Remember my recent piece about BlackRock’s defense of the size of its investment positions in public companies? Well, it published another piece on the Harvard Governance Forum that defends the voting power those investments represent. BlackRock reviews various proxy voting scenarios – elections, M&A, say-on-pay & shareholder proposals and the average margins of victory for each. From that data, they draw this conclusion:
The view that asset managers are ‘determining’ the outcome of proxy votes is not supported by the data. The vast majority of ballot items are won or lost by margins greater than 30%, meaning that even the three largest asset managers combined could not change the vote outcome. While the small subset of votes on shareholder proposals tend to be closer, the considerable variation in voting records among asset managers negates the concept of a multi-firm voting bloc as the ‘swing vote”.
In other words, – “most votes aren’t close, so you shouldn’t worry that we have the ability to determine the outcome of all close votes.” These blogs certainly suggest that BlackRock is worried about the potential for regulatory intervention. But I don’t think they’re helping themselves by putting forward arguments that are so specious you can practically see beads of sweat forming on their upper lip.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net, August 15, 2019
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