Cites asset manager’s ESG push under Fink
You might call it the “battle of BlackRock.”
The conflict, which pits Republican officials in states across the country against the world’s largest asset manager, has only intensified in recent months.
Just days ago, Florida became the latest state to pull money from BlackRock—in its case, $2 billion in state-controlled assets.
The state’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, explained that “using Florida’s cash to fund BlackRock’s social-engineering project isn’t something we signed up for.”
Now, North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell has taken the rhetoric up another notch.
In a Dec. 9 letter to BlackRock’s board of directors, he called for the firm’s CEO, Larry Fink, to “resign or be removed” from his position.
Folwell argued that BlackRock’s focus on “environmental, social and corporate governance” (ESG) under Fink’s leadership runs contrary to its fiduciary duty—in other words, its legal obligation to serve its clients’ best interests.
Those many clients include the North Carolina Retirement System, for which Folwell serves as sole fiduciary. Of the $111.4 billion fund, $14 billion is presently managed by BlackRock, according to the letter.
ESG is an investment philosophy that aims to embed particular values—for example, concern about climate change—into the financial system. Its conservative critics argue that it distorts the economy by privileging politically correct sentiment over the hard realities of the market.
Folwell warned that Fink’s “pursuit of a political agenda has gotten in the way of BlackRock’s same fiduciary duty.”
“A focus on ESG is not a focus on returns and potentially could force us to violate our own fiduciary duty,” he added—a broad hint, perhaps, at a potential future willingness to divest from the asset manager.
Florida’s divestment from BlackRock isn’t the only such move in the last several months.
Under Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, now the Show Me State’s senator-elect, millions in Missourians’ retirement dollars were taken out of BlackRock’s hands.