Oklahoma County Judge won’t dismiss lawsuit against State’s blacklisting of financial firms


An Oklahoma County District Court Judge has ruled against State Treasurer Todd Russ in his attempt to have a lawsuit dismissed in a challenge of Oklahoma’s law banning financial firms from discriminating against the oil and gas industry.

The ruling came recently from Judge Sheila Stinson following arguments in the suit brought by Don Keenan last fall in which he sued Russ for enforcement of the act that banned 13 financial institutions from doing state business. The suit questioned the authority of the 2022  Energy Discrimination Elimination Act passed by the legislature.

Keenan is a former state employee and served previously as President of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. His lawsuit, filed last November, contends the Act is unconstitutional because state pension systems might be forced to drop fund managers at a cost to retirees.

In a recent filing against Keenan’s pursuit of an injunction against the law, which is enforced by the Treasurer’s office, Treasurer Russ contended Keenan filed to provide sufficient evidence showing the Act is not for the “exclusive purpose of providing for benefits, refunds, investment management, and administrative expenses of the individual retirement system.”

The Treasurer stated there’s no dispute that the protection of an industry critical to Oklahoma’s economy is in the public interest.

The court battle has drawn others to publicly comment. Former firefighter Michael Tennyson of Yukon offered his comments under the headline, “Oklahoma’s Blacklist of Financial Firms Not the Answer.”

In May 2022, our state legislature passed a law requiring state and local municipalities, including state pensions, to divest from financial institutions that are perceived to be “boycotting” the oil and gas industry. As some state and local leaders are now seeing, this law brings new costs and challenges for taxpayers and Oklahoma communities more broadly.

This law stems from the accusation that financial institutions are more focused on advancing a political agenda than delivering returns for their clients and shareholders. In my experience, the opposite is true. In fact, it is our state legislature whose priorities are out of sorts. As a result, competition has decreased, and government entities and other developers may be forced to conduct business with higher-cost lenders.

As a former firefighter, I want to ensure the strong value of my pension and those of my fellow firefighters. By blocking out several large financial institutions from our pensions and infrastructure projects, we could all lose. The Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System used a loophole to keep some funds from these larger financial institutions as part of our pension, but not all.

I want what’s best for my business, our community, our firefighters, and all taxpayers. There are better ways for our government to do that than by dictating how financial institutions make business decisions and blacklisting them when you disagree. I hope our legislators work to fix this in Oklahoma City this session.