President Biden has ordered an assessment of how the TSP “has taken environmental, social, and governance factors, including climate-related financial risk, into account” in its investment fund offerings, as part of an executive order on the government’s potential financial liabilities arising from climate change.
The order tells the Labor Department to conduct that assessment and report in six months on actions the government might take “to protect the life savings and pensions of United States workers and families from the threats of climate-related financial risk.”
That could lead, for example, to a recommendation that the TSP investment funds reduce or eliminate companies involved with fossil fuels. All of the TSP’s fund offerings track large-scale indexes and all but the government securities G fund reflect the stock or bond prices of such companies among many others.
The task would be just one of many reviews to be conducted under the order but is notable because President Biden has now followed President Trump’s precedent of expressing direct interest in the TSP fund offerings in a way that calls into question the independence of the five-member board that runs the TSP.
Last spring, as the TSP prepared to expand the international stock I fund to include stock markets of some two dozen additional countries, the White House had the Labor Department issue a letter ordering the TSP to stop the change because China would have been among those added.
That raised the issue of whether the department has such authority over the TSP, a question that went unanswered because President Trump meanwhile nominated for the TSP board three individuals opposing such a change, to create a majority to block it. The TSP then indefinitely suspended its plan, a suspension that remains in effect even though those nominees were not confirmed. The TSP board currently has four seated members, all of them serving on hold-over status, and President Biden has made no nominations of his own.