NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — As we have been reporting for the last two months, the North Dakota State Investment Board has hired banks and money managers that are now under investigation by the attorneys general in 19 states.

The companies under investigation – including at least three of them here in North Dakota – are members of the Net Zero Banking Alliance, a United Nations-backed group working to phase out the use of fossil fuels with the goal of attaining net-zero emissions by 2050.

According to the multi-state investigation, these banks and money managers could starve loans and investments to energy and agricultural industries in North Dakota.

Nearly every member of the State Investment Board, along with its chairman, Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford, and our Attorney General, Drew Wrigley, are refusing to talk about this issue.

This, as states across the country, are adopting legislation to prohibit public and pension fund investments with money managers who are committed to diminishing the fossil fuel industry.

Earlier this year, Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks gave a presentation to the Energy Development and Transmission Committee explaining his stance against the Net-Zero Banking Alliance.

“Free market capitalism cannot exist with ESG. Because if free market existed, ESG wouldn’t work, and it really requires this collusion and commitment to an agenda,” said (R) Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks. “These asset owners are supposed to act in the best financial interest of their beneficiaries. That’s not happening today because you have asset owners that have decided that this agenda is more important than their fiduciary obligations.”

At the same meeting, State Treasurer Riley Moore from West Virginia said, “We’re not going to pay for our own destruction.”

So, who are the other State Investment Board members refusing to answer any questions about the Board’s decision to hire these banks or comment on the ongoing, multi-state investigation?

Those members are Rob Lech – Superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools; Cody Mickelson – a teacher for Jamestown Public Schools; Claire Ness- the Deputy Attorney General; Jon Godfread – The State Insurance Commissioner; Adam Miller – a state government employee; Mel Olson – a retired teacher and administrator; and Yvonne Smith – a retired state employee.

These public officials are responsible for overseeing more than $20 billion in our pension and legacy funds, much of it derived from taxes from our oil and gas industry.

During the last legislative session, Senate Bill 2291 prohibited social investing or “commitment of public funds for the purpose of obtaining an effect other than a maximized return to the state.”

In other words, the bill bars investments that are not in the best financial interest of pensioners or the state.

Representative Sebastian Ertelt raises the question of whether the State Investment Board is in compliance with SB 2291. The law has been in effect for around a year and a half.

“To have done a comprehensive review of their current investments at the time that the bill went into effect to understand whether or not they are in compliance. And if they were not, regardless of anyone’s opinion about investing in such projects, they should have immediately complied with the law, and if we are not in compliance with the law, that should have been made public,” said Representative Sebastian Ertelt.

Ertelt says that the State Investment Board additionally needs to request an Attorney General opinion on the board’s investment portfolio.

We have reached out to all four banks in North Dakota, and two have responded. You’ll be hearing about that in the next report.

KX has also begun reaching out to members of the Budget Stabilization and Legacy Fund Advisory Board which recommends investment policies for the state.