Risk & Compliance

BlackRock Tightens Standards for CEOs

The company has been voting against CEOs who serve on too many boards as it backs investment stewardship.
Lauren MuskettAugust 27, 2019

BlackRock voted against chief executive officers at 94 companies who were running for reelection to the corporate boards of other companies, according to a report from the asset manager.

The company this year started enforcing stronger scrutiny of CEOs who serve on more than one corporate board that is not their own. BlackRock previously considered it manageable for a CEO to serve in two external director positions outside his or her company’s own board.

Last proxy season, it voted against 32 CEOs under those circumstances.

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“It sounds fine to sit on multiple boards, but what happens when something goes wrong at a company?” BlackRock vice chairman Barbara Novick said in an interview. “More and more companies are limiting how many outside boards their CEOs can sit on.”

BlackRock has $6.8 trillion in assets under management and is hugely influential in determining the structure of corporate boards. It says diverse groups make better decisions.

The company voted against directors at 52 companies because their boards did not meet its standards for inclusion with respect to gender, ethnic diversity, age diversity, or diversity of other personal characteristics.

The company said it has more than 45 people in its investment stewardship team, up from 16 ten years ago. Fink said in the past year the team has been speaking with companies about corporate purpose, culture, and strategy and has been encouraged by the response of companies.

In a recent letter to CEOs, BlackRock chairman Larry Fink said the company’s investment stewardship engagement priorities included governance, environmental risks, and opportunities and compensation that promote long-termism as well as board diversity. He added that the team’s goal was to understand how company culture contributed to sustainable financial performance.

“The world depends on you to embrace and advocate for a long-term approach in business,” Fink said in the letter. “And at a time of great political and economic disruption, your leadership is indispensable.”

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