Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an investigation into AB InBev, the beverage company behind Bud Light, as the firm’s share prices crashed amid a conservative boycott earlier this year.
As Local 10′s Orlando news partner WKMG News 6 reports, on Thursday evening, DeSantis spoke on Fox News to discuss the issue, saying that the state held a large amount of AB InBev stock in the state’s FRS pension fund prior to the crash.
“Well, we had over $50 million worth of InBev stock in the pension. Of course, Florida’s pension funds are at about $180 billion,” DeSantis said. “So it’s a pretty big endeavor, but it has absolutely hurt teachers. It has absolutely hurt other pensioners.”
AB InBev saw notable losses earlier this year after debuting a Bud Light marketing campaign featuring transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. As a result of the backlash, Bud Light sales saw a large decline, slipping into second place after over two decades as the U.S.’s best-selling beer.
DeSantis said the company’s activities led to a decline in the state’s pension fund, which could impact retired public officials.
“When you start pursuing a political agenda at the expense of your shareholders, that’s not just impacting very wealthy people. It impacts hardworking people who were police officers, firefighters and teachers in terms of the pension,” he said.
As such, DeSantis said the state would be launching an inquiry into AB InBev to determine whether the company was being fiduciarily responsible.
“It could be something that leads to a derivative lawsuit filed on behalf of the shareholders of the Florida pension fund because at the end of the day, there’s got to be penalties for when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda,” DeSantis explained.
The governor has been a long-time critic of companies that operate with stakeholder management, signing a bill earlier this year that eliminates the use of ESG — Environmental, Social and Governance — factors when determining state investments.
The concept of ESG has come under scrutiny in recent years as critics argue that it takes away a company’s focus from its responsibility to shareholders.
Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis responded to DeSantis’ announcement on Thursday, providing the following statement.
“The failure of Bud Light is going to be taught in business schools for decades. It’ll be a lesson on why companies should stay out of politics; on what happens when you turn your back on your customers. It’s a story about arrogance, and how a lack of accountability has led to one of the great American companies of all time bleeding cash and failing local distributors who employ so many throughout American communities. The Governor’s action is 100% the right thing to do. We have to put participants in our retirement system first, and an investigation of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s impact to the state’s retirement fund is a commonsense move. As always, Governor DeSantis is over the target. This company has had its head in the sand for too long and they should use this opportunity to course correct. Moreover, other CEOs should use this as an opportunity to shut down their woke departments. It may make you popular at cocktail parties, but it’s going to cost your company, your shareholders, and maybe your job.”Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis
DeSantis wrote a letter to the State Board of Administration calling for the inquiry, which can be read below.