A small activist fund fired a slingshot at goliath investment firm BlackRock, calling for the ouster of CEO Larry Fink for his “hypocrisy” in pushing a “woke” political agenda.
Bluebell Capital — a London-based firm with just $250 million in assets under management, compared to the roughly $8 trillion BlackRock oversees — accused Fink of not adhering to his espoused environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.
“We see BlackRock endorsing a number of bad practices from a governance, social and environmental perspective which is not actually in tune with what they say,” said Bluebell co-founder Giuseppe Bivona in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday.
“Let me say that when the price of coal was around $76 per ton, BlackRock was talking about essentially divesting,” Bivona continued. “Now that the price of coal is $380 per ton, they are talking about responsible ownership. I think there is a high correlation between BlackRock’s strategy on coal and the price of coal.”
BlackRock brushed off Bivona’s accusations.
“In the past 18 months, Bluebell has waged a number of campaigns to promote their climate and governance agenda,” a spokesperson for BlackRock told The Post. “BlackRock Investment Stewardship did not support their campaigns as we did not consider them to be in the best economic interests of our clients.”
In an annual letter to shareholders earlier this year, Fink promoted what he called “stakeholder capitalism” — which takes into account the needs of employees, customers, the environment and even the government — and criticized those accusing BlackRock of pushing a political agenda.
“Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke’,” Fink wrote in his January letter.
In a Nov. 10 letter to BlackRock, Bluebell investors wrote it had concerns for the “reputational risk (including greenwashing risk) to which BlackRock under the leadership of Larry Fink have unreasonably exposed the company.”
BlackRock insiders told The Post on Wednesday that Bluebell holds less than 0.01% in BlackRock. A source also pointed to BlackRock’s performance: the stock is up 4,900% since the company’s initial public offering in 1999. In comparison the S&P 500 is up roughly 365% during that same period of time.
Given Bluebell’s size, it’s unlikely the firm will be able to affect change on its own.
However, BlackRock is likely going to continue to be in the crosshairs. Republicans who regained the majority in the House are pushing to launch a series of investigation into companies embracing “woke” values and ESG when they assume power next year.
Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis divested $2 billion in state pension funds from the firm. And in August, BlackRock faced nearly $1 billion in withdrawals from Republican state treasurers who grew tired of the financial giant’s investment priorities.
The withdrawals came as 19 state attorneys general, led by Arizona’s Mark Brnovich, wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the agency to look into BlackRock’s ties to China and whether or not it was prioritizing its fiduciary responsibility over its investors.
The letter highlighted that the firm invests in and does business with Chinese companies that often flout environmental concerns even as BlackRock pushes for US companies to embrace net-zero carb emissions.
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