Eye on the Amazon

More Pathetic Excuses from BlackRock's CEO

The "conscience of Wall Street" passes the buck on climate action

He "stole the show" was how Brazil's premier newspaper described it, and they weren't wrong.

When Eloy Terena, an indigenous leader and legal counsel of the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), spoke, the executives, board members, and shareholders present at BlackRock's annual shareholder meeting on May 23rd in New York fell silent and listened.

"You bear responsibility for our future," Eloy told BlackRock's CEO Larry Fink, who presided over the meeting. That's because BlackRock is one of the biggest investors in the agribusiness companies that are driving deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and in Eloy's home in the Cerrado region, as revealed in the report Complicity in Destruction II, released last month by Amazon Watch and APIB.

Yet Fink barely acknowledged Eloy's entire intervention, let alone respond to his direct request, despite the fact that he replied to and engaged with every other person who spoke during the meeting's question and answer period.

So when it was my turn to speak, I challenged Mr. Fink on his disrespect for Eloy. "As a shareholder," I said, "I am shocked and frustrated that you completely ignored the direct request made to you by an indigenous leader who came all the way from Brazil to talk about the destruction being wrought in his ancestral territories."

Fink tried to dodge my challenge by laying the responsibility at the feet of his staff. "But you're the CEO," I responded. "You can tell them what to do." He waved his hand over to where some staff sat, but even with that I had to track down a staff person to speak with after the meeting. Rest assured we will be following up!

Eloy wasn't the only community leader at the BlackRock meeting, although he was the only one to actually get inside. Community activists from India, the Philippines, and the U.S. were denied entry into the meeting on what appeared to be specious grounds. Still, they told their stories to the many allies demonstrating outside the meeting, and you can see them in the video above.

We were all at the BlackRock shareholder meeting because the asset manager continues to be the largest global investor in coal, oil, and gas extraction, as well as companies building new coal plants, and it is one of the largest investors in rainforest destruction. CEO Larry Fink has been dubbed the "conscience of Wall Street," yet he takes zero responsibility for his company's contribution to climate change and forest destruction.

Larry Fink's view of real climate action was clear when he dodged other hard questions at the meeting and tried to shift the blame to others. When challenged on the billions in assets that BlackRock owns in the fossil fuel industry driving climate change, he blamed his clients. Yep, really. Some leadership, huh?

Despite Fink's disrespect and dodging, Eloy believes the visit to New York was an important step. This was the first time that APIB has traveled to a financial power center to demand change, and it reverberated in Brazil. It was covered in several major outlets, including Brazil's most influential daily paper, Folha de S.Paulo. APIB, Amazon Watch, and the BlackRock's Big Problem campaign are still in the early stages of our work to hold BlackRock accountable, and we won't back down!

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