NYC Comptroller Blasts BlackRock for Picking Aramco CEO for Board

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(Bloomberg) -- New York City Comptroller Brad Lander slammed a decision by BlackRock Inc., its biggest external money manager, to appoint the chief executive of the world’s biggest oil company to its board.

“BlackRock has clearly stated that climate risk is an investment risk, but actions speak louder than words,” New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said in an emailed statement. “At a time when financial institutions need to take a collective approach to addressing the financial risks from climate change, BlackRock shareholders expect climate-competent, not climate-conflicted, directors.”

BlackRock this week named Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser to its board, underscoring the investment firm’s commitment to the oil industry. The move comes as BlackRock finds itself at the center of a highly politicized debate around environmental, social and governance investing, with Republicans accusing it of focusing too much on climate change and social issues.

A spokesman for BlackRock declined to comment.

New York’s pension plans oversee about $250 billion. They were among the first in the US to set targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions across their investments. Lander said last year that BlackRock had backtracked on some of its climate pledges and, as a result, the New York City pension plan had been in conversations with the firm, saying that it couldn’t meet its own emissions goals if its money managers don’t meet theirs.

BlackRock managed about $54.6 billion for all five New York City pensions as of the end of April, of which $42.9 billion was for the three pension funds that have set net zero emissions goals, the comptrollers office said.

Larry Fink, BlackRock’s CEO, said Nasser’s “leadership experience, understanding of the global energy industry and the drivers of the shift toward a low-carbon economy, as well as his knowledge of the Middle East region, will all contribute meaningfully to the BlackRock board dialogue,” in a statement earlier this week.

Nasser has criticized ESG in the past. In February, he told investors gathered in Riyadh that ESG-driven policies that have “an automatic bias against any and all conventional energy projects” will result in underinvestment with serious implications for the global economy, energy affordability and energy security.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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