The state of Florida will withdraw $2 billion from BlackRock in response to the asset management firm’s attempts to promote the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement.
Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis indicated that by the beginning of next year, the Florida Treasury “would be moving its business elsewhere” for $1.4 billion in long-term securities and $600 million in short-term overnight investments. The official claimed that BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s mission to “transform the world” puts the state’s resources at danger.
“Whether BlackRock is pushing stakeholder capitalism or ESG standards for ideological reasons or to establish social credit ratings, the impact is to avoid dealing with the complexity of democracy.” In a press statement, Patronis stated, “I believe it is undemocratic for huge asset managers to use their power to affect society outcomes. However, using our money to pay BlackRock’s social-engineering effort is not something Florida ever agreed to.”
The divestment seems to to be the largest of its kind among Republican state governments, which have recently withdrawn funds from notable asset managers over worries that the businesses’ voting priorities, such as trying to force portfolio companies to shift away from using fossil fuels, constitute poor management of public assets. In addition to divestments from South Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Utah, the state of Texas charged BlackRock and nine other companies with violating state law by “refusing to engage with” companies that participated in the production and usage of fossil fuels “without a standard business reason.”
As conservative state officials’ initiatives and broader market concerns made headlines, Fink recently declared that institutional clients would be able to vote on their shares rather than allowing the business to act as a proxy. According to an investment stewardship report, BlackRock has taken “voting actions on climate change issues” against hundreds of its portfolio businesses, prompting other officials to warn that such activism could harm their state economies and boost countrywide energy prices.
“The more effective we are at generating a return on investment dollars, the more successful we will be at financing priorities such as schools, hospitals, and roads,” Patronis noted. “I need financial services industry partners that are as dedicated to the bottom line as we are — and I do not have any faith in BlackRock’s ability to deliver.”
“As Florida’s CFO, I totally agree, therefore we’ll take Larry up on his offer,” Patronis added. “There are plenty of corporations willing to invest on our behalf, so the Florida Treasury will take its business elsewhere.”