BlackRock adds new proxy advisory firm amid ESG criticism as leading expert says ‘too little, too late’

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BlackRock announced Tuesday that it is partnering with a third proxy advisory firm to give its clients a wider range of investment counsel as a leading expert suggested the mammoth asset manager is trying to make up for allegations that it leans into ESG (environmental, social, governance) tenets more than its fiduciary responsibilities merit.

In a release obtained by Fox News Digital on Monday, BlackRock officials said the firm remains committed to providing its clients with choices that support their growing range of investment preferences via its Voting Choice program.

“We continue to innovate and provide more choice to our clients who wish to take a more direct role in the proxy voting process,” Joud Abdel Majeid, global head of BlackRock Investment Stewardship, said in the release. 

“We’re pleased to add a third proxy advisor to our platform and the option for more clients to customize their voting guidelines to reflect their specific goals and objectives.”

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In that regard, BlackRock will be adding Delaware County, Pa.-based ratings firm Egan Jones as a third proxy adviser beginning in July. Sean Egan, the founder of Egan Jones, was previously ranked by Fortune as the No. 1 prognosticator of the 2008 financial crisis.

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“With the addition of two Egan Jones guidelines, Voting Choice will give eligible clients more choice with up to 16 distinct voting guidelines across three proxy advisor services, plus BlackRock’s benchmark policy,” the release said.

“The majority of BlackRock’s equity investment clients continue to entrust BlackRock’s investment stewardship team with the important responsibility of voting in accordance with BlackRock’s benchmark policy, consistent with BlackRock’s fiduciary duty.”

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BlackRock’s partnership with Egan Jones appeared to try to quell critics’ claims about investment politicization.

But a top public policy expert who has long spoken out against the politicization of the financial services sector told Fox News Digital that BlackRock is not successfully affirming any kind of apolitical fiduciary stance by bringing Egan Jones into its advisory fold.

Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said BlackRock’s move was tardy at best.

Blackrock CEO “Larry Fink may claim that ESG has ‘been weaponized by left and right,’” he said, referencing a July 2023 Fox Business interview with Fink. “But he’s missing the reality: Everyday Americans recognize ESG for the scam it is.”

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In the interview, Fink told Fox Business host Liz Claman that BlackRock is seeing more new investors than any time in its history, and he responded to ESG-minded critics by saying the firm remains a fiduciary that does “what our clients are asking.”

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“We have good performance, and we’ve been right on market calls,” Fink said.

“BlackRock may consider additional policies for the Voting Choice program based on client interest,” another official said.

In his 2023 chairman’s letter to investors, Fink somewhat addressed Roberts’ overall criticism, writing that “there are many people with opinions about how we should manage our clients’ money. But the money doesn’t belong to these people. It’s not ours either. It belongs to our clients, and our responsibility and our duty is to them.”

In his comments to Fox News Digital, Roberts said many states are nonetheless seeking to “eliminate the politics in boardrooms of America’s companies.”

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“BlackRock’s move to expand ‘voting choice’ touted under the guise of a ‘commitment to providing clients with choices’ is too little, too late,” he said, pointing to right-wing gains in France and the European Parliament that show citizens are “fed up with being pawns in global elites’ war on common sense.”

BlackRock’s release said that prior to the addition of Egan Jones, $600 billion in institutional investment assets under management were entrusted to the Voting Choice program.

Editors note: A previous version of this story said Blackrock would “leave up to shareholder vote whether to adopt any ESG policies” This has been clarified with a quote from Blackrock: “BlackRock may consider additional policies for the Voting Choice program based on client interest.”

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