BlackRock is rolling out new products that specifically avoid investing in companies that make or sell firearms for civilian use, in response to customer interest as pressure on the nation's gun industry intensifies.
The world's largest asset manager has created two new exchange-traded funds and a series of new index-tracking products for pensions and employee retirement plans that exclude stocks of gun makers and large gun retailers. It also has shifted the index underlying existing ETFs aimed at socially responsible investments.
In a note to clients Thursday, BlackRock said it is making the changes "to provide more choice for clients seeking to exclude firearms companies from their portfolios."
It is also lowering the expenses for funds tracking a socially responsible investing index that already excludes these stocks.
The moves come amid a renewed national debate over the role Wall Street can play in promoting greater gun safety, specifically by pressuring gun makers and sellers to change their sales policies and enhance product safety.
Several companies have already taken action. Walmart and Dicks limit sales to those 21 and older, and Citigroup said it would bar companies it does business with from selling guns to those under 21.
Last month, BlackRock told clients it was time to take action in this debate, saying it could use its position as one of the largest owners of publicly traded gun makers to vote against directors and go against management to support shareholder initiatives. The company oversees more than $5 trillion of assets for pensions and endowments as well as retail investors.
The fund company has been talking to gun makers in advance of this year's shareholder meetings. BlackRock is the biggest institutional owner of Sturm Ruger, with 16 percent, and American Outdoor Brands, with 10.5 percent.
The new ETFs include one focused on small stocks and one focused on investment-grade bonds. The new index-tracking products for retirement accounts track five major stock indexes screened to exclude gun maker and retailer stocks.