The BlackRock Transparency Project is the latest research initiative of Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a 501c3 nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization that uses research, investigations, litigation and aggressive communications to expose how decisions made behind the doors of corporate boardrooms and government offices impact Americans’ lives.
The Project intends to shed new light on one of the most powerful, yet least understood companies in the financial world today — a global powerhouse that manages or tracks trillions of dollars in financial assets while at the same time advising and representing governments and central banks around the globe.
The financial power and influence of BlackRock is staggering: It’s Aladdin risk management platform, described by some as the “Amazon of Wall Street”, tracks $18 trillion in financial assets – 8% of the world’s $225 trillion in financial assets. The company’s $6.28 trillion of assets under management equals almost 30 percent of the U.S.’ $19.7 trillion GDP. Its secretive BlackRock Solutions division regularly advises and consults with government officials and central bankers.
In the U.S. and U.K., BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink and senior BlackRock officials have met with key financial policymakers on hundreds of different occasions since the financial crisis of 2008. The company has assiduously courted former financial regulators, central bankers, and government officials, who have joined the company as key employees, advisors, and consultants.
BlackRock has also been among the most vocal advocates for a more enlightened approach to investor stewardship for publicly traded companies, often demanding that companies account for their negative impact on society. But BlackRock’s own operations and dealings with government are often mired in controversy, conflicts of interest, and financial improprieties.
For instance, a key executive, who today oversees the company’s most sensitive work for central banks and governments, was forced to resign as the head of the Swiss National Bank in 2012 over an insider trading scandal. In 2015, BlackRock paid a $12 million SEC fine for failing to disclose a serious conflict of interest by one of its top portfolio managers. In 2017, the company was fined again for forcing its departing employees to sign illegal agreements waiving their whistleblower rights.
The controversies and improprieties surrounding the company are all the more troubling since the company is an advisor to governments and central banks giving it access to highly sensitive information that raises the potential for serious conflicts of interest that are difficult if not impossible to police. Given BlackRock’s incredible size and unparalleled access to government officials, Campaign for Accountability is launching the BlackRock Transparency Project to document the company’s outsized influence on government policies.
The BlackRock Transparency Project will be a comprehensive research initiative to help the public track the company’s outsized influence on governments and central banks, while holding the company accountable to the same high standards it demands of others. It will catalogue BlackRock’s influence in one single place and make it easily searchable by any user.
We envision this as a crowd-sourced investigation and highly encourage anyone to contribute. Visitors here can explore the data, add new information or suggest new lines of inquiry and investigation. To get in touch with us or submit tips or information, visit our contact us page. And check back often, as we’ll be rolling out new projects, features and articles every month.