Riley Moore had never met the man seated next to him. The state treasurer of West Virginia, Moore had come to a conservative retreat in the state’s storied Greenbrier resort in May 2021 to talk about a letter he and 14 other Republican state treasurers had just written to the Biden administration’s climate envoy, John Kerry. In it, the officials complained about the administration reportedly pressuring financial institutions not to lend to or invest in the coal, oil and natural gas industry—the very backbone of their state economies.
Over lunch, Moore talked up his letter to the stranger seated next to him, who introduced himself as Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech executive and author of the forthcoming book “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam.” The two hit it off, with Moore inviting Ramaswamy to join a group of Republicans who were fighting back against the banks and asset management firms that were, in their minds, doing untold damage to the fossil fuel industry. “You should really come and talk to us,” Moore told him.
Three months later, “Woke, Inc.” was released, landing for three weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sparking a backlash against the principles of stakeholder capitalism and corporate ESG—or environmental, social and governance principles. In the book, Ramaswamy argued that corporations are imposing a “woke” ESG agenda on America, impacting every controversial topic from race to gender to climate. This agenda is not “just ruining companies,” he wrote. “It’s polarizing our politics. It’s dividing our country to a breaking point.”