Paris – and Video Red fat footprints followed by hard-line protesters appear across the headquarters of the French company BlackRock. Flooring trash documents. On the walls, black graffiti condemns the company as “criminal”.
Just a few months ago, BlackRock, the US money management giant, was barely known to the general public in France. But with President Emmanuel Macron advancing a controversial campaign to reform the French economy, the company has become a favorite target of growing anti-hostile sentiments.
The protesters claim that BlackRock attempted to influence – and is likely to benefit from – the reform of Mr. Macron in the country’s pension system. They point to friendly meetings between Mr. Macron and Lawrence de Vink, founder and CEO of Black Rock. They fear that the massive Wall Street company – which manages its $ 7 trillion management is more than twice the economic output of France – is working behind the scenes to dismantle the country’s social protection system.
Protests escalated with this measure on Monday morning, when environmental activists claimed that French workers’ pensions could be directed by Black Rock to company offices.
Last month, unions and members of the Yellow Vest movement led a loud crowd to the historic Le Centurial building, where Black Rock offices are located, Flashlights Denouncing what they said was an attempt to impose American-style free market rules on France.
There is no evidence that BlackRock influenced Mr. Macron to pay his retirement savings or to any other financial giant, although financial companies could get some business out of part of a pension reform that encourages high-income earners to invest in stocks. .
And Black Rock strongly denies these allegations. “We deplore the fact that our company is still stuck in an unfounded debate driven by political goals,” she said in a statement. “We reiterate that BlackRock has never participated in the current pension reform project and does not intend to participate in it.”
However, BlackRock’s role as a consultant to governments and central banks and as a major shareholder in some of the world’s largest companies, quickly made it a symbol in a country that had long suspected capitalism and the stock market. The social climate here has become more tense after the recent nationwide strikes to protest against the pension reform.
BlackRock tried to portray itself as a leader in responsible investment. On Monday, protesters cited Black Rock’s investments in French oil giant Total and Vincent Construction, on the contrary.
In a touching annual speech to leaders of the world’s largest companies, Mr. Fink said last month that his company would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a primary goal. On Wednesday, BlackRock said one of its fast-growing green-oriented funds would stop investing in companies that received revenues from Alberta’s oil sands.
Such measures have not succeeded in calming the growing cadres of critics in France, managing 27 billion euros of assets for local customers and investing more than 185 billion euros, or 200 billion dollars, in French stocks, government bonds and government bonds.
Next week Parliament will begin discussing the bill that is aimed To fix the nation’s pension system. Although the system has been criticized for being too generous, the incidence of poverty among the elderly in France is one of the lowest in the world – and much lower than in the United States.
It seems likely that this measure will be passed because Mr. Macron’s party has an absolute majority, despite opponents’ attempts to block the bill with more than 22,000 amendments. He is expected to move to the Senate in April.
Meanwhile, more demonstrations were called, including new strikes and protests on Thursday. BlackRock will likely remain a mature target for frustration.
The controversy began in December when Mr. Macron unveiled the details of his proposal to unify the 42 government and private pension plans in France into one state-run plan. Critics have accused the president, a former investment banker, of favoring the wealthy through a previous cut to high-income taxes, a move that resonates in a country where wealth is increasingly tied to injustice.
The opponents took over the public Black Rock Note the analyst They described options for investing in pensions in France – a sign, they said, that Wall Street’s largest asset manager was seeking profit.
The document pointed out that the French, wary of investment, have huge piles of cash savings, bonds and non-financial assets but “disappointingly” little in stocks. (A recent study by the International Monetary Fund showed that only 5 percent of the total financial assets of French families are in stocks, and this figure is approximately 34 percent for American households, according to 2016 OECD data.)
Activists soon began posting photos on social media to Mr. Fink sitting next to Mr. Macron at a green financial summit at the Elysee Palace in July as a sign of relations between the wealthy.
French media ran Articles Highlighting BlackRock’s assessment as a sign that the company is eager to see the state-run pension system in France tilt toward the American system, as workers often save their pensions through investments.
Indeed, Mr Macron’s plan will instead largely preserve the French government-funded payment-on-demand system, a point that some unions have recently recognized. An editorial on Wednesday in the French economic magazine “Le Point” defended “Black Rock” as a victim of “conspiratorial quarrels”, adding that the company had become a “new French scapegoat”.
The opponents insist that Mr. Macron’s plan still opens France to the influence of companies such as Black Rock.
They point to a measure that would reduce pension taxes on people who earn more than 120,000 euros annually – less than 1 percent of France’s workforce – and encourage them to invest in private pension funds.
In his speech to the National Assembly, Olivier Marlix, a conservative deputy from Les Républicains, said the proposal would divert funds from France’s social safety net. “You are giving 3 billion euros to pension funds,” he said. BlackRock will thrive in France.
This did not help BlackRock’s image among dissidents when Mr. Macron raised the president of BlackRock France, Jean-Francois Serilli, the former civil servant who worked for two former French presidents, to the rank of Legion of Honor Officer, the highest in France. Merit ranking, just as strikes over pension changes peaked in early January.
The news sparked social media and sparked a new storm of criticism that the American fund was very comfortable with Mr. Macron, and would benefit from retirement changes.
“BlackRock is simply the dark side of pension reform,” said Oliver Fire, general secretary of the Socialist Party. French television.
Mr. Cyrelli responded to what he said was a “baseless and illogical” argument.
He said, “We use it to achieve political ends in a conflict that does not concern us,” adding that BlackRock “is not a pension fund, nor does it distribute any savings product for retirement and has no intention of doing so.”
These statements did not satisfy the opponents. “Black Rock is a slogan,” said Benoit Martin, head of the General Federation of Trade Unions branch in Paris. Mr Martin said he was among the first to march into the BlackRock headquarters in France in January.
“Larry Fink has a meeting with President Macron,” he added. “We are concerned about BlackRock’s influence on French politics.”
The union has called for more demonstrations and strikes to protest against the changes. Mr Martin said, BlackRock is likely to remain a target.
One of the groups that looted offices on Monday, Youth for Climate France, said in a statement that the protests were “a symptom of capitalism, which is the root of these problems.”
“By attacking BlackRock, we are attacking capitalism,” the group said.
Thabet Mihout contributed to the reporting.