* Backed 3/4 of environmental, social shareholder
* Opposed management at least once at 35% of meetings
BOSTON/LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) - BlackRock voted
against more company directors and backed more shareholder
resolutions in the first quarter than a year earlier, as the
world's biggest asset manager looks to push boards to do more on
climate and other sustainability issues.
The information from the $9 trillion New York-based money
manager in a report to be released on Wednesday helps to explain
what is shaping up to be a tough shareholder voting season at
major corporations this spring.
Just on Tuesday, investors rejected the pay of executives at
GE Corp, for instance, and last week gave a record level of
support, 81%, to a resolution calling for a report on plastics
pollution at Dupont.
Both votes took place after the first-quarter period covered
by BlackRock's report. But in a separate piece posted on its
website on Wednesday, BlackRock said it voted against the pay at
GE, and against board compensation committee members, "given the
misalignment of pay and performance."
In addition, BlackRock said it supported a resolution
calling for a so-called "say on climate" advisory vote on
greenhouse gas emissions at Charter Communications Inc
on April 27. The measure drew support from 39% of
Together the material suggested BlackRock taking a more
aggressive stance under Sandy Boss, the company's London-based
global head of investment stewardship since 2020.
"We are accelerating the pace of our stewardship activities;
resulting in more engagement and more voting, reflecting
heightened expectations, which ... are just a function of the
urgency of some of the issues," Boss said in an interview.
Boss declined to comment on votes since April or upcoming
ones. Activists have urged BlackRock and other influential top
investors to push their portfolio companies more after years of
fund manager votes that rubber-stamped management wishes.
For instance, BlackRock said on Wednesday it had abstained
from voting at Barclays PLC on a resolution calling for the bank
to phase out fossil fuel financing shareholders largely opposed.
BlackRock said the resolution's wording was
"imprecise and ambiguous."
Citing that vote and others yet to come at companies like
Duke Energy and ExxonMobil, Sierra Club official
Ben Cushing said in a statement that BlackRock is "taking too
much credit, too soon."
Among other things, BlackRock said it had backed
three-quarters of the environment and social-focused resolutions
filed by shareholders during the first quarter, including eight
In the same period last year, BlackRock's support for such
resolutions was less than 10%, the report showed, including its
opposition to all three environmental resolutions on which it
Of the 2,600 shareholder meetings held in the period, at
which BlackRock voted on more than 21,000 proposals, the money
manager said it had voted against management on one or more
proposals at 35% of meetings, up from 30% a year earlier.
BlackRock said it did not back directors or director-related
proposals 12% of the time, up from 9% a year ago. Reasons
included a lack of board diversity, misaligned pay and a lack of
(Reporting by Simon Jessop. Editing by Mark Potter, David
Gregorio and Nick Macfie)