E&S: BlackRock’s Shareholders Tiring of “Quiet Engagements”?
What will 2020 hold for BlackRock? Last year at this time, environmental activists were pegged as the pranksters behind a phony annual letter from BlackRock’s Larry Fink. Maybe we’ll see more of that “creativity” again this year (in the last few months, the asset manager has also faced protests as well as scrutiny from Al Gore). But for now – despite some reports that BlackRock’s shareholders have been appeased by its increased disclosure about engagements – a couple of proponents are revisiting the more traditional type of pressure for “walking the talk” on E&S issues. A recent Reuters article suggests that BlackRock may press companies harder this year as a result.
First, Mercy Investment Services (the asset management arm for the 9000 nuns of “Sisters of Mercy of the Americas”) filed this resolution:
Proposal requesting that the Board of Directors initiate a review assessing BlackRock’s 2019 proxy voting record and evaluate the company’s proxy voting policies and guiding criteria related to climate change, including any recommended future changes. A summary report on this review and its findings shall be made available to shareholders and be prepared at reasonable cost, omitting proprietary information.
A Guardian article provides some details on the supporting statement – e.g. BlackRock supported only 6 of 52 climate-related resolutions last year, according to the nuns. Meanwhile, As You Sow is questioning BlackRock’s commitment to “stakeholders” – with this resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED: Shareholders request our Board prepare a report based on a review of the BRT Statement of the Purpose of a Corporation signed by our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and provide the boards perspective regarding how our Company’s governance and management systems should be altered to fully implement the Statement of Purpose.
According to a Cooley blog, the proponent takes issue with BlackRock’s tendency to support management and vote against E&S shareholder proposals. The blog summarizes the “stakeholder” pressures that other companies are also facing – including calls for a reduced gap between CEO and worker pay.
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net January 3, 2020
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