The Wall Street Woke Wars

Blackrock Chairman and C.E.O. Larry Fink.
Blackrock chairman and C.E.O. Larry Fink. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
February 22, 2023

In the good old days on Wall Street, it was rare for a banker to be overtly political. People may have known that Felix Rohatyn, at Lazard, was a Big Dem—he helped save New York City from bankruptcy, after all—but other leading Wall Street bankers used to be a tad more discreet about their political affiliations. Robert Rubin ended up being Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury and Hank Paulson ended up serving in the same position under George W. Bush, but it probably could have gone either way. All of which is to say that not so long ago, Wall Street bankers hoping to make the leap to Washington tended to be more of the statesmen variety and less of the partisan type.

These days, of course, everything is political. And that goes for investing, too. Suddenly with the rise of the E.S.G. movement—the weighting of environmental, social and governance factors in business—investing has also become a political battleground. If you want to stay on the right side of the mob, money managers, apparently, would be wise to abandon investing in anything resembling hydrocarbons or anything that adds to the problem of the Earth heating up. The hope, I suppose, is that if investors quit ExxonMobil, for instance, the company would just fold up its tent and disappear.