By MIKE WAGENHEIM
Following a JNS report on a growing list of state agencies investigating the investment firm Morningstar for potential anti-Israel practices, Reuters has reported that 18 U.S. states have joined a Missouri probe into the company.
Probe Into Sustainalytics
A spokesperson for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said on Wednesday,Aug. 24, that attorney generals in 18 U.S. states have joined Missouri’s investigation into whether Morningstar violated consumer-protection law with its evaluations of companies’ performance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
In addition to Missouri, the other 15 are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Three states aren’t allowed to disclose their participation due to confidentiality laws or other state policies.
JNS reported on Aug. 9 that pro-Israel groups had been holding discussions with representatives from various agencies across a number of states to bring their attention to Morningstar’s practices, specifically with regard to its subsidiary, Sustainalytics, and the anti-Israel bias in its investment ratings.
BDS In Disguise?
“There have been meetings with all kinds of state officials: governors’ representatives, attorney general representatives, treasurers’ representatives,” Elan Carr, a member of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement’s advisory council, told JNS. “States need to know that this is nothing other than BDS dressed up as social-justice investing.”
Carr participated in the briefings on behalf of a BDS task force convened and organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Schmitt sent questions to Morningstar in late July, asking what sources the firm uses for its analysis of companies’ investment risks. He also requested documents and communications related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and BDS that Morningstar may have. Missouri is among more than 30 U.S. states that have anti-BDS laws, penalizing entities that try to harm Israel economically through boycotts and other measures.
“We believe that BDS through the guise of ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) investing is extremely dangerous for Israel. The Morningstar/Sustainalytics model is especially egregious, replete with biased sources and fundamentally anti-Israel assumptions. They lead to terribly biased reviews of Israel and anyone conducting business in Judea, Samaria or Jerusalem,” said Carr. “We regard this as nothing other than a manifestation of the BDS movement.”
Morningstar Denies Culptability
Morningstar has said repeatedly through statements that it “does not support the anti-Israel BDS campaign.” It said it has not been asked by other states for information on its practices.
An independent review commissioned by Morningstar “found neither pervasive nor systemic bias against Israel” by Sustainalytics, though it did lead to 40 recommendations to eliminate the potential for anti-Israel bias at the company. Critics argue the changes would be superficial.
Christians United for Israel Action Fund chairwoman Sandra Parker told JNS that “Morningstar’s repeated efforts to deploy prototypical crisis communications strategies, in hopes this issue will go away, have failed,” she said. “We hope that Morningstar will now earnestly and seriously address the anti-Israel biases plaguing Sustainalytics.”