Economics/Class Relations

BlackRock’s pain point

August 25, 2023
Happy Friday! A confrontation between a musician and an autograph seeker has the internet picking sides and wondering if there’s “every good reason” for letting him go. (There’s a hint for you.)

Speaking of letting go, BlackRock would like to rid itself of all the ESG backlash it’s endured. But that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. More in today’s big story.


What’s on deck:

But first, there have been some delays.
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Don’t say ESG

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ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. But at BlackRock, the acronym has become synonymous with something else: drama.

The world’s largest money manager and its CEO, Larry Fink, have been viewed as the face of the ESG investing movement on Wall Street. Starting in 2020, it became a key talking point for BlackRock executives and played prominently in Fink’s letter to clients.

But a lot can change in a few years. Investing with environmental, social, and governance considerations in mind has become a political flash point, with BlackRock and Fink stuck in the middle.

Some have battered the firm for its so-called “woke capitalism,” while others have chastised BlackRock for not living up to its ESG promises.

That brings us to Rebecca Ungarino’s story on BlackRock’s ongoing delay of an ESG-focused ETF.

An application to launch the fund — an ESG municipal bond ETF — was initially filed last fall. But BlackRock has filed to extend the period for debuting it nearly every month since.

Delaying the launch of a financial product isn’t unheard of. But BlackRock, which manages some 1,300 ETFs totaling $3.2 trillion in assets, is no stranger to the game. One source told Rebecca something like this is “rare for a shop like BlackRock,” adding that the firm and its CEO “are getting a lot of blowback about ESG.”

If you think it’s unfair to read so deeply into the timeline of a single ETF, understand this isn’t occurring in a vacuum.

BlackRock is entering a critical juncture. Fink, a cofounder and the company’s sole CEO for its entire history, is preparing to retire. And while he’s not planning on leaving the firm imminently, the 70-year-old isn’t going to stick around forever.

Replacing a leader of Fink’s magnitude is difficult enough, but BlackRock’s added challenge is not having a clear succession plan. The ESG backlash hasn’t helped.

All of this has left Fink and BlackRock in a weird limbo. The CEO seems intent on leaving the company in the best shape possible while not completely punting on the ideologies he’s spent the better part of the past few years touting.

At times, it seems Fink can’t even get his story straight. This summer, he said he was “ashamed” to be a part of the ESG political debate, only to deny he said as much during the same conversation, adding he believed in “conscientious capitalism.”


3 things in markets

Before the opening bell: US stock futures rise ahead of the Fed meeting in Jackson Hole, after a Thursday tumble when the Nvidia-led rally didn’t hold.
Amber Baesler/AP Photo
  1. Wall Street gets ready for Jerome Powell out west. The Fed chief is set to speak in Wyoming today in a highly anticipated appearance. Here’s a preview of what Wall Street is expecting out of Powell.
  2. What dedollarization? Nearly half of foreign-exchange payments made in July via SWIFT, a global communications system, involved the US dollar, a record high. The new data could throw cold water on efforts by countries like China and Russia to move beyond using the greenback.
  3. Things are going to get better at Better, according to the CEO of Better. Shares in the mortgage startup plummeted more than 90% on its first day of trading Thursday. But CEO Vishal Garg, who gained infamy for his brutal handling of layoffs in 2021, is adamant he has a plan for turning the company around.
3 things in tech
Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images; Win McNamee/Getty Images
  1. Major websites like Amazon and The New York Times are blocking OpenAI’s new tool. The ChatGPT creator just announced a new web-crawling bot dubbed GPTBot. It would crawl the web for data to train ChatGPT, and websites are racing to block its access.
  2. Nvidia CEO predicts that $1 trillion will be spent upgrading data centers for AI. Jensen Huang thinks the majority of these upgrades will come from Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon.
  3. Leading home repairs startup is up for sale. Lending startup Captain aimed to help homeowners rebuild after natural disasters. The mission hooked investors and brought in more than $100 million. But it’s now the latest company to fall amid an increasingly bleak startup landscape.
3 things in business
Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images
  1. “Guppies” are the latest real estate trend. Many Gen Zers and millennials have given up on homebuying. A British real estate company tongue-in-cheek labeled this group “guppies” — short for “Given up on Property” with a twist on the 1980s phrase “yuppies.”
  2. OnlyFans users spent more than $5 billion on the platform last year. In 2022, OnlyFans gained nearly 30% more fans compared to 2021. During that same timeframe, the total number of people posting on OnlyFans increased by 47%.
  3. PinkyDoll, the most popular NPC creator on TikTok, opens up about her life. She has 1 million followers and brushed off that some people call her non-player character work fetish content. PinkyDoll said what’s important is that her son gets to have a beautiful life.

Mugshot, Subway, & more

Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

WNBA, air guitar, & birthdays

  • The Las Vegas Aces will visit the White House to celebrate their 2022 WNBA Championship. Their victory was the first professional sports championship that Las Vegas had ever won. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will host the Aces.
  • The Air Guitar World Championships final is today. It caps off the three-day event in Oulu, Finland, which is supposed to promote world peace. There will be a livestream of the contestants playing their invisible instruments.
  • XOXO, it’s Blake Lively’s birthday today. Billy Ray Cyrus, Tim Burton, and China Anne McClain were also born on this day.

Star Island

Dina Goldentayer/Become Legendary
Photos of a $68 million waterfront mansion on Miami’s exclusive Star Island. The sprawling glass mansion also features a 1920s guesthouse, which was reportedly one of the first residences built on the island.
The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York City.
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