BlackRock exploring funds that exclude gun makers, retailers

Mar 2, 2018 @ 2:31 pm

By Bloomberg News

BlackRock Inc., the world's largest asset manager, said it's exploring ideas for new funds, including index-based portfolios, that exclude gun makers and retailers.

BlackRock is also working with clients that want to change or eliminate exposure to firearms, according to a document posted Friday on the company's website.

The response by BlackRock comes in the wake of a tragedy where 17 people were shot dead at a Florida high school. The shooting has reignited the debate around gun control and background checks to prevent future tragedies. Florida teachers have demanded that the state agency that manages their pension plan divest its gun stocks. Asset managers and others that help fund weapons makers have also come under pressure.

New York-based BlackRock also said it opened discussions with firearms makers and retailers to engage them on questions including the steps they take to support safe and responsible use of such products. BlackRock said it has asked companies to explain the strategies they employ to monitor how firearms are being sold.

"We have already had constructive discussions with some, and we are continuing to pursue our engagement with them all," the firm said in the document.

BlackRock says it doesn't hold three gun makers — American Outdoor Brands Corp., Vista Outdoor Inc. and Sturm Ruger & Co. — in its active equity portfolios. The company said the three companies make up 0.01 percent of its index equity products.

"Over the past two weeks, we have reached out to our clients to help them understand their exposure to civilian firearms companies," BlackRock said. "We have a continuing dialogue with many clients and are helping them explore their options for altering or eliminating their firearms exposures."

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., the biggest sporting-goods retailer in the U.S., said it was immediately ending sales of assault-style rifles. Wal-Mart Inc. followed with a pledge to require buyers of firearms and ammunition to be 21 years old.

State Street Corp., among the largest providers of exchange-traded funds, said it also plans to engage with weapons manufacturers.

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