Financial institutions targeting Israel is unacceptable

One of the culture wars gaining ground is the soft boycott of certain companies.

Smartphone with webpage of American financial-services company Morningstar Inc. on screen in front of the logo, Feb. 6, 2022. Credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock.
Smartphone with webpage of American financial-services company Morningstar Inc. on screen in front of the logo, Feb. 6, 2022. Credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock.
Robert Rubin. Credit: Courtesy.
Robert Rubin
Robert Rubin is the founder and president of Rubin Wealth Management. He can be reached at: bob@rubinwa.com.

Throughout my 35-year career in the financial services field, I’ve seen it all. Clients making and losing millions, major institutions with billions in assets going belly up in less than 24 hours due to endless mergers, and acquisitions to bull and bear markets. But what isn’t acceptable is when financial institutions meddle in culture wars and social-justice issues.

Last time I checked, a financial institution’s mission is related to money and finances, not culture wars and whatever the soup du jour is for social justice. I don’t want my clients’ accounts to decline because some far-left marketing manager pulls a “Bud Light.”

One of the culture wars gaining ground in financial institutions is the soft boycott of Israeli companies.

Just last week, Morgan Stanley, one of the world’s largest brokerage houses and investment banks, lowered Israel’s sovereign credit rating to a “dislike stance” while Moody’s warned of a “significant risk” that political and social tensions will lead to “negative consequences for Israel’s economy and security situation.”

Did Morgan Stanley do the same to America’s sovereign credit rating as Black Lives Matter protesters burned cities to the ground, causing billions of dollars of damage? Or to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s sovereign credit rating this year on the heels of the regime in Tehran executing more than 600 Iranian innocent citizens on trumped-up charges?

No, they didn’t. But because the Israeli people are having peaceful protests regarding judicial reform, major financial institutions have fired shots across the bow of Israel’s government with the adjustments to their sovereign credit rating.

While the actions I referenced above are deeply troubling, one of the most high-profile antisemitic situations over the past year was regarding Morningstar targeting Israeli companies. Morningstar has waded into the territory of boycotting companies in the State of Israel.

Throughout my career, I have and will continue to proudly support the world’s only Jewish nation: the State of Israel, aka the Startup Nation.

I am deeply disturbed that Morningstar, a global financial services company that provides independent investment research, data and analysis to investors and financial professionals, continues to target Israeli companies while they turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings of countries such as China or the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So here’s a quick primer on the last year or so regarding Morningstar and Israeli companies.

In October 2022, Morningstar announced new, additional measures to address the anti-Israel bias concerns raised by Jewish groups in America regarding Sustainalytics’ ESG research products. Sadly, they were slow to implement these “additional measures.”

A February 2023 article in The Washington Free Beacon reported that the financial ratings giant Morningstar has failed to follow through on promises to eradicate anti-Israel bias from its corporate ratings system, and is still blacklisting companies that work with Israel.

While Morningstar said last year that it initiated a company-wide process to eradicate anti-Israel bias, Motorola Solutions and Elbit Systems, along with other Israeli companies, remained on the watchlist for their work with Israel’s security sector, according to an analysis reviewed by the Beacon that summarized updated ratings by Morningstar and Sustainalytics. Both companies provide counterterrorism surveillance technology that helps the Jewish state combat terrorism.

Sustainalytics, a subsidiary of Morningstar, rates companies based on Environmental, Social and Corporate (ESG) governance guidelines.

In a recent speech to the group Christians United for Israel, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said: “We [Florida] also have stood strongly as a state against the BDS [Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel] movement. Now what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to smuggle anti-Israel policies into the so-called ESG criteria. First of all, ESG is a total fraud, and we’ve kneecapped it in the state of Florida.”

I’m glad my governor has taken a strong stance on this issue because billions, if not trillions, of dollars flow through ESG-related assets. In this case, Morningstar’s attempt to redirect those capital flows away from Israel-connected companies is a direct economic attack on Israel.

From Morgan Stanley to Morningstar, there is an unjust obsession with singling out the world’s only Jewish state. Singling it out is clearly antisemitism, and as a financial services professional, I think it would be best if they would go back to their core competency of serving clients, helping them manage their money instead of wading into culture wars.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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