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BlackRock defends work with climate groups amid Republican attacks

FILE PHOTO: The BlackRock logo is seen outside of its offices in New York

By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) - A BlackRock Inc executive said the top asset manager's work with investment industry groups doesn't prevent it from making independent decisions for clients, looking to counter a growing line of attack from Republican U.S. politicians.

Dalia Blass, BlackRock senior managing director, in a letter sent late Tuesday wrote that "we do not coordinate our votes or investment decisions with external groups or organizations."

For instance Blass wrote that when BlackRock joined the Climate Action 100+, an effort among big investors to engage companies on climate change, the firm made clear that it was not agreeing to trade shares or act in concert with other investors to acquire or take control of any company.

Blass' letter was provided to Reuters by a BlackRock representative. It was sent to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and a group of other state attorneys general who are among a growing number of Republicans criticizing Wall Street for incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decisions. [L4N2YE28B]

The group had written to BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink on Aug. 4 to raise a host of concerns about the fund firm's treatment of energy companies. Among other things the group wrote that "BlackRock's actions appear to intentionally restrain and harm the competitiveness of the energy markets."

In her reply BlackRock's Blass also reiterated past arguments that it does not boycott energy companies, and said its participation in ESG initiatives "is entirely consistent with our fiduciary obligations" to clients.

With an industry-leading $8.5 trillion under management, largely in passive funds, BlackRock has faced growing right-wing criticism. Last month Texas' comptroller listed the firm as "boycotting" energy stocks, putting its business with public funds at risk. [L1N3011D2]

At the same time BlackRock has faced pickets at its New York headquarters from environmentalists who say it does too little to cut emissions at big fossil fuel companies where it remains among top owners.[L5N2XG5CI]

(Reporting by Ross Kerber)