Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis has announced "I'm calling for an investigation into AB InBev's actions regarding their Bud Light marketing campaign and falling stock prices."
The state might sue the world's largest brewer because the state's pension funds saw the market value of their 682,000 shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev stock fell $8, from $66 a share to $58 a share. That's a decline in market value of $5,456,000, not exactly chicken feed.
Unless you compare it to the $200 million loss Florida's retirement system sustained on its Russian investments. That's two-thirds of the $300 million which its pension funds hold in Russian-based investments including Sherbank of Russia, the country's largest lender; Rosneft, Russia's energy giant and third largest company, and Magnit, one of Russia's top grocery chains, among others.
That $200 million loss the pension funds sustained on its Russian investments isn't exactly chicken feed – especially when compared to the decline in AB-InBev stock. The Russian loss is 36 times larger than the loss DeSantis is talking about.
(Of course, in both cases, those are losses only when the investments are sold. Until that time, they are merely indications of market fluctuations.)
DeSantis announced his plan to investigate and maybe sue AB-InBev in a letter posted to his Twitter account. You won't find the letter on his official governor's website.
DeSantis attributes the 11.7% decline in AB-InBev stock price to AB-InBev's "decision to associate its BudLight brand with radical social ideologies. That fateful decision has transformed America's formerly best-selling beer – and one of InBev's best-performing assets – into a commercial pariah. InBev's losses have been staggering," DeSantis wrote in a letter to the head of the State Board of Administration. The letter was posted on Twitter, but not on the Governor's page on Florida.gov.
A few days earlier, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis had tweeted, “When companies act stupid, it’s probably ESG. CC: @budweiserusa”. In a Forbes column, Jon McGowan, an attorney who writes about ESG policy, laws and regulations, raised the question of whether Bud Light's "decision to feature Mulvaney driven by ESG or was it a marketing decision."
Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, Democrats in the Florida legislature urged DeSantis to divest the state's Russian investments. He refused, saying he would wait for the Republican-controlled legislature to act.
DeSantis has built his presidential campaign on being against woke corporations. He took on the largest single-site employer in the state and also the state's biggest tourism draw. Florida pulled billions of state assets managed by BlackRock, the world's largest money manager, over its ESG investment policies. Now he's taking on the world's largest brewer.
"Woke corporations are on notice," DeSantis says. What does he mean by "woke?" It's a slang term for "progressive activism," his communications director said. His general counsel says it is "the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them." Ryan Newman, the general counsel, added DeSantis doesn't believe there are systemic injustices in the U.S.