West Virginia Severs Ties With Four Major Financial Institutions Over Fossil Fuel Boycotts

In a bold move West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore announced on Monday that four major financial institutions have been added to the state’s Restricted Financial Institution List.

Citigroup Inc., TD Bank N.A., The Northern Trust Company, and HSBC Holdings PLC now join BlackRock Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo & Co. on the list, which was established in July 2022 under Senate Bill 262.

The law, designed to safeguard West Virginia’s interests, defines “boycott” as refusing to work with energy companies without “a reasonable business purpose.”

Moore emphasized the importance of this action, stating, “We cannot allow institutions that seek to destroy our state’s critical energy industries and the economic activity they generate to also profit from handling the very taxpayer dollars they seek to diminish.”

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Earlier this year, Moore’s office reached out to six financial institutions, cautioning them that their ESG (environmental, social, and governance) policies could potentially place them on the restricted list, disqualifying them from billions in state contracts. West Virginia spent an impressive $22 billion in banking transactions last year alone.

Two of the institutions that received letters, BMO Bank and Fifth Third Bancorp, successfully demonstrated that they were not boycotting fossil fuel-related companies.

Moore commended their cooperation, saying, “I applaud both of these institutions for working with us in a cooperative way to ensure the free market remains free and our state’s critical industries are treated fairly.”

Despite the inclusion of HSBC and Northern Trust on the restricted list, both companies denied boycotting fossil fuel-associated companies.

An HSBC representative stated, “We seek to work with – not boycott – energy companies. Our policies anticipate that we will continue to provide corporate lending and capital markets transaction support to energy-based customers to both maintain supplies as well as support an orderly and just transition that helps with the creation of new jobs. We are supportive of energy companies throughout the U.S., whom we are pleased to have as clients.”

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Similarly, a Northern Trust spokesperson claimed that the company “does not restrict or prohibit investment in fossil fuel-based energy companies” and highlighted their $52 billion investment exposure to traditional energy and services for managing oil, gas, and other fossil fuels for clients.