Fund managers must vote against pure whiteboards and secret issues, say activists


More than 140 racial justice leaders have called on asset managers to back up their recent words on social issues with votes at upcoming shareholder meetings.

The activists have an open letter in the Financial Timesin which they demand that asset managers do more to improve board diversity, racial equality, and political issue disclosure.

The letter highlights how many wealth managers were quick to issue statements acknowledging racial inequality and the need for change following the George Floyd assassination last year.

“In short, in the 2021 shareholder season, the moment will come to answer the question of whether your words were cynical-performative or instead were representative of an actual shift in mindset and future behavior. Your actions by your proxy will make it clear, ”the letter reads.

Among other things, the letter calls on asset managers to:

  • Vote against pure whiteboards or those with a “Token … Single Person of Color”
  • Support shareholder demands for racial equality trials
  • Support shareholder calls for public spending transparency and lobbying.

The letter, signed by the President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Derrick Johnson, and Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, among others, also calls for asset managers to conduct their own racial equality exams and the results publish.

BlackRock, Vanguard, and Capital Group were among the wealth managers who released statements on racial inequality following Floyd’s assassination and subsequent protests last year.

According to a November 2020 report by Morningstar, the top 20 wealth managers voted for 41% of the top 48 diversity, equality and inclusion resolutions in last year’s proxy season.

The 20 asset managers in the Morningstar study accounted for around 75% of the US fund market and controlled around $ 16.5 trillion in assets at the time of publication.

The Chicago-based research shop found that TIAA took the lead among these companies and voted for 75% of the resolutions, while BlackRock, Vanguard and Capital Group were among the least supportive of those votes.

BlackRock and Vanguard were part of a group of companies and individuals that recently signed an open letter published in the New York Timeswho opposed laws that would make voting difficult.

The letter was published under the law passed in Georgia that makes voting difficult, especially in urban areas that are largely inhabited by black communities.

Asset manager T. Rowe Price personally signed the letter, as did several fund group executives. These include Capital Group CEO Tim Armor, State Street CEO and Chairman Ron Hanley, and Oaktree founder and co-chair Howard Marks.


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