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Vivek Ramaswamy sells anti-ESG to RIAs to nab quick $1 billion of AUM, but it's all 'Kabuki theater,' analyst says, to steer proxy votes hard right -- profitably

Strive Asset Management ETFs are plain vanilla indexes but vote proxies as per Ramaswamy's right-of-Trump Republican presidential platform.

Author Oisin Breen September 26, 2023 at 2:03 AM
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Vivek Ramaswamy, Strive's majority shareholder, launched the firm to seek influence over corporate policies.
Brooke Southall and Keith Girard contributed to the editing of this article.


Bob  Rall

Bob Rall

September 26, 2023 — 12:23 PM
Wow, no bias in this article... "Strive counts on hard-core believers in a radical right-wing agenda to support an ideologically driven asset management play that sells index funds at a hefty mark-up." I am an RIA who owns some Strive funds, not because I'm a radical right winger, but because I like the idea of having a say (although admittedly minor) in how my shares are voted. Hefty mark up? Two paragraphs later it is reported (?) that the average index fund has an expense ratio of 0.23%. "Strive's fees average 0.25%, though they can range from 0.05% to 0.41% at the high end."
Peter Giza

Peter Giza

September 26, 2023 — 10:55 PM
Ok Oisin, it's been a while, but I'll step out in front of the proverbial speeding bus. Somewhat off point even. Here goes :D Heavy sigh. Zero political interest here. To say that greed for money and power and the political maneuvering and manipulation that goes along with it are not behind much of the world of money would be to deny irrefutable history. Knowing those facts let's just dispense with all of the noise and drama. Hypothetical twin girls, best friends, entrepreneurs, married and both love coffee and neither have any political identity. OMG no politics?! Imagine that. Identical you say. Not even close. One regards the petrochemical industry an anathema to human existence while the other realizes things need to change but will invest there. The list of differences is substantial but not too long. Both live for coffee, but knowing how manipulated it is as a commodity, refuse to invest in it. Both feel strongly that the current EV path is being manipulated for the interests of increasing the wealth of the über wealthy, not for the greater good of the planet or the carbon units that inhabit it. They are concerned about fresh water impact from industrial operations such as paper manufacturing and cracking. Another concern is over farming and over fishing. And the list goes on. Now, remembering that they are both apolitical, neither left or right, we continue. Proposed standards spawned by ESG and other paradigms, are designed to measure corporate compliance providing rewards or penalties based upon its performance of the standard. Compliance management is a SRO structure, not via an enforcement body, thus giving full control to the company to manage compliance in a manner executive management feels fits best. And yet, due to the politicization and weaponization of ESG and other similar paradigms, both twins will be labeled lefties. What was intended to be a standard of measurement, a set of guardrails and goad, has turned into a battlefield of epic proportions. I ask, is there any difference in rewarding or penalizing a corporation based upon its ecosystem impact performance versus financial performance? My altruistic self says no. There should be no left or right, red or blue,... I could go on. At the end of the day it boils down to how much we care as individuals about stewardship of the planet itself. Pete Giza | Spitbrook Associates LLC | 603 396 8355


September 27, 2023 — 2:32 PM
Oisin - glad RIABiz is giving some coverage to Strive, but your entire article glosses over a most fundamental and important truth - ALL ESG INVESTMENTS ARE HOT GARBAGE. No ESG investments have any "impact" at all on anything related to E or S or G. ESG investments underperform, increase risk, and increase cost. To me those are bedrock facts, proven over and over again by the reality of product performance, very simple analysis, and a most basic understanding of investment theory and efficient markets. Look at the Financial Times article just today titled "ESG ETFs fail to shine over past 10 years". HOT GARBAGE, the entirety of ESG investing. Our industry's inability to speak this truth and act on it is an travesty that deserves more coverage than you and other industry publications give it. ESG investing is good for *ONLY* one thing - values expression, which on the political left largely takes the form of virtue signaling. ESG investments are political virtue signaling instruments, nothing more. To say or think otherwise is to live in denial and/or to fundamentally not understand how investments and capital markets operate. Strive? They're just playing the game. They're not "anti" ESG as much as they're explicitly agnostic (market cap weighted) and pro-shareholder (in proxy votes), in a market where leading asset managers (e.g. Blackrock) have most been operating on ESG objectives (proxy actions) with non-ESG investments (cap weighted index funds). The difference between Strive and Blackrock is meaningless beyond politics. The real "Kabuki theater" is the entire ESG industry, guilty of promoting a lie - that ESG investments have "impact", that they improve E or S or G, that they're effective for achieving societal/social objectives, or that they add any kind of investment value. All obvious lies. Setting aside the the pile of political hot garbage called "ESG investing"... what Strive has achieved as a startup asset manager, going from launch to $1B in AUM in a short timeframe is notable for those of us that have watched dozens of ETF startups shutter as the big shops continue to dominate.
Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy

October 2, 2023 — 4:37 AM
ESG is, and always has been, a "grift". Nothing more and nothing less. Anti-ESG rides the coat tails of the ESG grifters by allowing those who understand the ESG grift to express their disdain by selecting an opposing grifter (Strive). Both sides are a waste of time and money. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive...

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