When you’re the largest asset manager, any statements garner a lot of attention. Take for example, Larry Fink’s January letter to CEOs. A lot of media outlets reported on it, and we wrote about it as did many others. Now, BlackRock, in its role assisting the Federal Reserve in administering some of the CARES Act relief programs, has arrows coming at it from all directions.
First, as discussed in a recent NYT article, a group of conservative-leaning senators sent a letter to Fed Chairman Powell voicing concerns that BlackRock might avoid funding energy and transportation companies due to BlackRock’s own climate-related investment policies. This was followed by a letter from senators on the other side of the aisle requesting the underlying investment guidelines provided to BlackRock for use in managing the Fed’s programs and warning about use of federal funds “to help sustain industries that may drive a future climate crisis.”
But, there were more arrows sent BlackRock’s way. There’s a post from the Federalist about a letter sent to BlackRock’s CEO from representatives of several conservative-leaning organizations, asking BlackRock to reconsider its plan to operate under a stakeholder model rather than supporting a shareholder primacy model. The letter goes on by urging BlackRock to stand against “unnecessary and harmful ESG shareholder proposals.” Coming at it from the other side, as part of an Earth Day event held last week — organized by a group named “BlackRock’s Big Problem” — the event flyer asked participants to call BlackRock to request it follow through on its climate commitment that BlackRock’s CEO made in his letter earlier this year.
BlackRock recently issued its 2020 Engagement Priorities, and I wrote about it on our “Proxy Season Blog.” There was a fair amount of focus on environmental risks and opportunities in that report. No doubt, though, that by the end of the 2020 proxy season, somebody will likely have gripes about whatever BlackRock does. It seems when you’re the largest asset manager, you’re a big target and everybody wants the influence you carry on their side.
-Lynn Jokela, TheCorporateCounsel.net April 28, 2020