Tag Archives: BlackRock

BlackRock Proposes Its New Retirement Plan Using Your Money: How Will This Impact Your Finances? Discover Your Options

BlackRock Proposes Its New Retirement Plan Using Your Money: How Will This Impact Your Finances? Discover Your Options.

In mid-2019, BlackRock demonstrated its prophetic capabilities by forecasting the financial and monetary implications of the pandemic before it had even occurred. Considering the company's stature as the world's largest asset manager, some may argue we should heed its insights. 

Recently, CEO Larry Fink released his yearly correspondence with investors, offering subtle hints about potential future developments and BlackRock's strategies. This article breaks down the key takeaways from the letter, providing insight into what it may imply for individual investors and the market at large. We also explore how you can alleviate concerns and secure your financial future. 

To begin with, Larry Fink's yearly correspondence with investors has a distinct tone from his annual address to corporate leaders. BlackRock holds significant stakes in many of the world's largest corporations. Fink's letter to CEOs served as a guide for corporations, outlining what actions they should take. However, this year's letter has yet to be released.

Similarly, BlackRock's CEO, Larry, writes an annual letter to its investors outlining its key objectives. The letter being discussed today is an overview of this annual communication. Notably, the initial section of Larry's letter is particularly striking, bearing the title “Time to rethink retirement.” It's worth noting that this topic is especially relevant, as numerous countries globally are increasing the retirement age due to fiscal constraints stemming from a shortage of taxpayers to fund pension systems.

Source: BlackRock

The Capital Markets

Inspired by his parents' financial struggles in retirement, Larry founded BlackRock to help others build a comfortable nest egg. In his letter, he highlights the importance of investing in capital markets to achieve this goal. Capital markets encompass a wide range of financial instruments, including stocks, bonds, and private investments, providing opportunities for individuals to grow their wealth over time.

Influential investment firms like BlackRock are expanding their reach into multiple areas, including purchasing single-family residences that are subsequently leased to individuals. This trend has sparked concerns about the escalating cost of housing.

In the second portion of his letter, Larry provides a concise overview of the evolution of capital markets in the United States, highlighting two primary methods of wealth accumulation: saving funds in a bank or investing. He attributes the country's impressive performance since the 2008 economic downturn to the size and complexity of its capital markets. Notably, Larry takes pride in his role as one of the creators of mortgage-backed securities, which were instrumental in causing the 2008 financial crisis.

In hindsight, it's not entirely unexpected given Larry's academic background in political science and business administration, which didn't exactly prepare him to be a market expert. Nevertheless, Larry emphasizes that a crucial lesson learned is that a robust banking system alone is not enough to drive economic growth; a country also needs thriving capital markets. He observes that this realization is gaining traction globally, and Larry shares that he has been engaged in discussions with governments worldwide on this topic.

He details his extensive travels last year, visiting 17 countries where he engaged in discussions with top government officials, including presidents and prime ministers. According to him, these leaders are eager to expand their financial markets, and conveniently, BlackRock is poised to assist without any underlying motives, of course. What's alarming, however, is that Larry discloses that Indian authorities are discontent with the widespread practice of Indians using gold to save and store personal wealth. Instead, they want to see this wealth funneled into the banking system, and Larry is likely keen to see it flow into BlackRock's coffers.

In any case, it implies that governments view gold as a threat. Larry appears to share this viewpoint, pointing out that gold has not performed as well as the Indian market and that investing in gold does not contribute to the Indian economy. So, will we see restrictions on gold in the countries Larry advises, citing economic vulnerability as the reason?

Larry proceeds to uncover BlackRock's ultimate objective. He asserts that investing in capital markets is not just desirable but essential for two key reasons. Firstly, it is the sole means of financing retirement plans, and secondly, it is the only way to develop infrastructure that aligns with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. In essence, this constitutes the endgame.

For those who may not be aware, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is a concept promoted by influential financial institutions such as BlackRock and major banks like Bank of America. ESG's ultimate goal is to support the United Nations' ambitious sustainable development goals (SDGs), which envision global adoption of dystopian technologies like CBDCs, digital IDs, and smart cities by 2030. 

Retirement And Demographics

In the third section of his letter, Larry raises concerns about how individuals can financially support their retirement, given the increasing life expectancy. By now, you'll know the answer is to give all your money to BlackRock. Case in point, Larry notes a joint venture BlackRock has with an Indian retirement firm that invests in digital infrastructure. In other words, you will own nothing and be happy, and BlackRock will use your retirement savings and investments to make it happen. It appears BlackRock is making big bets on India, presumably because its workforce population will be one of the last to peak sometime around 2050. 

Source: BlackRock

In a surprising turn, Larry shifts the conversation to the United States, likely to address potential concerns about BlackRock's increasing involvement in India. With a hint of irony, Larry acknowledges that the financial difficulties younger generations face directly result from policies implemented by his generation, the Baby Boomers.

As you may have anticipated, BlackRock has devised a solution to rescue the next generation. Following a stark warning that the US Social Security fund will be depleted by 2034 and recommending a delayed retirement age, Larry proposes three methods to address our financial future.

The first approach is to compel employees to allocate a segment of their salaries towards investments in the capital markets, which would be managed by firms such as BlackRock. According to Larry, the U.S. will implement similar legislation next year, mandating companies with 401K plans to automatically register new employees into the program.

This ties into BlackRock's second strategy for securing our financial futures: exerting influence over how we utilize our retirement funds. In essence, BlackRock aims to manage the savings you've set aside for your golden years, effectively gaining control over how you spend them during retirement. 

The silver lining is that BlackRock's proposal is a product with no legislative backing or hints of a looming obligation. However, the concern is that a similar law could be proposed in the future. If baby boomers were to withdraw too much of their retirement funds, the entire capital markets system could collapse, a risk highlighted by prominent macroeconomic experts like Mike Green.

Larry refers to BlackRock's plan as a “revolution in retirement” and believes it will dispel fear and instill hope. Earlier in his letter, Larry implied that the third way to fix our financial future is to fix the demographic problem, meaning having more kids or at least increasing immigration. But no, all Larry said was what was mentioned a few moments ago: raise the retirement age. 

Larry’s stance might be related to his belief that machines can replace humans. During a recent World Economic Forum discussion panel, he explicitly stated, “Countries will rapidly develop robotics and AI and technology, and the social problems that one will have in substituting humans for machines are going to be far easier in those countries that have declining populations.” 

It would seem that BlackRock's interests align with declining populations. This is unsurprising, given that a shrinking population is ESG-friendly: fewer people mean fewer emissions. If this notion disturbs you, Larry doesn't seem to understand why. Per his letter, “There's so much anger and division, and I often struggle to wrap my head around it.” Perhaps he needs to reflect on his role in the matter. 

Source: SigmaEarth

Infrastructure And ESG

In the fourth part of his letter, Larry discusses the ESG-aligned infrastructure that BlackRock aims to develop using your retirement funds. He states, "The future of infrastructure is a public-private partnership,” meaning BlackRock is partnering with your government. Larry asserts that this partnership is crucial for financing infrastructure projects as governments are burdened with significant debt and cannot undertake it independently.

He points out that the US government's debt is increasing rapidly and that fewer and fewer governments are buying US Government debt. Interestingly, a lack of financial support was the main reason why the precursors to the SDGs, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), ultimately failed.

Larry then goes one step further, saying, “More leaders should pay attention to America's snowballing debt. There's a bad scenario where the American economy starts to look like Japan's in the late 1990s and early 2000s when debt exceeded GDP and led to periods of austerity and stagnation.” 

Larry argues that there is an alternative solution to addressing the national debt beyond cutting taxes and spending. He suggests that if the US economy grows significantly, it could enable the US to repay its debt. However, he fails to note that this growth will simultaneously cause inflation

To drive growth in the U.S., Larry suggests focusing on energy investments, particularly in unreliable forms of electricity. Ironically, the current high costs directly result from inadequate investment in dependable energy sources, which can be attributed to the emphasis on ESG considerations. Asset managers like BlackRock have played a significant role in this underinvestment, exacerbating the issue.

Larry's admission that oil and gas will remain essential for “a number of years” is a gross understatement, considering they supply half of the world's energy needs. Surprisingly, Larry praises Germany as a model for effective energy policy despite the country shutting down its final nuclear power plant last year. This decision coincided with Germany's struggling economy, which faced challenges from high energy expenses due to sanctions and renewable energy sources.

Larry highlights Texas as an example of a state struggling with energy issues, attributing the problem to growing demand rather than its shift towards unpredictable renewable energy sources. Ironically, he discloses that BlackRock is investing in initiatives that further increase dependence on these intermittent sources. Moreover, Larry outlines a series of investments BlackRock is making to facilitate a “fair energy transition,” which is primarily focused on maintaining warm homes during winter while seemingly downplaying the importance of other energy-related concerns.

Luckily, Larry discloses that BlackRock is allocating more resources to dependable energy sources than to less dependable ones. This is because the company's clients are driving this demand. It's worth noting that several individuals and institutions had previously threatened to withdraw their investments due to BlackRock's ESG policies, and some actually followed through on those threats.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding BlackRock's double standards. Larry asserts that renewable energy sources reduce a nation's reliance on foreign powers, but this claim is misleading. The reality is quite the opposite. China supplies 90% of the necessary materials for these renewable energy sources, so every green energy infrastructure depends on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This raises questions about who truly holds influence within BlackRock.

BlackRock’s Plans

Larry outlines BlackRock's strategic trajectory in his letter, detailing the company's partnership with Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a leading international infrastructure investment firm with which he appears to have personal connections. Additionally, Larry intends to expand his travels and engage with more leaders globally, promoting BlackRock's strategy as the optimal choice. While he doesn't explicitly state it, his comments imply that BlackRock's growth in assets under management is attributed to foreign sources, thanks to his lobbying efforts.

If you weren't aware, BlackRock's portfolio has surpassed a staggering $10 trillion in value and is still growing. To offer a sense of scale, this would make BlackRock the third-largest country by GDP. Furthermore, this immense wealth would be sufficient to acquire nearly half of the US equity market, although BlackRock already wields significant control through its substantial voting shares. According to Larry, the company plans to maintain its investment strategy, which includes early-stage ventures.

Looking ahead, Larry emphasizes that “Our strategy remains centered on growing Aladdin, ETFs, and private markets, keeping alpha at the heart of BlackRock, leading in sustainable investing, and advising clients on their whole portfolio.” For those who may not know, Aladdin is BlackRock's proprietary trading platform.

Larry mentioned that moving forward, BlackRock's primary focus on the private market will be ESG infrastructure. In terms of ETFs, they plan to increase ETF adoption further and launch new ones, particularly highlighting Bitcoin ETFs. This shift hints at the possibility of more crypto ETFs in the pipeline, including those for Ethereum. Additionally, Larry highlighted that BlackRock will increasingly prioritize fixed income, specifically government bonds, now that interest rates are “near long-term averages.”

Source: BlackRock

BlackRock's move is noteworthy as it indicates that the company anticipates that interest rates will remain stable, which goes against the views of those who predict rate decreases. Following a boastful mention of BlackRock's impressive 90-fold increase in stock value over the past 25 years, Larry highlights the company's acquisition of GIP, an ESG infrastructure firm, and the subsequent appointment of its CEO, who happens to be a friend of Larry's, to BlackRock's board. Who needs crony capitalism when you've got nepotism disguised as ESG?

In all seriousness, Larry concludes by asserting that BlackRock is merely a tiny component of a broader, global phenomenon that he believes is improving the lives of ordinary individuals. However, in reality, this phenomenon primarily enriches the wealthy elite. Larry credits the capital markets and their investors for making this possible, but he fails to mention that a staggering 93% of all stocks are concentrated in the hands of the top 10% of the population.

What Does All This Mean for The Markets And You?

What implications does this have for you and the financial markets? It is crucial to understand that these are distinct entities. One viewpoint is that BlackRock's decision-makers seem alarmingly out of touch with the real world, which is a daunting prospect considering the vast amount of assets they control. The fact that they're holding up Germany as a model for other countries to emulate in terms of energy policy is either a staggering display of ignorance or a cynical ploy, with most people leaning towards the latter interpretation.

Regardless of the circumstances, the outcome remains consistent: wealth becomes increasingly concentrated among the affluent, while the disadvantaged fall further behind. This phenomenon frequently occurs in economies with centralized planning, and BlackRock's most significant mistake stems from this approach. The asset manager assumes that centralized control is the sole means of addressing issues and fostering prosperity to the extent that it collaborates with governments, introduces initiatives such as CBDCs, and limits access to gold, all in the name of economic growth.

This action is not a method for addressing issues and fostering economic growth. Instead, it seems more like a strategy to avoid the collapse of a financial Ponzi scheme. Despite their shortcomings, governments have significantly less debt than banks and asset managers.

Globally, there is a staggering $315 trillion of outstanding debt. Still, the liabilities stemming from complex financial instruments held by banks and asset managers are projected to be exponentially higher, reaching the quadrillions. These instruments are contingent upon the appreciation of underlying assets; if these assets fail to increase in value, the entire derivatives debt structure will collapse, triggering a catastrophic financial meltdown.

Upon closer examination, BlackRock's proposals all boil down to a single premise: entrusting them with your money and allowing them complete discretion over managing it, including determining when it will be returned to you.  The ESG narrative may merely be a ruse to convince people that by handing over their money to BlackRock, they'll be contributing to the greater good. What's particularly unsettling is that Larry appears to have successfully duped many in the US and is now shifting his focus to international markets, where numerous countries eagerly seek investment opportunities, making them vulnerable to his influence.

It's clear that BlackRock's assets under management (AUM) increase whenever Larry travels, and it’s not an exaggeration to label it as deceitful when it leads to insufficient energy infrastructure that financially benefits BlackRock and other venture capitalists. The collapse of Sri Lanka, which previously held the highest ESG score, serves as a cautionary tale. Despite this, BlackRock continues pushing forward with its investments, making the average person worse off. 

This has significant implications for the market landscape. Essentially, poorly conceived ventures will continue to attract excessive investment if they align with ESG criteria. What's particularly irritating is that BlackRock is channeling its ESG investments into startup ventures and private companies, making it challenging for us regular folk as investors to tap into these lucrative opportunities, likely by intentional design.

One approach to capitalizing on BlackRock's ESG fixation may lie in cryptocurrency. A similar trend has emerged in the AI sector, where many companies remain privately held, limiting investment opportunities for the general public. As a result, AI-related cryptocurrencies have become a viable alternative, serving as indirect investment vehicles for those seeking to benefit from AI's growth and development.

It's worth noting that a specific area of crypto, known as ReFi or Regenerative Finance, has garnered attention. While some crypto experts have raised doubts about the legitimacy of certain projects within this niche, they align with ESG criteria. If BlackRock's ESG trend experiences a resurgence, many of these projects could rapidly gain traction. 

Final Thoughts

The reality is that primary energy is scarce due to inadequate investment from BlackRock and similar entities, and the emerging alternatives, except nuclear power, are insufficient to bridge the gap. As this reality becomes apparent, BlackRock will likely face significant investment withdrawals unless its strategy is altered. However, with Larry at the helm, a change in direction appears unlikely, making divestment a probable outcome.

Hopefully, we won't witness another asset manager arising, proclaiming to be the solution to all of humanity's problems. The truth is that most people simply want to be left alone to live their lives without interference. The idea of being "saved” by a grandiose plan or product is unrealistic and ignores the diversity of individual preferences and values. Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution, providing people with the tools and resources they need to live well and make their own choices is more productive.

A Perfect Opportunity For Individual Investors Is Here

Standing out as a beacon of hope against the forces of globalization and corruption is Markethive, a pioneering platform that has been empowering entrepreneurs for years. As a trailblazer in the marketing sphere, it has conceptualized and executed innovative, high-impact strategies tailored to its users. With its sights set on the future, Markethive has transformed into a groundbreaking decentralized ecosystem rooted in blockchain technology and fueled by its cryptocurrency, Hivecoin. Additionally, it aims to expand its offerings by establishing a decentralized crypto exchange. (DEX)

Markethive is actively seeking individual investors to support its mission and vision of becoming a prominent decentralized social media, marketing, and broadcasting ecosystem. According to crypto experts, this is an upcoming crypto narrative in the next bull market. This is significant as it will pay huge dividends in the mid-to-long term for everyone, particularly those participating in the Entrepreneur One Upgrade, which includes the Incentized Loan program. By focusing on its path and purpose, Markethive remains dedicated to providing economic empowerment and identity to all, especially those lacking it.

Markethive is a grassroots project built for the people, by the people, and is of the people that empowers individuals by allowing them to become stakeholders. Markethive is revolutionizing how we approach social media, broadcasting, inbound marketing, and eCommerce, providing a comprehensive system for long-term success, financial autonomy, and a strong community bond. So take advantage of this chance to claim your spot in this pioneering network, where you can positively impact the world and build a lasting legacy of wealth.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.


Editor and Chief Markethive: Deb Williams. (Australia) I thrive on progress and champion freedom of speech.  I embrace "Change" with a passion, and my purpose in life is to enlighten people to accept and move forward with enthusiasm. Find me at my Markethive Profile Page | My Twitter Account | and my LinkedIn Profile.





Tim Moseley

BlackRock – Shadow Government? Is It Too Big To Fail? Or Has It Now Got Too Big To Control?

BlackRock – Shadow Government?
Is It Too Big To Fail? Or Has It Now Got Too Big To Control?

There is a company out there that has more funds running through its systems than the entire GDP of the USA. A company that can and has used its clout to effect “societal change” whether we like it or not. A company with a direct connection with powerful politicians in the world has recently come front and center as it has started exploring investments in the crypto space and venturing into governance territory that will impact worldwide. 


The BlackRock Behemoth

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, and while many may have heard of it, you may be surprised just how much control it has over the financial markets.  A control is afforded to it through leveraging our money, so there’s a strong chance that you and your money are connected with it somehow. It is a company that has its fingers in many pies, with over $10 trillion in assets under management. 

They are also one of the most secretive companies in the world of finance. Trading and commodities are two areas of BlackRock’s business that have come under scrutiny from government regulators in recent years. 

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has claimed that the process of trading commodities futures is not transparent and is likely being abused by large investment firms like BlackRock. One of the most controversial aspects of BlackRock’s business is the way they have been operating their so-called dark pools

Blackrock’s political connections are extensive. Over the past couple of years, there has been growing concern about how much control large corporations like Blackrock exert over American politics and economic policymaking. 

Although they claim to be a non-political organization whose only interest is maximizing shareholder value, it is clear that many large corporations like Blackrock do wield significant influence over how our government works and what kinds of policies it enacts into law. 

Image Source: Financial Times

BlackRock’s Genesis And Growth Spurt

BlackRock is a New York City-based company founded in 1988 by Laurence [Larry] Fink and Ralph Schlosstein. Starting as a Bond Asset manager, it quickly grew into a financial services company that provides investment management, risk management, and fiduciary financial services to a wide variety of clients ranging from Central Banks to pension funds and individual investors. 

In 1999, BlackRock became a publicly-traded company and continued its rapid expansion in the asset management sector. In 2006, the firm acquired Merrill Lynch's Asset Management business, which rapidly expanded its offerings in the equities sector. This was further compounded by the purchase of Barclay’s iShares in 2009. At $13.5 billion, this was one of the biggest deals in Asset Management history. 

As a result, BlackRock quickly morphed from being a bond asset management company to an Index Fund provider. Index Funds, sometimes called Exchange Traded Funds, are collective investment vehicles that track the performance of a particular index or basket of Securities. They're hugely popular, not only because they're easy to invest in but also because they incur lower fees than more active investment management firms. 

These benefits have also made index funds extremely attractive for more passive institutional investors, the most common being pension funds. Trillions of dollars are invested on our behalf and find their way into index funds of some sort. So there’s a strong possibility our money has been invested through BlackRock somehow. Either that or it's being invested by another index provider thanks to BlackRock’s technology.

The point is that BlackRock is a behemoth that invests on behalf of hundreds of millions of people, and what that means is it has an interest in nearly every company you can think of. Since BlackRock must invest funds to track indexes or other investing themes, it must invest in the underlying assets. If these funds track an equity index, BlackRock must take a stake in the underlying company, so BlackRock is often one of the largest shareholders of a company's outstanding shares. 

These companies include some of the biggest Wall Street banks, like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citibank. Essentially, BlackRock is one of the top three shareholders in the banks that keep the financial markets running. 

BlackRock is also vested in the media with Comcast, Viacom, et al. Also, social media and tech companies with large stakes in Google, Apple, and Twitter. They even have stakes in the food industry with Mcdonald's, Chipotle, et al. Along with State Street and Vanguard, BlackRock forms a trio of the largest shareholders in the vast majority of publicly-traded companies in America. 

Image Source: Corpnet

For example, according to a recently published paper by Corpnet, these prominent three asset managers are the largest shareholders for over 90% of all companies in the S&P 500. In fact, in the broader collection of all outstanding publicly traded companies, 40% of them have these three as their most significant shareholders. And it’s not just America; it holds considerable positions in companies in Europe as well. 


A Slice Of The Real Estate Pie And Now Crypto

BlackRock has its eyes on cryptocurrency with BlackRock CEO, Larry Fink saying the firm is studying the crypto sector broadly, including assets, stablecoins, permissioned blockchains, and “tokenization,” where it perceives a benefit to its customers. We are increasingly seeing interest from our clients, he said.

BlackRock is an investor in a $400 million fundraising round for Circle Internet Financial, the crypto-focused company that manages the stablecoin USD Coin. During a conference call in April 2022, Larry Fink said BlackRock has been working with Circle over the past year as a manager of some of Circle’s cash reserves. He said he expects BlackRock eventually to be the primary manager of those reserves. We look forward to expanding our relationship, he said.

You might also be surprised to learn that asset managers like BlackRock have been competing with you regarding residential real estate. Last year, large institutional investors bought up entire property units to diversify their holdings. Just imagine, large asset managers could potentially be using your pension money to outbid you on a home. Despite how crazy all this sounds, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

ALADDIN – BlackRock’s Genie Of Growth And Control

BlackRock has not only made a name for itself through its index funds, but it's also developed an institutional investing platform that is the backbone of the asset management system. The “central nervous system” is relied upon by nearly every billion-dollar capital allocator. It’s called Aladdin, an acronym for Asset, Liability, And Debt, Derivative Investment Network.

Since Aladdin’s humble beginnings as a time-saving system that BlackRock could use to report on bond positions automatically, it has grown over the years to become the operating system for the company that inhabits multiple data centers and is maintained by a group of between 1,500 and 2,000 people. 

Aladdin is so integral to BlackRock’s internal risk management systems that around 13,000 BlackRock employees use it worldwide. Aladdin also became so sophisticated that BlackRock saw an opportunity to start making money from competing asset managers, institutional investors, and corporates by making the platform available to them. It would also allow these investors to manage their portfolios and model the inherent risk. 

The list of companies that use Aladdin is vast, with over 240 external clients currently relying on the platform. Companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft use it for their corporate treasury management. The $1.5 trillion Japanese government pension fund is also a client, as well as State Street and Vanguard. 

So, in reality, BlackRock’s biggest competitors are effectively paying to use BlackRock's systems and, in the process, giving BlackRock access to reams of data about their portfolios. This data further helps BlackRock refine Aladdin and better model risk. Needless to say, because all these portfolios are linked, it certainly gives BlackRock the edge with Aladdin as a critical component in the global management of assets. 

In 2020, an estimated $21.6 trillion sat on the platform, which is higher than the entire GDP of the United States at that time. Another comparison is if you were to empty the bank account of every one of the 7.6 billion people in the world, every single bill and coin, and place them all in a pile, it would be worth around $5 trillion. 

So, this means that Aladdin has grown into a system that is responsible, directly or indirectly, for over four times the value of all the money in the world. Aladdin doesn’t make investment decisions, but its risk models inform the investment decisions of all who use it.  

There have been many who have questioned whether this system poses a systemic risk to the market. For example, given how many managers rely on its analytics and modeling, does this create complacency and reliance that could give a false sense of security? What happens if there are inaccurate or erroneous readings? It's only a computer model, after all. 

A UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, reported that the failure of an extensive portfolio and risk system like Aladdin could cause serious consumer harm or even damage market integrity.

Jon Little, former head of BNY Mellon's international asset management business, told the Financial Times

“The industry is becoming reliant on a small number of players such as Aladdin, yet regulators seem to be reluctant to regulate or intervene to supervise these key service providers directly.”   

This video sums up the level of involvement BlackRock has with their technology, Aladdin has and looks somewhat like a terrifying science-fiction scenario, but it is happening today. 

BlackRock’s Helping Hand

Did you know that BlackRock was instrumental in the bailouts and deals in 2008’s GFC? It was a key adviser to other big banks and the government itself. So BlackRock is not only a massive asset manager that controls one of the world’s most powerful computers, but it also offers advisory services. 

It’s called the Financial Markets Advisory or FMA. It was born from the financial crisis as these big banks, along with the US Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank of New York, turned to Larry Fink of BlackRock for help and counsel on their predicament.

Through an array of government contracts, BlackRock effectively became the leading manager of Washington’s bailout of Wall Street. The firm oversaw the $130 billion of toxic assets that the U.S. government took on as part of the Bear Stearns sale and the rescue of A.I.G. 

It also monitored Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's balance sheets, which amount to some $5 trillion. It provided daily risk evaluations to the New York Fed on the $1.2 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities it had purchased to jump-start the country’s housing market.

Eleven years after the financial crisis, we had another emergency, the pandemic, which brought on a level of spending that was many multiples larger. The FED embarked on an unprecedented bond-buying program and monetary stimulus. These were trillions upon trillions of dollars that are used to buy back not only treasury securities but, more risky, corporate bonds and mortgage-backed securities. 

And, of course, they needed the advice of someone who knew about these types of securities. Thankfully, they had the industry experts such as Larry Fink on speed dial. It was later disclosed that BlackRock was central to the pandemic response. According to this New York Times article, Larry Fink was in constant contact with Jerome Powell and Stephen Minuchin in the days before and after the FED's stimulus program announcement.

According to a contract posted in March 2020, the FED hired BlackRock to help with the corporate bond purchase program. Although there was much more transparency about the terms of the deal compared to its work back in 2008, it meant that BlackRock was instrumental in that bond-buying program. 

It again shows how reliant these officials have become on this behemoth of Wall Street. So it's clear that BlackRock has political influence or, at the very least, is aligned with some really powerful people. But perhaps more concerning about the firm is its power and intention to exert over corporate board rooms. 


BlackRock’s Role And Goal Posts Have Shifted

As mentioned above, BlackRock and the top three asset managers generally are the largest shareholders in hundreds of Fortune 500 companies. What this means is that not only do they own the shares, but they also get board representation. These corporate boards are designed to help advise on company strategies, and board members can have much more say in a company’s strategic objectives.

Given that BlackRock invests on behalf of clients, it is considered a passive investor, meaning it's merely tasked with allocating capital and voting in the best interest of shareholders. Up until a few years ago, that's precisely what it did. However, in 2018, it all changed because, at this time, Larry Fink wrote a letter to the CEOs of some of America's largest public companies. This was the first salute in his pitch to better contribute to society, 

“Society is demanding the companies, both public and private serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” 

This was a novel idea at the time but has since shaped the mood around investing based on ESG or Environmental Social and Governance principles. The primary modus operandi behind this investing methodology is that companies should not only be graded on their bottom line but also on how they impact society. 

Image source: New York Times

This letter was a big deal. You had one of the most powerful investors on Wall Street saying that it would be using ESG criteria to grade companies, everything from their climate change records to diversity on their boards. Some wondered whether BlackRock really would carry out these plans for a more activist role; any doubts on the matter were laid to rest with some controversial shareholder votes.

For example, last year, BlackRock disclosed that as Exxon Mobil's second-largest shareholder, it was backing board changes proposed by an activist hedge fund. The fund in question was Engine No 1, and it's been trying to get Exxon Mobil to move faster in reducing its carbon footprint. The activist investor only held about $50 million in stock but had proposed some board members who Exxon claimed didn't possess the requisite skills to serve on the board. 

As mentioned in this WSJ report, BlackRock also backed similar initiatives by voting against a board director of an Australian oil and natural gas producer called Woodside Petroleum. The reason for the vote was that the company was not outlining targets for emission reductions to its customers. So the world’s largest asset manager is showing it is more willing to use its heft to influence the policies of the companies it invests in.

Rich Field, a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, who focuses on corporate governance issues, said,

“BlackRock has strongly signaled that quiet diplomacy is not the only tool in its toolbox. We expect more votes for shareholder proposals and against directors in this and future years.”

Since 2020, BlackRock has stepped up pressure on more companies by publishing criticism with online bulletins about key votes. Some executives worry they could face lawsuits for publicizing details on labor or climate plans in areas where global disclosure standards don’t yet exist. 

There are so many boards that BlackRock sits on that it could be hard to apply proper due diligence to these ESG votes. Some have complained BlackRock’s recent votes have come without warning or an adequate rationale. Ali Saribas, a partner at shareholder advisory firm SquareWell Partners, said,

“BlackRock’s approach will fuel a rising frustration among companies that believe BlackRock’s stewardship team will most likely apply a tick-the-box approach given the sheer volume of companies they passively own.” 

Jessica Strine, CEO at advisory firm Sustainable Governance Partners, says,

“It would be very hard for a passive fund manager to support a shareholder proposal that addresses systemic risks but wades too far into dictating strategy.” 

Investors propelled ESG funds to new heights in 2020, and federal agencies are watching. 
WSJ explains why regulators have ethical and sustainable investment funds under review. Photo Illustration: Alex Kuzoian


Has BlackRock Gone Too Far?

Some may think this is good news for a better future. Still, one of the biggest problems with this approach is that it assumes that meeting these ESG criteria could be complementary to the shareholder returns objectives. 

However, this is often not the case because meeting these criteria may come at the expense of potential company performance and long-term shareholder returns. For example, in the case of the Exxon proposal, unless these standards are applied to all competing companies in the field, you are hampering some to the advantage of others. 

Many oil and gas companies are private or listed elsewhere, companies that don't have BlackRock as a shareholder and hence don't have to worry about meeting the same standards. They can compete as much as the law allows them to, and sometimes to the detriment of Exxon. This could lead to a fall in the value of Exxon shares and the company as a whole. 

Now the same principles can, of course, be applied to the S and G angles of the ESG strategy too. Then, of course, you have the administrative burden and the unpredictable way this ESG mandate is managed.

The approach that BlackRock wants to take could hamper the efficient performance of a company's board and corporate strategy, which is unsuitable for that long-term shareholder value. Beyond the additional burdens that this could place on companies, you have the question of whether a company like BlackRock should have such a significant say in how society is shaped. 


The Silenced Majority

Have all the stakeholders, the millions of us who have pension funds and invest in ETFs, been asked how we feel about these proposals? Are stakeholders polled on each one of these proposals? And how do we know there's no broader political agenda that could seep in should the winds of public opinion shift. Does this create a precedent for other large companies to follow suit? These are all relevant questions that need to be answered. It is, after all, good governance. 

Many of us know BlackRock is a powerful company but to realize how far that power extends is an eye-opener, to say the least. As the world's largest asset manager, it manages an ocean of capital that gives it immense control over the financial system. 

Given that it's the owner and operator of one of the largest and most crucial asset management platforms, many would argue that it's too big to fail, but more to the point, it's now too big to control. That's because BlackRock seems to be taking on a new mission beyond mere capital allocation. 

The firm is looking to use its ESG mandate to shape the way that corporate America is run. It's also not as if politicians can really do much about it. Given BlackRock's connections with all of these higher-ups, it is more likely to call the shots than the other way around. 

Of course, the mandate and goals of BlackRock may be benevolent and sincere, but you have to question how this power could be used in the future should it fall into the hands of someone who would use it for more than just ESG benchmarks? Money is power, after all, and given that BlackRock controls so much money, it has absolute power. And as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts, absolutely. 

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Also published @ BeforeIt’sNews.com: https://beforeitsnews.com/economics-and-politics


Tim Moseley