BlackRock issued warning over ‘misleading statements’ tied to ESG funds

By Thomson Reuters Mar 27, 2024 | 1:56 PM

(Reuters) – BlackRock was issued a legal warning by the U.S. state of Mississippi over “false and misleading statements to Mississippi investors” tied to its environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment strategies, according to a 33-page document released on Wednesday.

The Mississippi secretary of state Michael Watson and the state’s Securities Division issued a ‘summary cease and desist order’ and served a warning to impose a multimillion-dollar administrative penalty on the New York-based money manager.

Mississippi’s legal warning comes after Florida, Louisiana and Missouri have previously said they plan to pull investment mandates from the company, citing concerns that include impact on investor returns due to BlackRock’s ESG efforts.

The world’s largest asset manager has been at the forefront of scrutiny in some Republican-run states over its ESG policies. CEO Larry Fink said last year it lost around $4 billion in assets under management as a result of the political backlash.

“We operate in one of the most highly regulated industries in the country and are committed to following the law in every respect,” BlackRock said in a statement to Reuters.

“Our only agenda is maximizing risk-adjusted returns for the funds our clients choose to invest in,” it added.

Last year, the U.S. state of Tennessee said it sued the asset manager, alleging it breached consumer protection laws and downplayed the extent to which ESG considerations drive the firm’s investment strategies.

BlackRock managed $10 trillion in assets as of Dec 31, 2023 and served clients in over 100 countries across the globe.

(Reporting by Mehnaz Yasmin in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)