Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Tuesday told Newsmax that BlackRock CEO Larry Fink's comments at the Aspen Ideas Festival last weekend, during which he claimed Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has essentially bullied him into being ashamed of being a part of ESG political debates, only further illustrates that he and BlackRock have "forgotten who the customer is."
Fink's comments at the festival, about no longer using a "weaponized" term like ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) came after the governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate had directed the state to withdraw $2 billion in assets from BlackRock.
"I don't believe a single word that [Fink] said," Patronis said while appearing on "Eric Bolling The Balance." "To come forward and say he's ashamed now of being associated with ESG, and then later in that same interview, he recants it. I feel like he's trying to cater to two different audiences, and a lot like Bud Light, he has forgotten who the customer is."
"The state of Florida is going to look out for the pensions of our firefighters, our police officers, our law enforcement personnel," Patronis added. "I don't think BlackRock is doing that. I think they're neglecting who the customer is."
Host Eric Bolling asked the Florida CFO if he would move the money back to BlackRock if the firm's "ESG investing" was hypothetically producing better returns than the Standards & Poor's (S&P) 500 or than other forms of investment.
"I'm going to move the money wherever the best return on investments," Patronis answered. "BlackRock's performance was outpacing other funds. I have a fiduciary responsibility to put those dollars where the best return on investment is, because I care about, at the end of the day, what somebody's retirement account looks like.
"Again, I think they're doing more damage than good," he restated. "I think they need to focus on the bottom line."
"My daddy always said if you want to get into somebody's process … to change their behavior … you get in their pocketbook. This is exactly what we had to do in the state of Florida. We have moved dollars. I'm thinking we brought to light the same concerns a lot of others have had regarding the investment fiduciaries over these funds. Unfortunately, when Fink does things like he just did at [the Aspen Ideas Festival], I think he just does some more damage to himself and the credibility of BlackRock. I wish they would wake up."
Patronis told Bolling that seeing BlackRock go in a direction very similar to those of Anheuser-Busch and Target is "sad." Both companies, which have been branded as "woke capitalists," have faced massive anti-Pride backlash in recent months that has resulted in their respective stocks suffering significant damage.
"I get so sad if I look at the Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light debacle," he said. "I think about those family-owned distributorships. I think about the route drivers who work off commissions, and now they don't have a product to sell off the truck anymore. Now you've got … Bud Light scrambling to pay these guys a fraction of what they're entitled to over some really poor decisioning and disrespecting the customer. I put BlackRock and Target in this exact same category."
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