BlackRock’s Close Relationship with the U.S. Government
The gigantic asset manager has a preferential relationship with federal regulators and presidential administrations. In turn, it serves as a channel of influence on the corporate world.
Passive investing strategies have become more popular in the last decade, reaching $15 trillion under management worldwide as of May 2021.1 As opposed to active investing strategies that bet on assets expected to outperform the market, passive investing generally aims to track the performance of the market as a whole, with the attendant lower risk and lower management fees. This trend has led to a novel phenomenon in financial markets: the giant asset manager, or “universal owner,” of which the three largest are BlackRock, Vanguard Group, and State Street Corporation. The “Big Three” U.S. asset managers now have over $20 trillion in total assets under management, approximately equivalent to the nominal GDP of the United States. Of this total, BlackRock manages the largest share: about $8.5 trillion as of late 2022, equivalent to about one third of U.S. GDP and two-thirds to three-quarters of which is in passively-managed funds at any given time.2 The Big Three now own an average of over 20% of the shares of firms in the S&P 500 index, a figure forecasted to rise to nearly 40% over the next two decades. BlackRock, by itself, has at least a 5% holding in at least 95% of firms in the S&P 500.3