Vivek Ramaswamy made a name for himself as the ‘anti-woke CEO’–but the fund manager he co-founded has been marketing funds packed with Democratic-leaning holdings

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS



Earlier this year, Republican presidential primary contender Vivek Ramaswamy made headlines when the asset management firm he co-founded in 2022, Strive Asset Management, crossed $1 billion in assets under management. Crossing the $1 billion mark is a significant feat for any asset management company–but it is even more impressive given that Mr. Ramaswamy launched Strive just a year and a half ago. 

Strive quickly attracted capital from investors thanks to its unique marketing approach: claiming that Strive’s suite of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are “anti-woke” and “anti-ESG.” These claims are so integral to the wider Ramaswamy brand that they earned him the title “CEO of Anti-Woke, Inc.” in the media, even as he stepped down from running Strive to run for U.S. president.

However, the company I co-founded, Goods Unite Us, compiles and tracks corporate and executive political contribution data from the U.S. Federal Election Commission–and we dug into Strive’s funds and found that they are filled with companies that support Democrats and pro-ESG agendas.

Eight of the top 10 corporate holdings in Strive’s Growth ETF overwhelmingly support Democratic politicians and PACs. And a majority of the top 10 holdings in Strive’s three flagship funds (tickers: STRV, STXG, STXV) primarily support Democratic–rather than Republican–politicians and PACs.

In fact, many of Strive’s funds look eerily similar to funds BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard have offered for many years.

In the finance industry, when a fund manager creates a fund that is nearly identical to another long-existing index fund and then uses marketing to convince investors to pay a higher management fee, the fund manager is generally referred to as a “closet indexer.” 

Based on our review of Strive’s funds, one might reasonably accuse Strive of being both closet indexers–and closet Democrats. 

To be fair, Strive is just one of many fund managers on the political left and right making claims that are not supported by reality. Our company has analyzed numerous pro-ESG and conservative ETFs, and it turns out they are often filled with companies supporting politicians and PACs doing the exact opposite of the fund’s stated mission.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s ETF (ticker: NACP), for example, includes Devon Energy (ticker: DVN) among its holdings. Yet one of the top politicians Devon Energy and its senior executives have funded over the last three federal election cycles is Republican U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin. The NAACP’s fund manager has not responded to a request for comment.

Similarly, the American Conservative Values ETF (ticker: ACVF) includes most of the top 10 Democratic donors in our company’s Democratic Large-Cap Core Fund (ticker: DEMZ). While both funds were launched in 2020, DEMZ, as the name suggests, only includes those S&P 500 companies that have made over 75% of their political contributions to Democratic politicians and PACs over the last three federal election cycles. In response to these findings, an ACVF representative said they disagree with our methodology. But we are also working on launching a GOP fund based on real, verifiable data to determine each company’s values. Otherwise, we could find ourselves selling red-washed funds filled with Democrat-supporting companies.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ramaswamy stepped down as chairman of Strive to focus on his campaign. Since then, Strive has pivoted away from the “anti-ESG” and “anti-woke” marketing strategy. Now, Strive claims its funds focus on “shareholder primacy.”

When I reached out to Strive to ask them about our findings that their funds are filled with Democratic companies, they responded that they “don’t market [their] funds as ‘anti-woke’ or ‘anti-ESG’” and instead said Strive’s funds are “unapologetically pro-shareholder.”

Perhaps they really have changed their mantra and had an awakening–but I doubt it.

Brian H. Potts is a writer, lawyer, and the co-founder of Goods Unite Us. The views expressed here are his own and are not intended as investment advice.

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