Emperor Larry Fink

Scott Shepard: Is Emperor Larry Fink Silencing the Critics of His ESG Regime?

It’s been clear since The World Economic Forum’s annual conference this winter that BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has tired of criticism of the globalist Davos regime and its principal satrapy, the Biden Administration in Washington. Recall his whining last year and again at Davos 2023 that the woke, WEF agenda is somehow not at all partisan, but mean opponents of his Pronouncements of Truth were daring to question Him. And now it looks as though he and his fellow Davoscenti may well have teamed up to silence a primary American voice opposing the C-suite insurrection.

Scott Shepard

Scott Shepard

Defenders of liberty cannot be ok with this. A set of laws that allows an interlocking directorate of CEOs, investment-house managers, pension-fund managers and tax-exempt charity fund managers to join together to destroy the fundamental liberties of a free people – and then to squelch any meaningful objection to the destruction – is not a set of laws that true defenders of free markets and a free society can honestly support.

Sometime this winter, before Tucker Carlson was yanked off of Fox without warning, BlackRock increased its holdings of Fox Corporation by about 15 percent, to about 15 percent of total holdings. Following the removal of Carlson, Fox News ratings have absolutely cratered, such that Anderson Cooper – last seen by anyone in recent years only on New Year’s Eve, if they’d gotten so drunk early that they’d wandered off while scanning the stations with the TV accidentally tuned to CNN, and then misplaced the remote – is beating Fox in the much-hyped demographic demo in Tucker’s old timeslot.

And apparently the plan was for Fox to take this profound beating in the ratings, one that’s absolutely mauling the whole schedule, while continuing to pay Carlson $25 million annually through January of 2025 for doing nothing just so that this nominally conservative news network could keep a distinctly conservative commentator off the air through an election in which some Republican (and even possibly a conservative) will face the most left-wing and unlawful administration in all of American history (even if you only count the behavior of the Department of Justice and its various excrescences).

That, needless to say, is not behavior consonant with fiduciary duty, which requires boards of directors to act in the best interests of a neutral, reasonable investor; and not, say, a left-wing investor who proudly declares himself to be a lifelong Democrat who absurdly claims neither to be woke nor partisan while using all the assets under management with his company to push the ESG and Biden Administration highest priorities (funny how they’re the same), particularly political-schedule decarbonization, equity-based discrimination, and treating left-favoring activity as noble Truth and right-favoring activity as disinformational insurrection.

In a bid to try to save some fig-leaf of fiduciary responsibility, anonymous Fox Corporation directors are suggesting that not-firing-but-muzzling Carlson was part of the settlement with Dominion. But if this is true, it’s very strange. First, why the weeks of delay between the settlement and the descheduling? Especially since it’s clear that nothing had been put in place to replace Carlson, nor to inform him or do anything else preparatory with that time. Second, it’s well established that Carlson did not embrace the Dominion-cheating theory of the 2020 election, but rather poo-poo’ed it. If the silence-Carlson provision was included in the Dominion settlement, it wasn’t because it was a sensible requirement, but because it was a collusion between Dominion and forces at Fox that wanted to gag Carlson anyway. Were those “forces” at Fox massive shareholder BlackRock and Larry Fink?

For a short while, it appeared that BlackRock might also be a significant owner of Dominion Voting, so that in the settlement BlackRock was negotiating largely with itself. That turns out not to be true; BlackRock owns quite a lot of Dominion Energy, and has done yeoman work in destroying that company’s prospects in the name of decarbonization, but not Dominion Voting.

But that’s not the end of that story. Dominion voting is a private company, but one of the founders and primary owners of the majority owner of Dominion is William Kennard, the Chairman of AT&T. Kennard’s AT&T, through its subsidiary DirectTV, deplatformed both One America News Network and NewsMax, though a massive pressure campaign later forced AT&T to reverse the latter decision.

Rather important in this context: in its Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders and Proxy Statement last month, AT&T conveniently forgot to list Chairman Kennard’s founding interest in Staple Street Capital, the private-equity firm that owns 75% of Dominion voting.

Why would that information be excluded from the AT&T publication when other similar information was happily provided? It certainly wasn’t oversight.

AT&T’s deplatforming decisions are another set that seemed facially to violate fiduciary duty. Carriage networks want more channels to keep more viewers, not less. And the non-fiduciary nature of AT&T’s actions was revealed when a DirectTV executive snarked that conservative viewers have Fox News, after all, which should be enough for them – despite the fact that DirectTV carries fully 22 left-wing news and opinion outlets. Kennard’s deep ownership interest in Dominion Voting, plus the stealth treatment of that ownership interest by AT&T, plus the decisions made in apparent violation of fiduciary duty: those all deserve scrutiny all by themselves.

And then there are the developments at Fox, and the claims being made about the Fox/Dominion settlement and the attempted silencing of Tucker Carlson.

So, no, it wasn’t exactly BlackRock v. BlackRock in the Fox News v. Dominion case. But it certainly was CEO of left-wing, woke, anti-conservative speech corporation v. CEO of left-wing, woke, anti-conservative speech corporation, and well, lo and behold, what an astonishing result.

This can’t go on. And in particular, liberty’s defenders can’t simply close their eyes to this conspiracy against fundamental American freedoms because the conspirators are CEOs.

One quick and very partial fix would be for states to treat investors or investment houses with more than a certain threshold of investment in publicly traded companies as de facto directors of those companies, and extend fiduciary liability to them as well as the formal directors. This fiduciary responsibility runs to the investors in that specific company, not “the economy” or “the world,” pace Fink, Moynihan & Co. And because of the massive potential conflicts of such investors, the presumption should shift to them to demonstrate their fidelity to the specific company in question and its unique interests any time these investors push for actions that facially appear to divert from the best interest of the company.

Delaware, where so many of these companies are headquartered, is unlikely to make this change any time soon. But when directors and executives push companies to violate the law – including civil rights laws, as by pushing equity-based discrimination – inside well-governed states, they can be held personally liable for breaching those civil rights laws. BlackRock’s and other giant, partisan investment houses’ executives should be right in the soup with them.

This is hardly the only necessary reform – just the start. But for liberty lovers, the first step is to figure out what time it is and who the enemy is. Tyranny that flows partly through C-suites will be no less wretched, and you still owe your lives, fortunes and sacred honor to oppose it.


Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Director of its Free Enterprise Project. This first appeared at RealClearMarkets.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.