Letter: Public employees have a right to know if Utah Retirement Systems heeds the “prudent investor rule”

(Rick Bowmer | AP) The Utah State Capitol, rear, is shown behind an oil refinery on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

Has Utah Retirement Systems joined the state’s war against ESG (environmental, social and governance framework)?

In a recent interview with Top1000Funds.com , URS’ Chief Investment Officer John Skjervem weighed in against ESG-principled financial strategies and institutions. He also indicated that his administration of Utah public employees’ pension and retirement savings funds is biased toward fossil fuels. In other words, there may be a URS-funded pushback against ESG promotion of sustainable environmental, social, and corporate governance investments.

Skjervem reported that most of the URS energy, mining and infrastructure commitment is tied to direct oil and gas investments that were made as other institutions divested from fossil fuels. Those firms saw climate and other risks. Nevertheless, URS picked up and funded the discards.

Skjervem added that “We’ll hold these hydrocarbon assets for a decade or more,” and echoed Utah’s all-of-the-above, carbon-biased energy policy asserting that the fossil fuel industry must be supported during our long-term transition to renewable energy sources.

The URS board apparently approves of what’s characterized as “bold” fossil fuel investments. Board members include Utah Treasurer Marlo Oaks, who is a nationally recognized ESG opponent and has begun transferring millions of the state’s public dollars away from ESG-friendly market entities. By comparison, though, URS has a whopping $43 billion to brandish in this fight.

Utah public employees — current and retired — have a right to know if URS is administering their pension and retirement savings funds according to the “prudent investor rule,” as per statute, so that exposure to climate change-related and other financial risks is being minimized rather than increased.

Stanley Holmes, Salt Lake City

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