BOSTON/LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Five Democratic U.S.
senators on Thursday asked BlackRock Inc to justify why
it rarely supported shareholder resolutions tied to climate
change issues despite its increased focus on the environment
The proxy voting record of the top asset manager is
"troubling and inconsistent," according to a letter sent to
Reuters by the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and
signed by four others.
In a statement sent by a spokesman, BlackRock said its work
on behalf of clients includes both voting and engagement, or
talks with corporate managers. It cited certain negative proxy
votes cast this year and noted the company now more often
publishes details about votes.
"We are currently reviewing our engagement priorities and
voting guidelines," BlackRock said.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in January had vowed to press
companies to do more to combat climate change, underscoring the
shifting moods of clients and reflecting new money pouring into
sustainable investing strategies.
But a pair of recent studies found that BlackRock supported
climate-related proxy resolutions only around 10% of the time
this year, in line with its past record. Other companies took a
more aggressive tack this year, notably the asset-management arm
of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Schatz's letter cited one of those studies and noted how in
several cases BlackRock's support for management was decisive.
He also wrote that BlackRock backed nearly all directors at oil,
gas and utility companies.
Earlier on Thursday, speaking at an online news conference
about efforts to limit climate change, BlackRock
Vice Chairman Philipp Hildebrand said the company had appointed
new leaders to its stewardship team.
"As a result of our commitment and these changes that were
implemented during this transition year, you should certainly
expect that our voting engagement outputs in 2021 around climate
will look materially different from the past year," Hildebrand
(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and by Matthew Green in
London; editing by Diane Craft)