The world's largest money manager is breaking its silence on the nation's current gun debate.
In a client update outlining its approach to the gun industry on Friday, BlackRock said last month's deadly shooting at a Florida high school has driven home for the firm the "terrible toll from gun violence" in the U.S., something that "requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors."
That includes, it says, possibly voting against directors or against management on shareholder proposals. BlackRock said it has been working with customers to help them explore options for changing their investments to exclude gun industry stocks and is exploring ideas for new funds, including index funds that specifically exclude firearms makers and retailers.
It put out its three-page update in response to a deluge of customer questions.
BlackRock oversees more than $5 trillion of assets for major pensions and endowments as well as mom and pop fund investors, much of that in funds that track market indexes. As such it is the biggest owner of two publicly traded gun makers and the second biggest in a third one, putting it in a position to influence the current debate on guns.
That isn't a power fund companies like BlackRock and its rivals have typically wielded. As fund managers, they have seen their mission to be stewards of investor money, not social or political activists. They talk to companies, but behind the scenes.
But earlier this year, BlackRock's CEO, Larry Fink, made a somewhat surprising statement: "Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate." He went on to say that key to long-term success for companies is "understanding the societal impact of your business" and how it will "affect your potential for growth."