Seventeen Republican attorneys general contended that BlackRock should be barred from investing in public utilities because of the asset management company’s support of the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, also known as ESG.
The complaint filed with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission and shared with The Daily Wire on Wednesday seeks to remove the firm’s blanket authorization to purchase large shares in utility companies. BlackRock has stated that the firm acts as a “passive” and “non-controlling investor” despite efforts to emphasize renewable power objectives among portfolio companies.
“Maybe BlackRock was a passive investor ten years ago, but today it’s an environmental activist,” the complaint said, referencing the firm’s membership in the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative and other moves to prompt portfolio companies toward eliminating carbon emissions. “Pursuant to its membership in several horizontal associations, BlackRock aims to pressure or force utility companies to phase out traditional energy investment.”
The move from the state attorneys general is among several from Republican officials concerned with the ESG movement, a philosophy that skeptics say mingles political causes with core business objectives in a manner that compromises or distracts from profitability. With respect to public utilities such as electricity, critics of the ESG movement assert that climate objectives artificially increase prices as firms distance themselves from fossil fuels.
“This is yet another example of radical leftists trying to circumvent the will of the American people in order to implement their draconian mandates,” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who initiated the complaint, said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire. “The restrictions these elitists are trying to impose on energy companies and utilities would never win approval at the ballot box. The public interest is served when investment companies build their business models on maximizing financial returns for clients. Conversely, the public interest is hijacked when these companies subjugate clients’ financial interests to leftist fever dreams.”
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in his most recent shareholder letter that the company desires to “provide insights into how a changing climate” and the transition toward renewables may impact portfolios over time. BlackRock has taken “voting action on climate issues” against dozens of portfolio companies, according to an investment stewardship report.
Republican attorneys general filed a similar motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year against asset management behemoth Vanguard, after which the firm ended its association with the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. The company nevertheless told clients that the move “will not affect our commitment to helping our investors navigate the risks that climate change can pose to their long-term returns.”
BlackRock and Vanguard, along with fellow asset management firm State Street, maintain an average combined 20% stake in every Fortune 500 company.
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Even as the ESG movement is slated to become a prevalent issue in the upcoming presidential election, especially in the Republican primary contest, one recent survey from Harvard University’s Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll found that 64% of respondents have not heard of the investment philosophy, although most voters agreed that investors should consider maximizing returns above other objectives.