By Nicole Goodkind, CNN
August 2, 2023
New York (CNN) — A Congressional select committee is investigating BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and MSCI, one of the biggest providers of index funds, to determine whether they are investing Americans’ savings in Chinese companies blacklisted by the US government for security and human rights issues.
The Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party of the US House of Representatives sent letters to BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink and MSCI CEO Henry Fernandez on Monday notifying both parties that it is investigating their investments in certain Chinese companies, according to documents reviewed by CNN.
“Our review has shown that, as a direct result of decisions made by MSCI, these Americans are now unwittingly funding PRC companies that develop and build weapons for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—the PRC’s military—and advance the CCP’s stated mission of technological supremacy,” wrote the Select Committee’s Chairman, Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and its ranking member, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois. The committee sent an identical letter to BlackRock.
By sending massive amounts of American money to companies linked to the Chinese military and human right abuses, the letter said, BlackRock and MSCI are “exacerbating an already significant national security threat and undermining American values.”
The Committee said it found that BlackRock had invested more than $429 million across five funds into Chinese companies that “act directly against the interests of the United States.”
They also said that they identified at least 40 companies listed on the MSCI indexes that are designated on governmental red-flag lists.
“The majority of our clients’ investments in China are through index funds, and we are one of 16 asset managers currently offering US index funds investing in Chinese companies,” BlackRock said in a statement to CNN. “With all investments in China and markets around the world, BlackRock complies with all applicable US government laws. We will continue engaging with the Select Committee directly on the issues raised.”
MSCI told CNN that it complies with all US laws and is currently reviewing the committee’s request for information.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington have been on the rise as the world’s two largest economies clash over issues ranging from trade policy to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last month, China imposed export controls on two strategic raw materials, gallium and germanium, that are critical to the global chipmaking industry.
Last October, the Biden administration unveiled a set of export controls banning Chinese companies from buying advanced chips and chip-making equipment without a license.
Chips are used to manufacture smartphones, self-driving cars, weapons, smart computing and other AI technology. The Biden administration and other US officials have framed these moves as measures to protect national security interests.
The Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which was created earlier this year, does not write legislation, but it does have subpoena power and makes policy recommendations.
The committee launched an official investigation last month into US venture-capital companies that help fund Chinese artificial intelligence and semiconductor efforts.
But this investigation broadens the scope of the committee’s probe significantly. BlackRock has over $9 trillion under management and millions of Americans invest their retirement savings in the firm’s funds. MSCI has over $13 trillion benchmarked to its products.
The Committee has asked both firms to answer a series of questions about their investments in the flagged companies by August 14.
Gallagher has said he will subpoena executives who do not cooperate with the committee’s investigations.
The true scale of investment in these companies, they said in their letters, is “likely much larger,” than what they have flagged so far.
The Congressional committee’s actions were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.