BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, will engage with gun makers to discuss their response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, according to a spokesperson for the firm.
“Given our inability to sell shares of a company in an index, even if we disagree with management, we focus on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society’s expectations of them,” Ed Sweeney, a spokesman for the asset manager said via email.
BlackRock’s chief executive officer Larry Fink has been focused on shareholder activism, warning chief executive officers in a letter last month that the firm won’t support companies that fail to make positive contributions to society. The money manager, with about $6.3 trillion of assets at the end of last year, is seeking to engage weapon makers after a gunman killed 17 people using an AR-15-style assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14.
Sweeney said BlackRock has clients who want to exclude weapons manufacturers or other companies that don’t align with their values. "We currently have more than $200 billion in assets under management for clients in these types of portfolios,” he said.
BlackRock holds shares of Sturm Ruger & Co. and Vista Outdoor through its iShares Core S&P Small-Cap exchange-traded fund and American Outdoor Brands Corp. in its iShares Russell 2000 ETF, according to information provided on BlackRock's website. Spokespeople for Sturm Ruger, Vista Outdoor and American Outdoor didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment on BlackRock’s plan to engage gun makers.
Providers of indexes are responsible for how they are constructed, according to Sweeney.
“As a fiduciary, we have a responsibility to replicate the indices our clients choose to invest in," he said the emailed statement. "As a result, we invest in a company as long as that company is in the relevant index.”