The Texas Legislature subpoenaed BlackRock on Wednesday over its ESG investment practices, accusing the Wall Street firm of refusing to turn over previously requested documents about how the company’s environmental, social and governance policies affect its handling of the state’s public pensions.
The chairman of the Texas Senate Committee of State Affairs, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, demanded information from BlackRock and three other major investment firms in August about how its stances on left-leaning priorities like climate change and social issues influence its investing practices while operating in the energy-rich state.
Mr. Hughes, a Republican, said that while BlackRock and the other financial institutions produced at least some documents, BlackRock “refused to provide documents it considers internal or confidential.”
“The committee needs these documents to uncover the extent to which these firms have been playing politics using Texans’ hard-earned money,” Mr. Hughes said. “We will not allow these firms to continue to use Texans’ money to force a narrow political agenda. They have a legal duty to put their investors’ interests first, and we intend to make sure they do.”
The subpoena demands that further information be delivered in person. In addition, Mr. Hughes requested that BlackRock and the three other firms that his committee has received documents from — State Street Global Advisors, Vanguard Group and investment advisory group Institutional Shareholder Services — voluntarily testify before his panel on Dec. 15 during a hearing on the effects of ESG on state pensions.
In a statement, BlackRock did not address the accusations or its future plans regarding additional documents and testimony.
“We look forward to continuing our engagement with the committee to share BlackRock’s work on behalf of millions of investors,” a spokesperson said.
The action taken by the Texas committee marked an escalation in the GOP’s fight against financial institutions that’ve gone woke for ESG, policies that Republicans say are anti-fossil fuel because firms consider issues like climate change rather than focus solely on maximizing returns.
Red states, especially those whose economies are reliant on oil and natural gas production, have put firms like BlackRock on notice. BlackRock is one of the world’s largest asset managers with roughly $10 trillion under its control. But even as Republican officials in several states have cumulatively divested more than $1 billion in public retirement funds, BlackRock has largely avoided facing public questions about its ESG policies.
That could change if Texas is successful in getting the company and others to testify.
BlackRock has previously pushed back on the notion that it’s “boycotting” fossil fuels, noting that it has invested tens of billions of dollars in public energy companies.
Still, GOP officials have refused to let up, with Republicans like West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore seeking to take the anti-ESG fight to Congress.
“We are witnessing a reckoning for these asset management firms that have until recently thought they could take hardworking Americans’ money and use it to drive their progressive agenda, and in some cases send those dollars to the Chinese Communist Party, with no consequence for their malfeasance,” said Will Hild, executive director of Consumers’ Research.
The conservative nonprofit advocacy group launched a multimillion-dollar campaign against BlackRock and CEO Larry Fink in August for “weaponizing” retirement funds.
“Now you can’t turn on the TV or read the news without BlackRock claiming to be a good steward of the assets they’re mismanaging via their ESG charade,” Mr. Hild said.
• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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