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As BlackRock Rushes to Cut Climate Risk, Lead Director Murry Gerber Doubles Down on Fossil Fuels

Murry Gerber has served on BlackRock’s board of directors since 2000 – over two decades – and as its Lead Independent Director since 2017. Gerber has extensive ties to the fossil fuel industry. From 1998 to 2011, he helped oversee the Appalachian fracking boom through multiple executive positions with EQT Corporation, earning tens of millions of dollars in compensation. Since 2012, he has served as a director of Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oilfield service corporations, earning millions more. More recently – as detailed below – he has proactively and aggressively invested big money in Halliburton stock. Gerber’s entire directorship with Halliburton has overlapped with his directorship at BlackRock, as well as another directorship at U.S. Steel – a corporation with its own ties to fossil fuels. 

That BlackRock’s most powerful and longest-serving independent board member has such extensive ties to the fossil fuel industry should raise alarm for shareholders and stakeholders who have pushed the firm to exert its profound influence, as one of the world’s top investors, to tackle our global climate crisis. BlackRock is attempting to navigate the challenges of our climate crisis while its Lead Independent Director personally invests millions in the fossil fuel industry and directs a major corporation whose core business is oil and gas.

Simply put: there is a profound governance breakdown at the heart of BlackRock’s board of directors that robs the board of conflict-free oversight of the company’s many commitments to investors and regulators.

While BlackRock has declared addressing climate change as a priority, many – including even its own former CIO of Sustainable Investing – argue that the firm has not gone nearly far enough. The presence of fossil fuel interests within BlackRock’s core leadership, and conflicts of interests related to these interests, is of vital interest to the company’s shareholders and the global community. 

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Key Findings

  • At the onset of the global pandemic lockdown, Murry Gerber purchased 505,763 shares of Halliburton stock – a 732% increase in his share ownership – and has profited over $7.5 million off these share purchases as of early May 2021. In March and April of 2020, as oil prices crashed amidst the spreading Covid-19 pandemic, Gerber scooped up a staggering 505,763 shares of Halliburton stock, after owning only between 32,000 to 69,115 shares from 2012 to early 2020. These stock purchases have since skyrocketed in value, earning Gerber more than $7.5 million as of May 7, 2021, according to our analysis of SEC filings. Gerber remains heavily invested in Halliburton.
  • Gerber has been compensated with over $3.4 million from Halliburton since 2012. Gerber’s direct purchases of dirt-cheap Halliburton stock have come on top of him being compensated a total of over $3.4 million in cash and stock awards from Halliburton since 2012 – the year he began his directorship with the oilfield services juggernaut.
  • Gerber’s governing role over Halliburton and his large, ongoing personal investment in the company should raise alarm for shareholders and stakeholders concerned about BlackRock’s climate policies. BlackRock has made a number of high-level commitments around climate issues in recent years (though critics say these commitments fall well short of what’s needed) while Halliburton has explicitly stated in recent reports that various climate policies – including some that BlackRock either appears to support or is being pressured to support – are risks to its business.
  • Gerber earned tens of millions of dollars overseeing the Appalachian fracking boom as a top executive at EQT Corporation. Gerber oversaw EQT Corporation from 1998 to 2011 as it developed into a driving force of the Appalachian fracking boom. Gerber also served as an ambassador for the fracking boom, praising it in media reports. In his last six years at EQT alone, Gerber was compensated with cash and stock valued in the tens of millions, according to SEC filings.
  • Gerber’s ties to the fossil fuel industry go back over four decades. He served as CEO of Coral Energy, an affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell, from 1995 to 1998. Previously, he was treasurer of Shell Oil, where he led the strategic planning and financial activities for Shell’s U.S. exploration and production business. Gerber has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to fossil fuel industry-friendly candidates and PACs, including to EQT’s PAC and to the campaigns of U.S. House Representatives and U.S. Senators.
  • Gerber comes close to “overboarding,” a typical reason BlackRock votes down directors in other companies. BlackRock often votes down directors at companies because they are “overboarded” – they belong to too many boards to adequately fulfill their director role. Gerber holds board positions at three major corporations, including a lead director role, raising concerns that, by BlackRock’s own standards, its Lead Independent Director is overboarded.
  • Gerber also serves on another board that does major business with the oil and gas industry. Gerber was named to the United States Steel Corporation board in 2012, where he remains a director today. Gerber sits on United States Steel Corporation’s board alongside several other board members with close ties to the fossil fuel industry.

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