little to change its practices.

In two essays on the topic, Samuel Gregg argues that the entire focus on ESG is deeply flawed, failing even by its own questionable metrics. If so, perhaps Morningstar’s anti-Israel obsessions are mere symptoms of a perverse system:

One of ESG’s many difficulties . . . is that its goals and methods are characterized by an incoherence sufficient to call into question not just specific features of ESG but the conceptual integrity of the entire ESG endeavor. Another ESG problem is its tendency to blur ethics and sound business practices with the promotion of particular political causes. This mindset has spilled over into the outlook of financial regulators, and consequently threatens to facilitate widespread dysfunctionality in these agencies’ operations. Lastly, the adoption of ESG risks corroding understanding of the nature and proper ends of commercial enterprises—a development that has broader and negative implications for society as a whole.

Based on a large sampling of Morningstar-identified American ESG mutual funds from 2010 to 2018, [one major study] determined “that these funds hold portfolio firms with worse track records for compliance with labor and environmental laws, relative to portfolio firms held by non-ESG funds managed by the same financial institutions in the same years.” As if that is not enough, [the researchers] conclude that “ESG funds appear to underperform financially relative to other funds within the same asset manager and year, and to charge higher fees.” In short, not only have such funds failed to deliver on many of their ESG goals; they also cost more and provide less by way of financial return.

If the content of ESG is 1) unstable or effectively amounts to whatever you want it to be or whatever happens to be the cause célèbre at a given moment, and 2) there’s no universally agreed-upon measure of success, then whatever claim ESG has to coherence and universal applicability starts to look very thin indeed.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: BDS, ESG, Finance


Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security