13 Jan The Ideal Tool?
Generally, we don’t publish on Friday – for two main reasons. First, it’s hard to write five days a week. Second, it’s hard to read five days a week.
Obviously, however, we’re making an exception today. Not only do we not have to write anything for today’s piece – or at least not anything new – but there is also important and valuable news to share that you might not see anywhere else.
We’ll start today with an excerpt from the all-new preface to the paperback edition of The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, which is due out in a few weeks. In this section, I discuss the two people who have become important forces in the pushback against woke capital since the hardback was published, just under two years ago. The first is Derek Kreifels – and I PROMISE, Derek, I’ll quote the whole bit about you in a later piece. The second is Vivek Ramaswamy, whose relevance today will be apparent momentarily.
Of all the new faces in the woke capital arena, two have exerted an especially outsized influence. One is Derek Kreifels, the cofounder and CEO of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging fiscal probity and principled stewardship of constituent tax dollars among state treasurers and auditors….
The second person to have an outsized influence on the process of awakening and enlivening the opposition to woke capital is Vivek Ramaswamy, the under-forty biotech multicentimillionaire, serial entrepreneur, and the author of Woke, Inc., which was published in August 2021. If The Dictatorship of Woke Capital is about the wokeness of business, Ramaswamy’s book is about the business of wokeness. Woke, Inc. quickly turned the charismatic Ramaswamy into the public face of the anti-woke movement and the pushback against woke capital.
An impressive speaker and in-demand veteran financial TV guest commentator, Ramaswamy raised awareness of the issues associated with the weaponization of capital and the politicization of business. He also went to work, almost immediately after the release of his book, devising his own plan to thwart the woke capitalists. In May 2022, Ramaswamy announced that he and his best friend from high school, Anson Frericks, had cofounded a new asset management company, called Strive Asset Management, specifically designed to counter the Big Three and their woke capitalism. For months prior to their public announcement, Ramaswamy and Frericks worked quietly and furtively to build a small team of executives and to enlist the support of angel investors. Among the more interesting of the latter group were the investor and conservative political activist Peter Thiel and the famous left-leaning hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.
Among the more interesting of the former group—and the hire that best demonstrates Strive’s commitment to countering shareholder political activism—was Justin Danhof, the now-former director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research. Danhof’s story is detailed in Chapter 9 of this book. He may not be the OG warrior against politically weaponized investments—or he may be. It depends on whom you ask. Either way, Danhof, more than anyone, led the movement to fight back against political shareholder activism since its infancy. He is now the director of corporate governance at Strive, where his mere presence speaks to the firm’s seriousness.
When I used to make appearances at conferences with Justin, after our respective presentations, someone would inevitably ask, “In a perfect world, what would be the best tool to fight back against this?” Justin would always answer: “a proxy advisory service to compete with and displace ISS and Glass-Lewis.”
And that brings us to this week’s big news:
Today Strive announced the launch of Strive Proxy Voting and Strive Outsourced Shareholder Engagement & Proxy Voting Consulting Services (OSEP), enabling investors to vote to maximize value with a new alternative to incumbent proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis.
Institutional Shareholder Services & Glass Lewis steer the behavior of thousands of smaller asset managers – and tens of billions of dollars– to often advance ESG values, typically in lockstep with the Big Three asset managers BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard. These two firms represent a duopoly by controlling near 97% of the market share of the advisory service industry. In fact, BlackRock’s new “Voting Choice” program only allows participating clients in global Separately Managed Accounts and eligible pooled vehicles to “choose” between ISS and Glass Lewis voting slates.
No major proxy advisory service until now votes shares and engages in stewardship in a strictly pro-fiduciary manner, instead of advancing progressive social and political agendas with which many individual investors disagree. Strive’s voting recommendations are made with the sole interest of maximizing the value of clients’ investment accounts, with no motivation to advance a social or political objective. Strive Proxy Voting will be available to institutional investors and wealth managers on one of the leading institutional voting platforms.
Strive will also offer outsourced shareholder engagement (OSEP) in addition to proxy voting services. OSEP will be available to institutional clients and allow asset allocators to leave their funds intact with existing asset managers, either internal or external, while partnering with Strive to represent their clients’ voices and votes as a shareholder in public companies.
In other words, Vivek continues to change the game, and Justin now has at least half his wish: a service to compete with the big boys. If this proxy advisory is as successful as the rest of Strive’s efforts have been, then he’ll get the other half – a service to DISPLACE the big boys in the marketplace.
And that will benefit us all.