Event Materials


Event Summary

On Tuesday, AEI hosted an event to discuss the drive for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing as an instrument for progressing social policy goals. Following an introduction by Hester Peirce of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a panel of experts discussed ESG investing and other related issues.

In her introduction, Commissioner Peirce characterized the “red letters” corporations are pinned with as purely labels, without anyone actually investigating the allegations. She noted how “affliction of shame” is a group effort and begins with ESG “experts” who score companies’ policies. Commissioner Peirce further stated that while it seems inconsequential not to have such policies, their absence often has serious consequences. ESG started looking at proxy voting, as proxy advisers look at economic and social issues just as much as governance issues.

During the panel discussion, Paul Atkins of Patomak Global Partners further discussed accountability in ESG matters. Ken Bertsch of the Council of Institutional Investors explained ESG investing and the role of proxy advising firms. Brandon Rees of the Office of Investment for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations articulated a defense of the free enterprise system and discussed shareholder proposals.

— Kiaran Pethokoukis

Event Description

The drive for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing is an expanded form of a long-standing effort to use private investments to further specific policy or social goals. In some contexts, investors, participants in pension funds, and current and future retirees can direct their investments in ways reflecting their preferences on policy goals and their preferred trade-offs between those goals and a maximization of the value of their assets. In other contexts, it is far more difficult for them to do so, and a significant effort by asset managers to engage in ESG investing can be deeply problematic as a tool to use other people’s money in ways not reflecting their preferences.

Join AEI as a panel of experts address ESG investing and related issues.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.



9:45 AM

10:00 AM
Panel discussion

Paul Atkins, Patomak Global Partners
Ken Bertsch, Council of Institutional Investors
James Copland, Manhattan Institute
Hester Peirce, Securities and Exchange Commission
Brandon Rees, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

Benjamin Zycher, AEI

11:45 AM

12:00 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Yisehak Abraham at [email protected], 202.862.5933.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Paul Atkins is chief executive of Patomak Global Partners LLC, a financial services consultancy that provides industry and regulatory expertise, delivers value in an efficient manner, and provides a competitive edge to companies navigating the global marketplace. He founded the company in 2009. At Patomak, Mr. Atkins leads client work for financial services firms regarding an array of issues, including meeting regulatory requirements, investigating and improving the effectiveness of compliance systems, and designing and implementing compliance policies and procedures. His work spans Dodd-Frank compliance, domestic regulatory advocacy, European regulatory advice, and corporate governance issues. Mr. Atkins regularly serves as an independent compliance consultant and a court-appointed monitor in settlements involving the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. His expert witness engagements include federal, state, and foreign litigation, as well as SEC matters.

Ken Bertsch was named executive director of the Council of Institutional Investors in March 2016. He has more than 30 years of experience across a wide range of investment, consulting, management, and corporate governance roles. He most recently served as a partner at CamberView Partners. He previously was president and CEO of the Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals, executive director for corporate governance and proxy voting at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, managing director for corporate governance analysis at Moody’s Investors Service, director of the governance engagement program at the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America–College Retirement and Equities Fund, and in various roles at the Investor Responsibility Research Center. He holds a JD from Fordham University School of Law and an undergraduate degree from Williams College.

James Copland is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and director of legal policy. In those roles, he develops and communicates novel, sound ideas on how to improve America’s civil and criminal justice systems. He has testified before Congress and state and municipal legislatures and has authored many policy briefs, book chapters, articles, and opinion pieces in a variety of publications, including the Harvard Business Law Review, the Yale Journal on Regulation, The Wall Street Journal, The National Law Journal, and USA Today. Mr. Copland speaks regularly on civil and criminal justice issues; has made hundreds of media appearances in such outlets as PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg, C-SPAN, and NPR; and is frequently cited in news articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and Forbes. In 2011 and 2012, he was named to the National Association of Corporate Directors “Directorship 100” list, which designates the individuals most influential over US corporate governance.

Hester Peirce was appointed by President Donald Trump to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and was sworn in on January 11, 2018. Before joining the commission, she served as senior research fellow and director of the Financial Markets Working Group (now Program on Financial Regulation) at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. At the Mercatus Center, her research explored how financial markets foster economic growth and prosperity and the role well-designed regulation plays in protecting investors and consumers while promoting financial stability and innovation. Ms. Peirce has coedited two books, authored publications, testified before Congress, and served on the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee.

Brandon Rees is the deputy director of the Office of Investment for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The AFL-CIO is a federation of 56 labor unions who represent 12.5 million members. The AFL-CIO Office of Investment promotes the interests of workers’ funds in the capital markets by leading corporate governance shareholder initiatives and advocating for legislative and regulatory reform. Mr. Rees is also a member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s standing advisory group. He received a BA in economics and JD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Benjamin Zycher is a resident scholar at AEI, a member of the board of trustees of the Foundation for Research in Economics Education, a member of the advisory board of the quarterly journal Regulation, and a contributor to The Hill. He has broad expertise in several public policy areas and specializes in energy and environmental policy. He was an associate in the Intelligence Community Associates program of the Office of Economic Research in the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He was also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, and a member of the Western Economic Association International’s board of directors. He was an adjunct professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an adjunct professor of economics and business at the California State University, Channel Islands. He was also a vice president for research at the Milken Institute, the founding editor of Jobs & Capital, a senior staff economist in President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, and a member of Consumer Alert’s advisory board. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a master of public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

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