Ed. note: We will not be publishing a blog on Monday in observance of Labor Day in the US. We’ll be back Tuesday.
Corporate governance guru Nell Minow published a scathing response to the letter sent to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink by 19 state Attorneys General attacking the firm’s ESG policies and initiatives. She gives a creative twist by posing it as “the letter I wish Mr. Fink could send” to the group of AGs. Fictitiously as Fink, she pulls no punches – calling the AGs’ accusations
…such an appalling mixture of political theater and disinformation that I question whether the signers actually read it. I will respond to some of its allegations but I will begin with one key point: it takes a lot of chutzpah for a bunch of elected officials to claim — without any substantiation — that the decisions made by financial professionals are based on politics rather than financial returns when it is you who are urging us to bend our criteria based on your political pandering. We operate under extensive regulatory requirements, including fiduciary obligation, the duties of care and loyalty you refer to, the strictest standard of our legal system. We are also governed by the unforgiving, stringent pressures of competition in the market.
So let me be clear about the answer to all of your charges: Every single decision made by us at BlackRock, from investment criteria to economic forecasts to incentive compensation to the purchase of office supplies is exclusively based on our best assessment of risk and return. That includes doing whatever it takes to create sustainable growth and continue to attract and retain clients.
And it just gets better:
Your letter says, ‘BlackRock has already committed to accelerate net zero emissions across all of its assets, regardless of client wishes.’ This fundamentally misunderstands the basic principle of managed funds and index funds, which now take up the majority of the market because clients, including individuals and intermediaries like pension managers, recognize, since you like sports examples, that a non-professional making investment decisions is like a non-professional playing one-on-one with Steph Curry — with your entire bank account on the line. You claim without any substantiation that asking corporate executives to align their incentive compensation, actual results, and political contributions with their public statements is not connected to financial returns. We have concluded the contrary and would be glad to hear your calculus to support that statement. The same applies to your claims about current and future legislative and regulatory standards. Your use of the term ‘couched in language’ is revealing because it shows that you have no substantive counter-argument to make.
Maybe my favorite part is this:
Your letter suggests that you may disagree with some of our investment indicators. And yet, you fail to provide a single example of an investment decision that does not meet financial criteria. I am not sure under what legal authority you are presenting us with these questions or what your intention is, but if your letter is pursuant to some sort of formal investigation or potential charge, you need to do better than these pre-packaged, unsupported accusations. To the extent that your office plays a role in advising the fiduciaries who use our services to help manage the state’s public pension plans, you should direct your attention to the scrupulous attention and extensive expertise of the state officials and employees who make those decisions.
So, yeah – pretty tough language. Very much worth a few minutes to read the whole thing.