Christina Peña Brower,

Issued December 13, 2021

New Report Shows Largest Asset Managers Voted to Undermine Shareholder Accountability Efforts at Companies That Supported Politicians Implicated in Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection

Leaders Called on Asset Managers to Vote in Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement And Use Proxy Voting Power in Support of Shareholder Efforts for Racial Justice

In Wake of Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol and Wave of Voter Suppression Bills, Civil Rights Leaders Called on Asset Managers to Vote in Line with Public Statements of Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement And Use Proxy Voting Power in Support of Shareholder Efforts for Racial Justice

NEW YORK — In 2021, BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and Fidelity, the world’s largest asset managers and among the top shareholders in the vast majority of S&P 500 companies, voted to undermine racial equity in corporate governance—despite public statements supporting movements for racial justice—according to a new report from Majority Action and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

While 2020 brought a swell of protests for racial justice and an outpouring of statements from corporations acknowledging the existence of systemic racism and their responsibility for addressing it, 2021 brought into sharp relief many corporations’ failure to adjust their policies and practices accordingly, including their ongoing support for elected officials implicated in the Capitol Insurrection and voter suppression efforts across the country.

Earlier this year, ahead of annual shareholder meetings, more than 140 racial justice leaders and allies signed a full-page ad in the Financial Times calling on the biggest asset managers to stand by their public statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and use their power as large shareholders to address corporate contributions to systemic racism. Instead, as Equity in the Boardroom: How Asset Manager Voting Shaped Corporate Action on Racial Justice in 2021 demonstrates, major asset managers failed to use their outsized proxy voting power to hold corporate boards accountable for harmful and inequitable practices and governance.

“It was all too predictable that corporate executives would use statements of solidarity to hide their lack of leadership, rather than as an impetus for it,” said Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change, one of the nation’s leading racial justice organizations. “Corporations must back up their statements with real action to acknowledge and end all forms of racial discrimination across their business — otherwise, they are not just lying to Black people, they are actively undermining our success, opportunity and rights. Real action means racial justice audits, leading to outcomes-driven changes in corporate culture, corporate governance, consumer marketing and consumer impact.”

Even against the backdrop of escalating attacks on democracy, the largest four asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, and Fidelity, failed to support the majority of shareholder proposals calling for enhanced oversight and disclosure of political spending and lobbying at S&P 500 companies. Fifteen such shareholder proposals would have received majority support but for large asset manager votes against - including at Exxon, Chevron, JPMorgan Chase, and Home Depot, all companies known to be substantial contributors to elected officials driving voter suppression and backing the January 6th Insurrection. At Amazon, a company beset by racial justice controversies in its platform, surveillance technology, and workforce practices, a shareholder proposal calling for a comprehensive corporate civil rights audit would have overcome opposition from Jeff Bezos and received majority support, but for the votes of Vanguard and Fidelity, which voted against it. And major asset managers similarly failed to hold directors accountable for inadequate racial and ethnic diversity in the boardroom, with BlackRock and Vanguard voting for the majority of nominating committee chairs at all-white boards at S&P 500 companies— and Fidelity voting in favor of 100%.

“After many corporations’ political spending was linked to the Jan. 6 attack on our democratic process, we saw a momentary pause in political spending. But ultimately far too many corporations went back to funding elected officials responsible for voter suppression efforts, and the world’s largest asset managers used their outsized holdings to shield corporations from shareholder accountability for their role in promoting racism, said Eli Kasargod-Staub, CFA, Executive Director of Majority Action. “Uprooting systemic racism endemic to our economic system –– and protecting long-term investors from its risks –– will require a fundamental reevaluation of all aspects of corporate behavior and governance.”

“Workers have the right to know whether their money– their retirement savings and pensions— are being invested in corporations that support anti-worker politicians, candidates who support voter suppression measures, or lawmakers implicated in the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol," said Gerry Hudson, secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "We demand transparency in corporate lobbying and political spending, and we call on corporations to diversify their boards to include members with experience in civil rights. We are putting asset managers on notice, calling on them to invest workers' money in businesses that advance racial and economic justice.”

“As long term investors, we expect the asset managers who serve our funds and beneficiaries to recognize that systemic inequities create significant portfolio risk, and to use the proxy voting power entrusted to them to hold corporate boards accountable to oversight of critical fiduciary risks related to systemic racism," said Nilza Serrano, Trustee for the Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (LACERS).

Equity in the Boardroom 2021, a new analysis released jointly by Majority Action and SEIU, reveals the extent to which 18 asset managers with over $1 trillion in assets under management voted their proxies to hold corporate boards accountable for perpetuating systemic racism -- or shield companies from responsibility for harm to communities of color. The report measures large asset managers’ proxy voting performance against the standards set by civil rights leaders, including voting on boards lacking racial and ethnic diversity, political spending and lobbying accountability, racial equity audits and other relevant shareholder proposals.

The key findings of this report include:

The report concludes that large asset managers must use their power and responsibility to promote racial justice by

  1. Conduct comprehensive racial equity audits of their own investment processes, stewardship activities, and proxy voting guidelines and decisions
  2. Upgrade proxy voting policies to vote against directors with responsibility for nominating directors on boards with insufficient racial and ethnic diversity, vote against directors at companies with inadequate oversight of political spending, support full and comprehensive disclosure of policy influence activities, and support resolutions seeking to improve oversight of risks driven by systemic racism, in particular those calling for racial equity audits
  3. Set an expectation that boards take responsibility for overseeing the risks associated with systemic racism, and hold boards accountable that fail to properly oversee such risks.


Majority Action is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering shareholders of all sizes to hold corporations and their leadership accountable to high standards of long-term value creation, corporate governance, and social responsibility.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.