Treasurer plans to appeal Judge’s suspension of state law meant to protect oil and gas industry


A spokesman for Oklahoma Treasurer Todd Russ indicated the Treasurer will appeal an Oklahoma County District Court Judge’s decision suspending enforcement of the state’s two-year old law boycotting financial companies that discriminate against the oil and gas industry.

Jordan Harvey, chief of staff for the Treasurer, told Mike Ray of the Southwest Ledger there will be an appeal of the ruling made Tuesday by District Judge Sheila Stinson.

“The reality is her ruling will not stop him from pushing back against outside interests using our hard-earned dollars to promote their agendas.”

The judge granted a temporary injunction of the Treasurer’s enforcement of the Oklahoma Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, indicating there is a likelihood Don Keenan will be successful in his lawsuit filed last fall. Keenan, a state retiree and former President of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association sued Treasurer Russ, claiming his action to boycott at least 13 firms over their energy discrimination was unconstitutional.

The lawsuit contended the law enacted by the legislature over ESG or Environmetal, Social and Governance policies of financial firms against the oil and gas industry was vague. The Judge agreed.

“The Court notes five separate Sections of the Act contain conflicting and vague provisions as to the exemptions/exceptions governmental entities may claim and conflicts to the required evidentiary standards.

Chief of Staff Jordan observed the Judge agreed with Keenan’s claim of “vagueness.”

“We think the law should be clarified. She made a point regarding the purpose of the law, and we agree completely, except it is not the agenda he is pushing, he’s trying to protect state dollars from being used as pawns for asset managers’ political agendas. They can’t use our dollars to promote their ESG agendas. They need to be focused exclusively on their investments.”

Keenan’s lawsuit accused the Treasurer of enforcing the law for purposes of a political agenda, something the Judge took note of in her decision.

“As stated by the Treasurer in his notice to the OPERS Board, the purpose of the Act is to counter the “political agenda” of certain financial companies and to assist the economic status of the oil and gas sector. The Court finds a substantial likelihood that this stated purpose of countering a “political agenda” is contrary to the retirement system’s constitutionally stated purpose.”

She went on to declare that any attempt, whether by the Treasurer or the OPERS board to divest or transfer funds for any purpose other than the benefit of the members of beneficiaries is a violation of the state Constitution.

“The issue before this Court is whether the Act and the directives of the Treasurer shift the constitutionally mandated exclusive purpose of the OPERS assets. The Court finds a substantially likelihood that Plaintiff will succeed on this issue,” wrote the Judge.

One organization that sided with Keenan in his lawsuit, the Alliance for Prosperity and a Secure Retirement, offered further comment on Wednesday.

“By putting a hold on the implementation of the state’s financial boycott law, Oklahoma Judge Sheila Stinson has taken the first step in stopping the harm done to the state’s retirees from a law that increases costs for the state’s public pension funds,”said Alliance President Tim Hill.

“The Board of the Oklahoma Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS) recognized the cost when they rightfully voted to exercise an exemption from being forced to limit which financial institutions they could continue to work with to manage the state’s retirement funds.”

He went on to state that more steps should be taken to increase access and opportunity for retirement savings and policymakers should avoid inserting politics into investment decisions that put retirees and taxpayers at risk.

“We are hopeful that when this matter is ultimately heard in the courts that the harm from these overreaching efforts will be permanently shelved. The temporary restraining order to put the implementation of the Oklahoma Energy Discrimination Elimination Act on hold is a strong step in the right direction.”

A copy of the court’s order can be found HERE.