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17 AGs move to block BlackRock from buying up utilities, citing ESG concerns

"This is yet another example of radical leftists trying to circumvent the will of the American people in order to implement their draconian mandates," Rokita said.

Published: May 10, 2023 5:06pm

A group of 17 attorneys general is looking to block asset manager BlackRock from making blanket purchases of utilities amid concerns over the firm's activist investing practices.

Led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, the group filed a motion on Wednesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) challenging the firm's blanket authorization to purchase large stakes in such companies, arguing that the firm is not a passive investor and will use its stakes in companies to push a political and social agenda.

Under scrutiny from the AGs is a practice known as Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing, in which an asset manager considers such factors when making investments and does not solely look to maximize financial gains. Critics of the practice have warned that doing so may constitute a breach of a firm's fiduciary duty to its investors.

Specifically, the AGs seek to intervene in FERC's reapproval of a three-year blanket authorization to "purchase, acquire, or take over $10 million in voting securities of any 'public utility,' 'electric utility company,' 'transmitting utility,' or 'holding company in a holding company system that includes an electric utility company or transmitting utility.'"

The AGs note that FERC will only approve such an authorization should it be "consistent with the public interest in light of competition, rates, and regulation" before noting that BlackRock has repeatedly secured such permissions by claiming to be either a "passive" or "non-controlling investor" that does not seek to "chang[e] or influenc[e] the control of the issuer" or "exercise any control over the day-to-day management or operations."

The AGs emphatically argue that BlackRock's embrace of ESG practices has rendered such claims a farce, saying "Maybe BlackRock was a passive investor ten years ago, but today it’s an environmental activist. Indeed, BlackRock’s own public commitments belie its representations to the Commission."

In a press release announcing the motion, Rokita excoriated BlackRock and the ESG initiatives as attempting to circumvent the public to impose unpopular environmental mandates without going to the ballot box.

"This is yet another example of radical leftists trying to circumvent the will of the American people in order to implement their draconian mandates," he said. "The restrictions these elitists are trying to impose on energy companies and utilities would never win approval at the ballot box."

"The public interest is served when investment companies build their business models on maximizing financial returns for clients," he continued. "Conversely, the public interest is hijacked when these companies subjugate clients’ financial interests to leftist fever dreams."

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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