Asset management giant BlackRock is investigating a fake letter sent to reporters by someone posing as the firm’s chief executive officer Larry Fink, a spokesperson said Wednesday.
“Don’t be fooled by imitations...Larry’s real CEO letter coming soon,” BlackRock tweeted Wednesday. The Financial Times was duped by the letter, which focused on climate change, a report from the news outlet said Wednesday.
Here’s how the scammers tricked reporters: at around 6:15 this morning, a letter from “firstname.lastname@example.org" landed in many reporter’s inboxes, including one Institutional Investor reporter. It’s unclear whether any of BlackRock’s clients also received the letter. The letter was sent at roughly the same time that BlackRock published its fourth-quarter earnings on its website.
The letter was entitled “Larry Fink’s Annual Letter to CEOs: Purpose In Action.”
It linked to a website called Blackrock-ESG.com, which was created to look like Blackrock’s website. The letter also linked, on multiple occasions, to BlackRock’s actual website. One of those links was to Fink’s 2018 letter, in which he pushed chief executive officers to contribute to society or face losing BlackRock’s investment.
The letter, which clocked in at more than 1,200 words, said that BlackRock would increase its ESG screens for all of its ETFs and divest from coal companies in all its actively managed funds. It also said that BlackRock would use its stake in the energy sector to engage in shareholder activism: only voting in favor of management when they worked toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The letter included a screenshot of the signature published with Fink’s 2018 letter to chief executive officers.
What tipped Institutional Investor off that it was a fake was our web filter, which blocked the letter’s link to the spoof website. When we looked at BlackRock’s actual website, there was no new CEO letter to be found.
BlackRock confirmed the hoax via its tweet and in an email sent to reporters. A spokesperson said via email that several fake Twitter accounts were set up as a part of the hoax. At least one of those accounts, which was tweeting under the moniker @BlackRock_US, has been suspended from the website.
BlackRock has been the target of environmental groups like the Sierra Club, which is calling for BlackRock to “stop funding the climate crisis” via an online petition signed by nearly 25,000 people.
ShareAction UK, an institutional investing ESG group, has been advocating for similar measures and tweeted Wednesday that the letter was “a brilliantly executed fake!”