BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is coming under scrutiny from a group of state attorneys general over its aggressive push on so-called ESG investments that promote environmental, social and governance issues.
Nineteen state attorneys general led by Arizona AG Mark Brnovich wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the agency to look into BlackRock’s ties to China and whether or not it was prioritizing its fiduciary responsibility to investors.
The letter highlighted that the investing giant headed by billionaire Larry Fink, which has $10 trillion in assets under management, invests in and does business with Chinese companies that often flout environmental concerns even as it pushes for US companies to embrace net-zero carb emissions.
The letter also asked the SEC to examine whether the group’s ties to various climate groups and ESG objectives conflict with its fiduciary responsibilities.
“Based on the facts currently available to us, BlackRock appears to use the hard-earned money of our states’ citizens to circumvent the best possible return on investment, as well as their vote,” the AGs said in their letter.
“BlackRock’s past public commitments indicate that it has used citizens’ assets to pressure companies to comply with international agreements such as the Paris Agreement that force the phase-out of fossil fuels, increase energy prices, drive inflation, and weaken the national security of the United States,” the letter adds.
While the AGs are merely demanding answers about BlackRock’s investment policies, sources note the treasurers in each of the states could pull the their respective state pensions out of BlackRock’s coffers — or ban states from any sort of financial involvement with the institutions.
Last month, West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore banned five major financial institutions — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and BlackRock that have limited their involvement with the fossil fuel industry — from entering into any banking contract with state agencies.
“Maybe there is another explanation for asset managers’ actions,” the attorneys general wrote in conclusion. “Fellow members of BlackRock’s climate organizations include pension funds from states such as California, Connecticut, Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington. Are asset managers making net-zero commitments to market themselves to these investors?”
Depending on the SEC’s response, sources say these other states could re-examine investing with BlackRock — a move that could pull billions from top Wall Street institutions.