Tennessee Attorney General Sues BlackRock For Misleading Investors About ESG Agenda

The suit alleges that BlackRock is 'deceiving consumers' about its leftwing agenda
Logo at the main entrance to the BlackRock Headquarters building in Manhattan.
(Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti filed a lawsuit on Monday against BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, alleging that the firm violated consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its attempt to pursue leftwing social and environmental goals.

The lawsuit hones in on BlackRock’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, alleging that consumers were deprived of the ability to accurately assess the financial giant’s objectives.

“We allege that BlackRock’s inconsistent statements about its investment strategies deprived consumers of the ability to make an informed choice,” Skrmetti said. “I want to make certain that corporations, no matter their size, treat Tennessee consumers fairly and honestly.”

Tennessee’s lawsuit comes as numerous Republican-led states have divested from BlackRock, citing concerns with the asset management firm’s fixation on ESG. Skrmetti joined a coalition of 20 other state AGs who warned BlackRock, among other asset managers, of the potential conflicts between its fiduciary duties and political agenda earlier this year.

The new lawsuit contends that the asset manager misled consumers “about the scope and effects of its widespread ESG activity,” and points to an interview with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in which he said, “Everything we do is on behalf of our clients, and everything we do is with the purpose of financial returns.”

“There is not one thing we have ever done, whether it’s ESG or any other issue, is … in the pursuit of financial return. That is our fiduciary responsibility, and we live that every day,” Find said

But while Fink assured customers that BlackRock was upholding its fiduciary duty, the suit points out that the colossal asset management firm, which controls over $9 trillion in assets, is a part of environmentally-focused coalitions that affect clients’ assets. It specifically names two ESG coalitions that BlackRock joined, the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative and Climate Action 100+, and asserts that membership in both organizations is contingent on “lobbying, engagement, voting on shareholder proposals, and managing assets with the goal of achieving ‘net zero’ by 2050.”

The lawsuit clarifies that “BlackRock’s continued membership necessitates BlackRock’s commitment to pushing aggressive carbon-reduction strategies across all assets under management” and that, rather than risk negative publicity by exiting these organizations, the firm is instead “deceiving consumers about the company’s extensive commitment to fulfilling ESG aims.”

The suit goes on to directly allege that BlackRock “has falsely conveyed that certain of its funds do not incorporate ESG considerations.” It specifies that, while BlackRock states that its non-ESG funds aren’t intended to “follow a sustainable, impact, or ESG investment strategy,” the company agreed to a “stewardship and engagement strategy, with a clear escalation and voting policy, that is consistent with  [the] ambition for all assets under management to achieve net zero emissions” by virtue of its membership with the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative.

“BlackRock’s disclosures do not mention such promises” Skrmetti’s office notes before asserting “Tennessee consumers deserve to know which of BlackRock’s statements are a true account of the company’s decision-making.” His office also specified that the lawsuit seeks “injunctive relief, civil penalties, and recoupment of the State’s costs.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Tennessee Attorney General Sues BlackRock For Misleading Investors About ESG Agenda