Nearly two dozen fiduciaries of public retirement plans and others expressed concern over BlackRock's internal practices and stewardship stances on companies' political spending and lobbying activity.
In a letter to BlackRock Chairman and CEO Laurence Fink, the state treasurers and trustees of public pension funds and retirement savings with a collective $1 trillion in assets said the events of Jan. 6 that included an assault on the U.S. Capitol "add greater urgency to concerns and expectations regarding corporate political spending and lobbying transparency and practices."
The signatories call for BlackRock to reform its own corporate practices and to set a leading example, "not to set out those practices for others and then follow outdated norms of transparency."
They cite the "reputational damage" of BlackRock's political action committee donating $85,000 to 15 legislators who continued to deny the results of the 2020 presidential election even after the invasion of the Capitol, and said the asset manager's temporary pause on PAC donations does not mitigate the damage. Further, payments through trade associations to electoral vote challengers present another concern, they said.
"BlackRock's disclosure of its own activities on its website falls short of the expectations BlackRock set for portfolio companies in December," the fiduciaries said, noting that BlackRock ranks below more than 150 S&P 500 companies in the 2020 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability.
The fiduciaries also criticize BlackRock for a "historic failure to support efforts by other shareholders to promote greater transparency regarding political spending and lobbying at S&P 500 companies, including voting against all 48 such proposals in the 2020 shareholder season. In those cases, eight proposals would have received majority support if BlackRock had supported them and 19 would have received support of a majority of shareholders if both BlackRock and Vanguard had supported them, they said.