Billionaire and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Charlie Munger says that the rise of index funds will “change the world”—but not for the better, reports an article in The Wall Street Journal. Specifically mentioning BlackRock Inc’s fund run by Larry Fink at the Daily Journal Corp. annual meeting, which was live-streamed by Yahoo Finance, Munger said, “We have a new bunch of emperors, and they’re the people who vote the shares in the index funds. I think the world of Larry Fink, but I’m not sure I want him to be my emperor.”
Passive investment funds track indexes instead of trying to outperform the market by stock picking, with BlackRock and Vanguard Inc. two of their biggest managers. Index funds have become the default choice for both small investors and large pension funds, garnering stronger returns than a lot of active funds during the last decade. That shift has increased passive funds’ share of the total ownership base—and their voting power—at a lot of public companies, the article contends.
With the popularity of index funds, their managers have become the biggest investors in the majority of large stocks, and firms like BlackRock are looking to have more input on significant company decisions. Fink has been an outspoken believer in stakeholder capitalism, where companies have an obligation beyond getting the best value for its shareholders, to society at large. He’s said that BlackRock wants a future where every investor has the ability to vote their shares, and last October the company started to allow a select number of institutional investors to cast votes based on their holdings. BlackRock holds more than $10 trillion in assets under management with passive funds making up more than 2/3rds of those assets, as of the last quarter of 2021.