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The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to both BlackRock and State Street following inquiries into both firms beginning on July 6, 2023. These follow a similar subpoena sent to As You Sow in November, continuing the Committee’s ongoing antitrust investigations into ESG. These potentially bring the issue one step closer to an enforcement action as the discovery process has now become compulsory. The Committee received initial responses, but appears displeased with them. Their letter accompanying the subpoena to BlackRock states:

“Over the course of more than five months, BlackRock has produced 7,745 documents—fewer than several other, much smaller entities have produced to the Committee in this investigation, despite BlackRock’s massive size and influence as the world’s largest asset manager, which suggests that the company may possess far more responsive material.”

BlackRock, on the other hand, responded by stating:

“Having already produced more than 7,700 documents and 91,000 pages, a subpoena was not necessary but we understand this is the Committee’s practice, and we will continue to cooperate.”

It is worth noting that subpoenaing a company is an easy step for the Judiciary Committee to take, but the Committee has no regulatory authority outside of conducting an investigation. However, if the Committee finds information they deem actionable, they could pass that along to State Attorneys General to pursue enforcement based on state anti-trust statutes. These subpoenas amount to little more than political posturing, as experts say the lawsuits have a minimal likelihood of success. Regardless of the intention behind the subpoenas or their potential impacts, compulsory discovery is an escalation from the Judiciary Committee and these investigations should be followed closely.  It wouldn’t be too surprising to see similar aggressive moves against operating companies, especially if the Committee continues to be disappointed with subpoena responses.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the PracticalESG.com editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile