With seemingly more and more businesses blurring their morals when making financial decisions, it is more important than ever that you crystallize your own values and virtues.
In today’s episode of Retire in Texas, Darryl Lyons breaks down what “Woke Culture” is and how this form of global activism is transforming our economic and political environments.
Topics discussed include:
- What “Woke Culture” really means and how it has already impacted the world we live in.
- Vivek Ramaswamy’s view on the current stage of “wokeism” and how his Investment Firm navigates this complex landscape.
- What we can do personally to ensure we aren’t straying from our own values and morals in relation to our financial goals.
This episode’s topic is timely and offers a fresh perspective on a complex subject.
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Hey, this is Darryl Lyons, CEO and Co-Founder of PAX Financial Group. Thanks for tuning in today. I appreciate it.
And as always, I have to remind you that this information is general in nature. It is not intended to provide specific tax, investment, or legal advice. Visit PAXFinancialGroup.com for more information. So. Hey, thanks for tuning in today. I’m chuckling a little bit because I fumbled on my first iteration of that and had to do it again.
So here we go. So hopefully the show is a little bit cleaner than my opening. But I’m happy to jump in here. And this one’s different because I’m going to talk about a guy that’s been getting a lot of press and it has financial relevance and that’s why I want to mention him. His name is Vivek Ramaswamy.
Vivek Ramaswamy. Have you heard of him? You might have. He was in the presidential debates recently and he has been doing about every single podcast and YouTube interview he could possibly do. And the reason I want to talk about him is because I’ve been following him for a couple of years now. The reason I’ve been following him is because he has an investment firm called Strive Asset Management.
Now Strive has constructed exchange traded funds which are like mutual funds but run more with computers than people. Exchange traded funds have been around 20 plus years, and they play a key role in our investing construction. And Vivek has developed exchange traded funds that focus on companies that have avoided being woke. And I’m using some air quotes right now.
So, they’re kind of the anti-woke exchange traded funds. And so, his team has contacted me on multiple occasions and have had some good conversations about getting shelf space, in other words, implementing some of the Strive investments into our client’s portfolio and we manage $600 million. So, it would be a big win for them to find a way to get into our client’s portfolio.
And our responsibility at PAX is to kick the tires of these thousands of investment firms out there and to screen the ones that make sense for our philosophy and our approach. That’s what we do as fiduciaries, Brian Wing here in the office plays a key role in doing that. He’s responsible for that screening. And of course, I play a role in influencing which strategies get into our clients’ accounts and Strive has been on our short list of potentials, but it hasn’t made the cut because it doesn’t have a track record.
And so, we want to see, Strive, have a track record of performance before Vivek Ramaswamy’s investment solutions make it into our clients’ portfolios and ultimately something that you might see in your statement. So, we’re still waiting on that track record and so we’re watching them. But I’ve been paying attention to Vivek over the last several years and obviously he’s got a lot more attention.
And I wanted to bring to your attention some of the things I’ve learned about him. So when you when you go to Strives website, you’ll learn more about what the purpose of the company is and you’ll recognize very quickly that they are in the business of investing in companies that are not woke, and that when companies that are in their portfolios make decisions that are antithetical to their philosophy and their world view, they will go to those boards.
Yeah, say Exxon Mobil or Disney, they’ll go to those boards, and it’s documented on their website and cuss and fuss with them over the rationale behind the decisions that they’re making. And so, they actually went to the boards of Exxon and took issue with some of their climate change strategies, and specifically the misrepresentation on the board of Exxon of people who have a different opinion.
So, they were focused on diversity of opinion. On ExxonMobil’s board, they took issue with Disney’s one-sided political agenda. So, they were able to use their influence as investment managers to talk to the board of Disney and Home Depot and Chevron and many others. So, I went a little further and when I was trying to understand their philosophy, I stumbled upon this book, and it’s called Woke Inc.
And I’m going to share a little bit about this book with you. And keep in mind, I’m not making an endorsement here because we really don’t know everything about Vivek at this time. We’re still learning about him. So, this is certainly not an endorsement, but I think you’ll find it interesting. So, in his book, Woke Inc and Inside Corporate America Social Justice, we’re going to unpack what he’s discovered about these huge companies, the multinational companies and the influence they have on our society.
But let’s define woke for just a second because some people hear the word woke and it still resonates as social justice and a pursuit of destroying racism. And I understand very clearly the history of the word woke. And I still believe that it, from its historical perspective, has a lot of merit. But today it’s been hijacked by many, many, many activist groups.
And it means something totally different today. We’ll talk a little bit about how that is reflected in corporate America. And so, when I talk about woke, I’m talking about this activism that’s become a religion and we’ve seen it we’ve seen it in Disney, we’ve seen it Bud Light, we’ve seen it in Target. And so, we’re going to unpack it a little bit more because most of the content of this book came out before Disney, Bud Light, Target.
So, this was happening in the shadows and behind the scenes in corporate America. Vivek doesn’t necessarily attack the issue. I mean, you can see it throughout the book. He does take issue with the issues, but mainly the sincerity of these companies and the hypocrisy that exists. That’s where you’ll see him really start to lean in a little bit.
For example, he took issue with Jamie Dimon, one of the wealthiest people in America, the CEO of JPMorgan, kneeling in his office to demonstrate solidarity with protesters. Vivek takes issue with the sincerity of that gesture. Then he goes on to address Adam Neumann, the CEO of We Work, where he says, our mission is to elevate global consciousness, but yet flies a $60 million jet, or 2019.
When Amazon challenged Walmart. Let’s pay everyone $15 an hour. Let’s take care of our people. Only four years later there were massive layoffs. 27,000 people got laid off this year. But the best yet in his book that I thought was Volkswagen. Volkswagen, you know, their CEO was very proud. Here’s what he said in his annual letter to shareholders.
And you can find this in Vivek’s book. The automotive industry is currently experiencing fundamental change. Look, no further than the increasingly stringent CO2 legislation or the rapid digitization of vehicles, plants and showrooms. This costs us a great deal of energy and money too. But at Volkswagen, we do not see this transition as a threat, but rather a tremendous opportunity, one that we must and will take advantage of.
And then only a few weeks later, the German automaker was found to have installed software in their vehicles called defeat devices, where they circumvented the EPA standards. They lied. Vivek doesn’t talk about this example, but this one will hit home. USAA has also found itself in a very precarious way where they had to choose between their members, who many of them have fought for our country or their parents or their grandparents, or their exclusive NFL package, which at the time was an endorsement of what many believed to be undermining the American flag.
And as a result, Wayne Peacock and his 4.8 million compensation package in 2022 is under a great deal of stress and the company is not the same. When you are a CEO and a leader, there’s really four groups of people that you have to please and in your position of influence you can only please three of them.
You have to pick the one group that you will disappoint. So let me share those four. You’ve got your clients and customers, number one. Number two, you’ve got your employees. Number three, you’ve got your shareholders and number four, you have a group of very loud activists, often woke activists. You have to pick which one of these groups you’re going to disappoint.
Based on the examples I’ve shown you; those leaders did not choose the activist group. And as a result, one of the other groups were neglected. Customers. In the case of Disney, Target, USAA and Amazon disappointing the employees, But the shareholders are also getting the short end of the stick because when it comes down to leadership, there’s so much power in focus.
So, Vivek talks a lot about hypocrisy. I’m going to just tease out focus for just a second because it is a secret weapon and you know about focus, because if you play golf, you’ve got to focus. If you shoot clay pigeons, you’ve got to focus. If you do homework for your kids, they’ve got to focus. You’ve got to focus on your marriage.
What you focus on gets results. What you focus on is what grows. So as a leader, if you have conviction and you focus on your clients and your employees and your shareholders, they will be rewarded and blessed. But the problem in corporate America, specifically in the large international space over the last several years is they have become subject to a new ideology, which is very much a religion, by the way, and a religion defined by the EEOC is and I talk about this in my upcoming book, by the way, a quick plug, is a unified systemic explanation that orders one’s life.
So, this kind of woke ideology or woke ism is really becoming a religion of sorts. And a byproduct of this worldview is the boundaries of ethics have been blurred. And I have specifically seen executives cross the line of integrity and ethics for the purposes of capitulating to a group of activists. And it’s my conviction that that game is over.
I believe the resistance has happened where leaders like Vivek and many, many others have seen what’s been going on and they’ve had enough. And so, this resistance is clear, and it is effective. And I’ve had plenty of conversations with asset managers. I don’t have the degree of influence that others have, but I do my best to put a pebble in their shoes so they will consider an alternative worldview, one in which is rooted for me in the Word of God, which is often in direct conflict with a woke ideology.
And so as frustrated as I’ve been because this has been going on and I’ve known about it for the past five years and really been trying to work behind the scenes on questioning, asking people what’s going on. I’ve seen it. I can’t tell you with confidence that we’re tired of it. The customers are tired of it, employees are tired of it, and shareholders expect and deserve more for the risks they’ve taken and so hopefully as we go forward, some of these companies will turn around. They’ll realize leadership matters and there’s consequences to their decisions.
That’s the hope, right? I certainly want to see USAA win for the community of San Antonio specifically. So I am rooting for USAA and I’m rooting for a lot of the good people. We’ve recruited several of their talented people and they are very good people. And we all deserve better. We deserve to be functioning under a society of leadership that really is focused on three groups of people, the customers, the employees and the shareholders, not the activists, though I hope that helps today.
I hope that with some insight on Vivek, you can continue to do your own due diligence. Don’t follow the guy because you like him or because he has a nice smile. Follow your candidate of a choice because you have crystallized your values and this candidate espouses the same values. Do not design your values in the midst of identifying the candidate of choice and do not vote for somebody because you like them.
Make sure that you know your values and that that candidate espouses your values. And so, with that being said, as you know, I’m still learning about Vivek. I’m still learning a lot about the candidates and encouraged by where we’re going in this next chapter of America and our investing. And as always, thanks for tuning in. And I want to remind you, as usual, you think different when you think long term.
Have a great day.