Florida's pullout from investing with BlackRock falls in line with a resolution, championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, that directs state fund managers to invest with companies focused on earning the highest financial return and not on wokeness.
DeSantis announced in August that he and fellow Trustees of the State Board of Administration (SBA) passed a resolution directing Florida's fund managers to invest state funds in a manner that "prioritizes the highest return on investment for Florida's taxpayers and retirees without considering the ideological agenda of the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) movement."
On Thursday, Florida's chief financial officer (CFO) said his department would pull $2 billion worth of its assets managed by BlackRock Inc., the world's largest asset management firm.
The Sunshine State became the latest Republican-led state to pull out investments with BlackRock. Louisiana's treasurer pulled $794 million and Missouri's treasurer withdrew $500 million, both in October.
"BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is on a campaign to change the world," Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said in a statement. "In an open letter to CEOs, he's championed 'stakeholder capitalism' and believes that 'capitalism has the power to shape society.'
"To meet this end, the asset management company has leaned heavily into Environmental, Social, and Governance standards – known as ESG – to help police who should, and who should not gain access to capital."
Included in the BlackRock Investment Stewardship's Engagement Priorities are:
- "We encourage companies to discuss in their reporting how their business model is aligned to a scenario in which global warming is limited to well below 2°C, moving towards global net zero emissions by 2050."
- "We look to companies to disclose the actions they are taking to support a diverse and engaged workforce, and how that aligns with their strategy and business model."
- "We support boards whose approach is consistent with creating sustainable, long-term value. This includes the effective management of strategic, operational, financial, and material environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and the consideration of key stakeholder interests."
Patronis added that funding "BlackRock's social-engineering project isn't something Florida ever signed up for."
"It's got nothing to do with maximizing returns and is the opposite of what an asset manager is paid to do," Patronis said of BlackRock's approach. "Florida's Treasury Division is divesting from BlackRock because they have openly stated they've got other goals than producing returns.
"As Larry Fink stated to CEOs, '[A]ccess to capital is not a right. It is a privilege.' As Florida's CFO I agree wholeheartedly, so we'll be taking Larry up on his offer. There's no lack of companies who will invest on our behalf, so the Florida Treasury will be taking its business elsewhere."
BlackRock issued a statement in response to Florida's actions.
"As a fiduciary, our sole goal is driving returns for our clients. We are surprised by the Florida CFO's decision given the strong returns BlackRock has delivered to Florida taxpayers over the last five years. Neither the CFO nor his staff have raised any performance concerns," the company said in a statement.
Other politicians, though, have joined in the fight against BlackRock's wokeness.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in September criticized BlackRock and Fink during an interview on Newsmax.
"You've got these large companies like BlackRock and other companies like that that control trillions of dollars worth of assets and they control it for most of the country, and they go to these companies and force them to change policies," Paxton told "America Right Now."
"In the end, that costs shareholders who are retirees, and people in my state, literally thousands of dollars, and it could be millions of dollars over a lifetime."
Paxton was one of 19 state attorneys general who wrote an eight-page letter to Fink in August declaring that BlackRock is using "the hard-earned money of our states' citizens to circumvent the best possible return on investment, as well as their vote."
The AGs wrote that BlackRock's "past public commitments indicated that it has used citizen's assets to pressure companies to comply with international agreements such as the Paris Agreement that force the phase-out of fossil fuels, increase energy prices, drive inflation, and weaken the national security of the United States."
With Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, hearings corporations and on ESG are expected.
Reuters contributed to this story.
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