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BlackRock lets more customers vote in dramatic move


BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said on Thursday it would increase the number of clients eligible to choose how to vote at company annual meetings on everything from executive compensation to climate strategy.

The “Voting Choice” program announced last year by the $8 trillion asset manager could reshape corporate elections by both involving more shareholders and diminishing the political criticism BlackRock faces from the from liberals and conservatives.

BlackRock said in a statement that as of the end of September, clients with approximately $1.8 trillion in equity index assets managed by the company were eligible for voting choices and that clients with $452 billion did.

“I hope that in the future, every investor — ultimately including individual investors — will have access to voting choice, if they so choose,” chief executive Larry Fink said in a letter to clients. and business leaders consulted by Reuters.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has come under fire from both liberals and conservatives.
Reuters

“If widely adopted, it can improve corporate governance by injecting important new voices into shareholder democracy,” Fink wrote.

Other large fund companies have also attempted to involve shareholders more in voting. Last month, for example, the asset management arm of Charles Schwab said it would start asking shareholders of certain funds about their voting preferences.

On Wednesday, BlackRock rival Vanguard Group also said it would seek customer feedback and explore how investors in several equity index funds could vote directly. “Our clients have diverse perspectives and a growing number of them would like to have a say in the vote of their index funds,” Vanguard said in a statement.

Participants in BlackRock’s program can control how their shares are voted on at company annual meetings, align their shares with voting recommendations from an outside advisor, or leave the choice to BlackRock’s own management team.

Going forward, clients will be able to choose to take advice from proxy advisor Glass Lewis as well as institutional shareholder services, BlackRock said in a program update.

In addition, BlackRock said it would offer voting choice to more investment strategies and work with investor communications platform Proximity to extend choice to retail investors in select UK mutual funds. Ultimately, Fink wrote that he hopes to provide choice for all individual investors.

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