19 GOP Attorneys General Slam BlackRock Over ESG Investments

‘Fiduciary duty is not lip service,’ says August 4 letter, which is addressed to CEO Larry Fink and seeks ‘clarification on actions that appear to have been motivated by interests other than maximizing financial return.’

A group of 19 Republican state attorneys general have written a letter to BlackRock stating that the asset manager is using state pension fund assets in environmental, social and governance investments that “force the phase-out of fossil fuels, increase energy prices, drive inflation and weaken the national security of the United States.”

The eight-page letter outlines how the group believes BlackRock is using “the hard-earned money of our states’ citizens to circumvent the best possible return on investment.”

“Our states will not idly stand for our pensioners’ retirements to be sacrificed for BlackRock’s climate agenda. The time has come for BlackRock to come clean on whether it actually values our states’ most valuable stakeholders, our current and future retirees, or risk losses even more significant than those caused by BlackRock’s quixotic climate agenda,” the letter says.

The attorneys general asked BlackRock to respond by August 19.

BlackRock, in a statement, said that it manages money on behalf of its clients and helps them navigate investment risks.

“The money we manage is not our own,” a BlackRock spokesperson said in a statement. “It belongs to our clients, many of whom make their own asset allocation and portfolio construction decisions. We offer a range of products and strategies to achieve their desired outcomes…Many of our clients are choosing to invest in a mix of traditional energy companies, natural gas infrastructure, renewables and new decarbonization technologies because of the investment opportunities stemming from their crucial role in the economy.”

“Earlier this year, we further expanded client choice by offering interested institutional clients, including all US public pension clients, the ability to directly vote their shares. Clients entrusting us with $530 billion, more than a quarter of our institutional clients’ equity index assets, have taken this option,” the spokesman added.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a statement about the letter, said “‘ESG’ goals, while ostensibly well-intentioned, make little economic sense, and have a direct adverse effect on Texas’s oil and gas economy and state pension fund performance. BlackRock’s actions may also violate state and federal law.”

In their letter, the attorneys general outline their belief that BlackRock’s claimed neutrality on energy investments “differs considerably” from the asset manager’s public commitments to organizations like the Net Zero Managers Alliance and the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Accelerating and delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement across all assets under management through an escalation and voting strategy is a far cry from neutrality,” the letter states.

The letter also outlines several areas where the attorneys general question whether BlackRock may be in violation of state laws on maximizing financial returns to investors, including the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care.

“The stated reasons for your actions around promoting net zero, the Paris Agreement, or taking action on climate change indicate rampant violations of this duty, otherwise known as acting with ‘mixed motives,’” the letter states.

The letter also suggests that BlackRock’s content raises “antitrust concerns.”

“BlackRock’s actions appear to intentionally restrain and harm the competitiveness of the energy markets,” the letter says. “These antitrust concerns are especially acute because BlackRock and other asset managers affirmatively tout their market dominance.”

In addition to Paxton of Texas, signatories include attorneys general from Arizona, Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

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