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Fact Check-Video claiming BlackRock and Vanguard own all the biggest corporations in the world is missing context | Reuters

· A Vanguard spokesperson told Reuters that its firm was “mutually owned”, meaning the “firm is owned by its funds, which, in turn, are owned by 
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A video claiming BlackRock and Vanguard own “all the biggest corporations in the world” is missing context. While it is true that both investment firms hold significant shares in many of the world’s leading companies and can therefore wield voting rights, shares are ultimately owned by Blackrock and Vanguard’s clients.

The clip was first posted on March 6 to a lifestyle Instagram account called ‘foundconsciousness’, and it has been liked more than 17,200 times (here).

It features a man asking: “Why are all the biggest corporations in the world owned by the same people?” before cutting to picture slides of 12 companies.

The companies listed are Apple, Facebook, Lockheed Martin, Tesla, MasterCard, Dupont, General Electric, Fox, Disney, Microsoft, Paramount and IBM.

As each company flashes up on screen, so too does a list of their biggest shareholders. Blackrock and Vanguard appear on every list and have been circled by the user, who later says: “Please research yourself to find the truth. There is more.”

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Other versions can be found on Twitter (here), Instagram (here, here) and Facebook (here and here).

However, spokespeople for both firms told Reuters that, while they do appear to own significant shares in the world’s biggest businesses, those shares are purchased using money belonging to their clients – and therefore the shareholders are ultimately their clients.

BlackRock and Vanguard clients invest into numerous index-based and actively managed investment products, such as the S&P 500 Index, Bloomberg Commodity Index and the FTSE 100 Index.

“BlackRock itself is not a shareholder,” a company spokesperson told Reuters, adding that money being managed or invested “belongs to our clients”.

“The owners of these securities are our clients, through their investments made on their behalf via the funds managed by Blackrock”.

A Vanguard spokesperson told Reuters that its firm was “mutually owned”, meaning the “firm is owned by its funds, which, in turn, are owned by its investors.

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“This unique corporate structure means there are no outside owners to satisfy and, instead, enables our firm to truly focus on our investors and their long-term investment needs.”

Anna Pavlova, a professor of finance at London Business School (here), told Reuters that such shareholder ownership would be demonstrated should BlackRock or Vanguard one day go bankrupt.

“There may be some temporary disruption, but the ultimate owners of the shares are their clients,” she explained via email.

Pavlova’s colleague at London Business School, Professor of Finance Alex Edmans (here), added: “A liquidator would likely sell the investments and then return the cash to clients.”

VOTING RIGHTS

Both Professor Edmans and Franklin Allen, a professor of finance and economics at Imperial College London (here), told Reuters they did not believe people should be concerned about Vanguard and BlackRock having significant shares in large companies.

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Meanwhile, Professor Pavlova said a concern could be that the two companies “may not accurately represent client preferences” when voting in invested companies on their behalf. She also acknowledged that both “try to be transparent in how they vote (by) publishing this information”.

As company shareholders, BlackRock and Vanguard can vote on behalf of their clients at company shareholder meetings. Both firms also have “investment stewardship” functions, which enables the proxy votes.

BlackRock’s spokesperson said the votes can also be carried out by a portfolio manager – and in some cases at BlackRock, can be carried out by the clients themselves (here).

Reuters has previously dealt with claims about BlackRock and Vanguard, see: here .

VERDICT

Missing context. BlackRock and Vanguard do not “own” all the biggest corporations in the world. They invest trillions of dollars into leading companies on behalf of their clients, who ultimately own the shares.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here .

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