Yesterday, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, published his annual letter to investors. It’s 35 pages of Grade-A BS. After a corny attempt to 'just-like-us' himself with references to 80s music, the man who manages over 8.5 trillion dollars in assets and thus exerts massive control over world affairs, once again portrayed himself as a humble and passive servant to the billionaire class, acting merely as a “fiduciary to our clients.”
While BlackRock's Fink cannot find it within himself to pass a single sensible corporate policy, he sure can pass the buck.
BlackRock continues to be the planet’s biggest private funder of the war machine and of the climate crisis. Its investment vehicle for US “Defense” and Aerospace firms facilitates the flow of billions of dollars from investors into Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Fink claims this supercharging of war crimes and military emissions is merely a passive fulfillment of the company’s “fiduciary duties,” holding investors’ best interests at heart. Meanwhile he and the rest of the profit-driven suits at BlackRock clearly have a choice whether to divest from Lockheed and prevent further civilian deaths in Yemen and the world over. The whole “fiduciary duty” bit is particularly laughable when you see that BlackRock itself (not its clients) is the number two shareholder of Lockheed Martin – and thus a major war profiteer, directly fueling humanitarian crises. And yet, Fink's only reference to war in his letter is the war in Ukraine, which he has nobly committed to help direct investments in the wake of wartime destruction — which will further fill BlackRock's coffers. Fink and BlackRock are making a killing off of killing at every stage of the war economy.
And BlackRock’s contributions to the climate crisis are maddening. When I say we don’t have time for Fink to continue catering to the fossil fuel industry, I could not be more literal in my meaning. We are no longer “inching” towards climate collapse – corporate giants like BlackRock (not to mention our own dirty-energy President who just approved the Willow Project) are dragging us along in leaps and bounds. BlackRock is the second largest corporate investor in coal. (Yes, coal! Our dirtiest energy source! In 2023!) In an attempt to greenwash BlackRock, Fink’s 2020 letter announced a commitment to exclude thermal coal from some of its investments – though this commitment maintained a pretty convenient loophole that resulted in only 20% of the global coal industry being excluded, affecting almost none of BlackRock’s existing investments.
“Anyone can see the impact of climate change in the natural disasters in California or Florida, in Pakistan, across Europe and Australia, and in many other places around the world. There’s more flooding, more wildfires, and more intense storms. In fact, it’s hard to find a part of our ecology – or our economy – that’s not affected.
The irony here is that Fink has demonstrated he has the power to limit investments in industries which are killing us. But while expounding on BlackRock’s commitment to a future, he simply chooses to luxuriate in business-as-usual investing.
This morning as BlackRock employees walked into work, I joined with New York Communities for Change to request a meeting with Fink. We figured this guy must take emergency meetings all the time given the turbulence of the financial sector recently, so we weren’t sure why our request for an emergency meeting would be any different. He refused to meet with us, as per usual – so we once again took over BlackRock’s lobby, making clear why we had to be there. Security, and then the NYPD, cautioned us to leave as we made our demands known and discussed amongst ourselves the absurdity of Fink’s annual letter.
We were particularly tickled by this bit: “It’s a huge source of pride for everyone at BlackRock that we play a role in helping millions of people around the world experience financial well-being.” Larry, does that claim about fomenting well-being, let alone financial well-being, apply to the Indigenous peoples that BlackRock actively displaces in the Amazon? How about to the Yemeni population, where the Saudi-led coalition is using BlackRock-funded Lockheed Martin weapons to indiscriminately kill civilians in appalling acts of war and cause one of the greatest humanitarian disasters the world faces today?
Larry Fink has an ethics problem, and clearly also struggles with logic. How can he claim to care for “well-being” the world over while showering war and climate criminals alike with cash? You can say you're a hapless henchman who, despite his moral enlightenment, is sadly bound by duty to facilitate his client’s dirty dealings; or an omnipotent godfather gracious enough to guarantee the well-being of millions – but Larry, don’t try to tell us you’re both.
Knowing full well the power Fink and BlackRock actually do wield, CODEPINK is thrilled to announce that we have introduced a resolution for BlackRock’s annual shareholder meeting which calls on the asset manager to research and publish an impact report on the human cost of weapons and aerospace companies’ climate-killing operations. The “War Profiteers Climate Report” resolution will, for the first time, hold BlackRock’s runaway investment vehicle to account for its contribution to climate change. Join us next month as we bring this crucial resolution to a vote inside BlackRock, educating BlackRock shareholders on the real effects of their profit-making schemes.
But we know the climate and militarism crises aren’t going to be solved by corporations regulating themselves – we need wide-scale system change to actually dismantle the war economy that has brought us to this point. The benefits of such an impact report reach every single human and living thing on this planet – the resolution even makes it clear that climate change “is of particular concern to shareholders themselves, whose own well-being and posterity are put at risk by the worsening climate crisis.”
BlackRock and Larry Fink have for years greenwashed themselves, casting their “efforts” to address climate change as innovative and effective. These claims couldn’t be less true. Last year, Fink said in his annual letter that “We focus on sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients.” Leaving aside for the moment the fact that capitalism and sustainability are true contradictions in terms, the idea that BlackRock “focuses on sustainability” is an outright lie. What's the most radical climate action BlackRock, the single most powerful financial institution in the world, has mustered? A meek suggestion that the corporations it deals with begin counting their emissions. That's it.
At this point, everyone knows that Larry Fink and BlackRock have a big problem. Fink will even acknowledge the problem from time to time, but we’re tired of him pretending he doesn’t have the solutions. Fink will continue to paint himself and BlackRock as merely passive, duty-bound platforms for financial exchanges. We know the truth: BlackRock’s destruction of peace, people, and planet could not be more active.
Fink, it's time to face the music.