In an opinion made public on November 25, 2020, the European Union Ombudswoman considers that the Commission failed to take the necessary steps to prevent a conflict of interest when awarding BlackRock a contract regarding the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into European banking regulations. This is the conclusion of an investigation carried out following the filing of a complaint by two Members of the European Parliament and the NGO coalition Change Finance, concerned about the fact of entrusting such a contract to the largest investor in fossil fuels, who is also a shareholder of many banks.
On May 20, the European Ombudswoman, an independent authority that holds the EU institutions to account, opened a file following complaints filed by Change Finance and two Members of the European Parliament. The investigation, confirmed by the European Ombudswoman in July, led to the publication of an opinion on November 25, 2020. This opinion is final: the European Commission did not do its job properly in the awarding of the contract, particularly in taking into account the conflict of interest with BlackRock, and must review these award rules.
Despite its climate announcements, BlackRock is among the largest shareholders of most of the high-emissioncompanies. At the end of 2019, the asset manager held more than $17 billion in investments in companies planning new coal-fired power plants. The adoption of a coal policy in January 2020 is not expected to change much as it only covers 17% of the coal companies, exclusively mining companies. As the investor is also one of the majority shareholders in most European banks, the risk of conflicts of interest behind the contract entrusted to BlackRock is certain.
To learn more about how BlackRock, together with other major financial institutions, has fought certain points of the EU sustainable finance agenda, you can read the report of Change Finance and Corporate Europe Observatory.
You can call on the Commission to abandon its contract with Blackrock by writing them via an online tool!