Just one day after senior asset management executives and other corporate leaders signed a letter to Congress demanding that lawmakers certify the 2020 presidential election results, they watched in horror as pro-Trump extremists, some armed, staged an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in an unprecedented attack on U.S. democracy.
Shocking images of the attack played out on television, showing rioters breaking windows and climbing through them to enter the Capitol building. Shots rang out on Capitol grounds, with one woman reportedly shot in the chest. She later died, according to a Washington Post report. Multiple police officers were injured in the melee, according to CNN reports.
Members of Congress were supposed to have spent the day certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won. President Donald Trump had been making false claims for months that the presidential election results were fraudulent — with the U.S. Supreme Court twice refusing to hear lawsuits seeking to overturn the November 3 election. Vice President Mike Pence had earlier said he would not block the certification of Biden’s win.
The normally pedestrian certification process already promised to be different this time, after a group of Republican lawmakers including Senator Ted Cruz said in a statement on January 2 that they planned to reject electoral votes from certain states unless Congress created a commission to investigate baseless claims of voter fraud.
But the day took an explosive turn shortly after 2:00 PM, when protesters breached the Capitol building. Institutional Investor journalists reached out to industry leaders to get their reaction to the chaos on Wednesday. Here is what they said.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence at our Capitol today,” said BlackRock Chairman and CEO, Larry Fink, in a statement to Institutional Investor. “This is an assault on our nation, our democracy, and the will of the American people. The peaceful transfer of power is the foundation of our democracy. We are who we are as a nation because of our democratic institutions and process.”
David McCormick, Bridgewater Associates CEO and former Treasury undersecretary under President George W. Bush, told II: “I am watching the violence in the nation’s capital with disgust and heartbreak. Today’s storming of the Capitol is seditious and an attack on our most dearly held national principles. Ever since George Washington stepped aside in 1797, the peaceful transfer of power has been the hallmark of our republic and a symbol of our freedom under the law. Today’s events demonstrate just how vulnerable that hallowed tradition is.”
He continued: “Abraham Lincoln once observed that if we commit ourselves to the preservation of the great American experiment, ‘vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.’ We all bear the responsibility to ensure that remains true. It is on all of our shoulders to forge a better nation, to respect and uphold the law, and to preserve and renew the bonds that hold us together. That duty, not just for our public officials but for all Americans, looms large on this day.”
Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO David Solomon struck a similarly somber tone in his statement to II. “For years, our democracy has built a reservoir of goodwill around the world that brings important benefits for our citizens. Recently, we have squandered that goodwill at an alarming pace, and today’s attack on the U.S. Capitol does further damage,” he said. “It’s time for all Americans to come together and move forward with a peaceful transition of power. We have to begin reinvesting in our democracy and rebuilding the institutions that have made America an exceptional nation.”
Steve Schwarzman, Blackstone Group’s chairman, CEO and co-founder, had been a supporter of President Trump and wanted to see a peaceful transition of power to President-Elect Biden. In an emailed statement to II on January 6 Schwarzman said: “The insurrection that followed the President’s remarks today is appalling and an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans. I am shocked and horrified by this mob’s attempt to undermine our constitution. As I said in November, the outcome of the election is very clear and there must be a peaceful transition of power.”
PIMCO CEO Emmanuel Roman and group chief investment officer Dan Ivascyn said, in a statement to II, "We are disturbed and saddened by the images of today’s events at the Capitol, which are an attack on our institutions and the values of democracy which guide us. However, we are also confident that the strength of these institutions and the goodwill of our elected leaders will ensure that the nation proceeds with its lawful transition to new leadership.”
Said Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, “I strongly condemn the violence in our nation’s capital. This is not who we are as a people or a country. We are better than this. Our elected leaders have a responsibility to call for an end to the violence, accept the results, and, as our democracy has for hundreds of years, support the peaceful transition of power. Now is the time to come together to strengthen our exceptional union.”
Citi CEO Michael Corbat said in a statement to II: “I am disgusted by the actions of those who have stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College, a process mandated by our Constitution as part of our practice of peaceful transitions of power between Presidents. As one of America’s oldest companies, we have seen our country experience other trying events. While these scenes are very difficult to watch, I have faith in our democratic process and know that the important work of Congress will continue and that people will be held accountable for their actions. I pray this situation can be resolved without further bloodshed.”
Carlyle Group CEO Kewsong Lee also condemned the attack. “I condemn the chaos and unlawful behavior being witnessed today in our nation’s capital,” he said in statement. “It is deeply unsettling after the contentious and bitter election process which put tremendous strain on all of us. Our country is better than this, and deserves better than this. Today was meant to be about a constructive and peaceful presidential transition, and we must move on to repair the damage that has been inflicted on our social fabric and democracy. In such a polarized and divisive world, we need to ground ourselves in the basic premise that we have far more in common than not, and in the simple truth that we have to be respectful of each other, even if we do not share the same views.”
Cliff Asness, co-founder and CIO of AQR Capital Management, was blunt when contacted by II: “The President inciting this is outrageous and the protestors must stop or be stopped.”
Muddy Waters Capital Management founder Carson Block — a more colorful, if less influential, asset manager — offered the most unequivocal assessment of the day’s events.
“I’m not surprised to see that it has come to violence,” he told II. “It obviously has been stoked hard in recent days by the President, former [National Security Adviser] Mike Flynn, and then [Trump lawyer Rudy] Guiliani calling for trial by combat at the DC rally. I’m sure this is far from the end of the kind of violence and trouble we’re going to see in this country if we don’t get a handle on this right wing authoritarianism that is really taking off… These are just disgusting f------ people.”
—Michelle Celarier, Christine Idzelis, Kip McDaniel, Alicia McElhaney, Julie Segal, and Amy Whyte contributed to this reporting.