Wednesday 3 February 2021

Getting Blackrock to do things...

Just a quick post. I increasingly find myself thinking that the focus amongst campaigners on trying to move the giant asset managers, and Blackrock in particular, represents a failure to think things through.

There are a number of overlapping aspects to this. First, trying to change the policies of a powerful economic actor without questioning how they got that power, and whether it is legitimate to exercise it, really lacks ambition. We be asking whether we should *allow* an (admittedly enormous) intermediary to exercise influence that derives from other people's deferred pay. Focusing on getting Blackrock to do things is likely trying to change the approach of an unelected political leadership rather than seeking to replace them.

Second, it also serves to reinforce the shareholder primacy model at exactly the time when it is being questioned. Put another way, it seems a bit incongruous to try an enact a multi-stakeholder model of the corporation through the exercise of power by the only stakeholder currently recognised in law. We can't create a new model through the institutions that dominate the current one, something else is required.

Third, as someone who focused primarily on labour issues, I am concerned at the way that investors that go quite a long way on environmental ones - while concurrently voting against the most basic asks relating to worker voice - get treated as 'progressive' forces. I can imagine Blackrock et al getting better on climate, supporting more diverse boards etc and advocating the sort of agenda that corporate liberals are comfortable with starting to get plaudits, even as they fail to act on workplace issues.  

* Actually should probably also include the risk of anti-competitive practices.   

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