How BlackRock became a sanctuary for clean-cut bankers and dormant politicians
A few months ago, an aggressive US pressure group called the Campaign for Accountability declared that it had a new target: the Wall Street behemoth BlackRock. Quickly, the American press picked up on this campaign against excessive corporate power. Soon we were reading about how BlackRock, like Goldman Sachs before it, ‘rules the world’.
Despite BlackRock’s supposed omni-potence, it is relatively unknown in Britain. It might be the biggest private manager of assets in the world but, in political terms, the company has existed in relative obscurity. That is, until last year, when it handed George Osborne a £650,000 contract for giving ‘advice’ one day a week.
In recent months, the firm’s political profile has been rising. When the former German MP Friedrich Merz suddenly re-emerged into German politics as a possible successor to Angela Merkel, BlackRock’s name appeared again: Mr Merz is the chairman of its growing German business.
As it grew, BlackRock expanded its lobbying operations, especially in Washington DC and Brussels. Its ranks have swelled with employees who have regulatory or political experience. According to the Campaign for Accountability, the firm has hired at least 84 former US government officials since 2004. Since the crisis, the company has had 400 meetings or calls with senior US officials and more than 50 with senior UK officials, including presidents and prime ministers, the campaign group claims (BlackRock declined to comment on these figures).