I’m not trying to strongarm CEOs to adopt my worldview, says head of $6 trillion money manager

  • BlackRock's Larry Fink says he's not trying to use his influence to force corporate America to embrace his ideas for social change.
  • Last week, Fink sent a letter to top CEOs, calling for them to better society or risk losing support from BlackRock.
  • They were receptive, Fink says. "I don't believe they're sucking up to me."

BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink told CNBC on Wednesday he's not trying to use his influence as head of the world's biggest investment company to force corporate America to embrace his ideas for social change.

Fink sent a letter last week to the chief executives of the world's largest public companies, calling for them to help improve society or risk losing support from BlackRock, which just surpassed $6 trillion in total assets under management in the latest quarter.

"I have had conversations pretty close to half the CEOs who received the letter, and I don't believe they're sucking up to me," Fink told "Squawk Box" in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "They were very favorable."

Reacting to the BlackRock letter, billionaire investor Sam Zell told CNBC last week that Fink and other CEOs are "extraordinarily hypocritical" to push companies for more social responsibility. "I didn't know Larry Fink had been made God," Zell said.

Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock at the 2018 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.
Adam Galica | CNBC
Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock at the 2018 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.

Fink on Wednesday scoffed at Zell's criticism, saying he is "not BlackRock," adding the company he co-founded forms its worldview through input from many talented executives.

"Profits are paramount to everything a company does," Fink stressed. But he said BlackRock believes "companies that have purpose are the best in the world."

"To be part of a growth environment, I believe the involvement in a community, to have a purpose, is vital to long-term survivability but long-term profitability," he said.

A large portion of the assets BlackRock invests on behalf of its clients is what's considered passive, such as index funds.

Fink said so-called active investors are able to pick and choose the stocks they own and can push change at companies. By contrast, he said passive investors like BlackRock need to own all the companies in an index, some of which are outperformers and others that are underperformers.

"We have to have a voice" as well, Fink argued, although he said BlackRock supports companies' visions most of the time, voting shares 91 percent of the time with management.