NEWYORK: BlackRock annou­n­ced new products for clients looking to avoid investing in companies that make or sell firearms for civilian use, a significant step for world’s largest asset manager as Wall Street comes under pressure to take a stance in America’s gun debate.

“As it has for many people, the recent tragedy in Florida has driven home for BlackRock the terrible toll from gun violence in America,” it said in a statement in March. “It has put a spotlight on the role of companies that manufacture and distribute civilian firearms. Some of the largest manufacturers and retailers are held in the portfolios of millions of individual and institutional investors around the world.”

On Thursday, BlackRock said it had created new exchange-traded funds and products for pensions and retirement plans that screen for companies that make or sell firearms. BlackRock is also shifting the indexes of existing exchange-traded funds focused on socially-responsible investments to include avoid gunmakers and sellers.

BlackRock said the changes came in response to client interest in products that exclude firearms companies from their portfolios, particularly in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In March, BlackRock said it would engage with major firearms manufacturers and distributors on their policies and business practices.

—Bloomberg/The Washington Post Service

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2018