Ughh, an Editor’s nightmare just transpired when in checking the SEO for this story I googled “Larry Fink Wet Noodle” and landed on a similar title by Gretchen Morgenson in The New York Times from 2016. Worse, not only did I use the same metaphor in the title but I also highlighted the same inadequacy as she as the basis for my post.
Nevertheless six years have passed, Blackrock has doubled its assets under management and its clout in the market, and absolutely zero has been done by Larry Fink to rectify this issue. That gap makes his do-gooder proselytizing all the more galling, and also makes my caustic take all the more relevant.
LARRY Fink’s 2022 “Letter to CEO’s” is out and receiving the opprobrium it deserves. It is a very lengthy diatribe with the proper focal points and wording perfectly hitting the just-left-of-center midpoint where the nation currently stands, and everyone no matter what their viewpoint on these matters is seeing right through the pablum.
I will leave it up to others to parse and critique what is in the letter, I will focus on the one item that goes completely unmentioned – CEO compensation. Why is that you may be asking, is it an ‘Inconvenient Truth?’
Obviously it would cast light on his own extraordinary compensation – which might be a bit uncomfortable, but CEO’s have a way of easily shaking that off. No, the real reason is that while he is willing to do some finger-wagging at CEO’s by day, he also wants to hobnob with them at night. And on weekends. And over Christmas in Aspen, Gstaad, or St. Barts. And during summer in East Hampton, Nantucket or Cap d’Antibes. And in retirement in Palm Beach, Palm Springs, or Jackson Hole.
In fact, in his annual tepid ‘rant,’ I would say that Larry is actually doing all these CEO’s a favor by completely moving the spotlight away from their annual compensation, and the effect that it is having on income inequality. Not to mention any argument as to whether this compensation is deserved, or if others can do an equally good job at a fraction of the price.
Better yet, if CEO’s fall down on the typical financial metrics that indicate success for shareholders – which is increasingly likely in years ahead given how far both the economy and the financial markets have come in the past decade, Larry’s letters allow them to substitute opaque ‘stakeholder’ metrics to determine compensation. In other words shareholders will get shafted while CEO’s get the wet noodle.
Black Rock Wields Its Big Stick Like a Wet Noodle – by Gretchen Morgenson in the NYT April 2016