Indiana Public Retirement System, Indianapolis, awarded a no-bid contract for up to $150,000 to Strive Advisory, a business formally launched earlier this year to disrupt what Strive has criticized as the ESG values-advancing "duopoly" of the two big proxy-advisory firms.
A January news release announcing the launch of the Strive proxy-advisory business cast itself as a fresh alternative to the two dominant proxy advisory firms — Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis.
The contract, obtained from INPRS following an Indiana Access to Public Records Act request, was signed in early December 2022. Its term runs from Nov. 15, 2022, through June 30 of this year.
"Strive provides a unique skill set in advising on ESG policy and is a thought leader in various topics regarding ESG-related fiduciary duties," an INPRS spokesman said in March 17 email, adding that a sole source procurement was utilized.
The contract with Strive is for consulting services, he said, adding that INPRS' existing investment consultants remained in place.
"Additional consulting services were necessary as the INPRS board of trustees and INPRS staff identified opportunities to strengthen the investment policy statement and applicable internal processes," the spokesman said.
Strive Enterprises is the parent company of both Strive Advisory and Strive Asset Management, which was launched in May 2022. Vivek Ramaswamy, one of the firm's co-founders and a vocal critic of environmental, social and governance investing, in February announced he is running for U.S. president.
A February statement from Strive regarding Mr. Ramaswamy's presidential run said he had stepped down as Strive's executive chairman "and yielded his operational responsibilities at the company."
In comments provided via a spokeswoman Friday, Anson Frericks, president and co-founder of Strive Enterprises, said that unlike other asset managers or consulting organizations Strive isn't conflicted by ESG commitments.
"Therefore, Strive provides independent research and analysis that ensures pension organizations uphold their fiduciary duty to act solely and exclusively to maximize retirees' financial benefits, which is required by law," Mr. Frericks said.
As of Jan. 31, Strive Asset Management offered eight exchange-traded funds with assets under management totaling $650 million, the spokeswoman confirmed.
Lorraine Kelly, global head of investment stewardship solutions at ISS, declined to comment specifically on INPRS' contract with Strive but did express views regarding Strive as a provider of both proxy advisory and asset management services.
ISS' view is that "it's potentially problematic to have an asset manager also run a proxy-advisory business, and we believe our clients would have significant reservations with that kind of a structure," Ms. Kelly said Friday in comments provided via a spokesman.
INPRS had a total of $46.3 billion in assets as of Jan. 31, including $39.5 billion in defined benefit plan assets.