Consumer group warns 10 governors about state pension funds invested in China-linked Black Rock

BlackRock "could not be doing more to help the Chinese Communist Party," Consumers' Research Executive Director Will Hild said.

Updated: December 15, 2021 - 10:48pm

Consumers' Research warned 10 governors in a letter earlier this month about their state pension funds being invested into BlackRock, the world's largest investment manager, which has significant ties with China and invests in Chinese companies. 

The consumer group is an educational nonprofit that focuses on informing consumers and promoting "the freedom to act on that knowledge and understanding," according to Consumers' Research's website

The letter was sent on Dec. 2 to the governors of the 10 states with the largest state pension fund investments in BlackRock according to the group's research. From highest to lowest, the 10 are: Washington, Florida, New York, Nevada, Nebraska, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Montana, and West Virginia. 

According to the letter, "BlackRock's CEO, Larry Fink, has become a trusted partner with China's communist leadership," as he has consulted them "during economic downturns" and "was involved in trade negotiations with the United States, choosing China over America."

Consumers' Research Executive Director Will Hild told the John Solomon Reports podcast in an episode airing Thursday that BlackRock "could not be doing more to help the Chinese Communist Party."

Fink wrote a letter to BlackRock's shareholders in March 2020 reaffirming the investment manager's commitment to China, according to Consumers' Research's Consumer Warning

"I continue to firmly believe China will be one of the biggest opportunities for BlackRock over the long term, both for asset managers and investors, despite the uncertainty and decoupling of global systems we're seeing today," he wrote. 

In Hild's letter to the governors, he encouraged them "to do their due diligence in educating themselves and their staff on the multiple risks posed by BlackRock's extensive investments in Chinese companies, both from an ethical standpoint as well as the fiduciary responsibility owed to U.S. pension holders and retirees."

While Hild noted on the podcast that BlackRock has pushed for companies to pursue leftist social policies in the U.S., it has also invested in the Chinese companies Hikvision and iFlytek, both of which have been blacklisted by the American government "for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang," according to Consumers' Research's Consumer Warning. 

BlackRock has also significantly invested in companies with close ties to the Chinese military, including China Telecom and China SpaceSat, according to the Consumer Warning. 

A BlackRock spokesperson told FOX Business that they recognize their "stakeholders have differing views on China — BlackRock takes those concerns seriously," as they balance those with their role as an investor for their clients. "Our approach to Chinese-related investments is consistent with U.S. foreign policy," they added. 

BlackRock's clients decide where to invest their assets, and the investment manager supports them "in making informed investment decisions by providing clear and current disclosure of all material risks associated with different investment products and markets," the spokesperson said.

"As China's financial services industry matures, a more robust regulatory and legal framework will be essential to building even more trust and confidence of global investors, and Chinese savers," the spokesperson continued. "BlackRock is committed to continually pushing for improved standards, governance, and accounting transparency from all companies and countries wherever they are operating in the world. Our approach to China will be no different." 

Just the News requested comment from the governors of all 10 states addressed in the letter, but had only received responses from two by Wednesday evening. 

"A dark money political group like Consumers' Research is not a reliable source," Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's press secretary told Just the News. "BlackRock is the world's largest investment manager. I have not heard of any reliable sources saying they are vulnerable right now, quite the opposite."

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' press secretary said the governor "is an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party regime" in an email to Just the News. She cited a statement DeSantis made after signing a bill to fight foreign influence and corporate espionage in the state's government and institutions of higher learning.

"Make no mistake — China is a hostile foreign power," DeSantis said in June, "and every Governor has the responsibility to protect their education system, and every other entity within their purview, from the espionage and commercial theft undertaken by the Chinese Communist Party."

The Florida Retirement System's "pension plan's exposure to Chinese companies represents less than 3% of the total fund as a percent of market value," she added. "Those investments are selected by private, third party asset managers pursuant to processes designed to ensure all relevant risks are considered and all applicable laws and investment restrictions are followed, including the Federal Executive Order relating to Threats from Certain Companies of the People's Republic of China."

She confirmed the governor received the letter from Consumers' Research and said his office "is reviewing the concerning issues" raised in it. 

"We understand the concerns raised by Consumers' Research with respect to any investment that might further the interests of the Chinese Communist Party," she said. "With respect to these issues, we believe all institutional investors would benefit from clear and consistent guidance promulgated by relevant U.S. institutions, such as the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), who are uniquely qualified to identify and appropriately restrict any such investments. 

"Our priority is to protect the pensions of FRS retirees and to ensure all pertinent laws and regulations are followed with regards to all investments. We will evaluate the BlackRock issue in depth and appreciate Consumers' Research bringing these concerns to our attention."