Uncovering the White House’s Secret Meetings With BlackRock

Justin Haskins Justin Haskins Jack McPherrin Jack McPherrin
June 23, 2022Updated: June 27, 2022

Commentary

With more than $10 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock is the wealthiest and most powerful investment management firm on Wall Street. Yet newly discovered information reveals that BlackRock’s influence may extend well beyond the financial sphere, all the way to the White House.

Our investigation into the relationship between BlackRock officials and the White House shows that during the Biden administration’s turn at the tiller, BlackRock, which currently controls more assets than any other investment group in America, has enjoyed unprecedented access to key administration figures and advisers to the president. These relationships raise serious ethical concerns that can’t be addressed without an in-depth investigation by the proper authorities.

Some of BlackRock’s most powerful executives have conducted numerous in-person meetings with Biden administration officials, occurring on a near-monthly basis. The most frequent visiting executive has close personal relationships with several White House officials, and it appears as though he enjoys a concerning amount of access to delicate intelligence that could be used to shield BlackRock from investment risk.

White House visitor logs show Thomas E. Donilon—chairman of the BlackRock Investment Institute (BII), BlackRock’s personal think tank dedicated to assessing geopolitical investment risk—convened with Biden administration officials at least eight times from March 2021 to November 2021. Donilon has been a luminary in U.S. foreign policy for the entirety of his career, most recently serving as national security adviser to President Barack Obama and as foreign policy lead for the 2016 Clinton campaign. He’s a leading member of globally focused organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, and the Trilateral Commission.

Because visitor log information is typically only made available several months after meetings occur, it’s possible Donilon has had additional meetings at the White House that we don’t yet know about. Yet using the information that has been made available to date, records indicate that Donilon has met multiple times with special assistants to the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs (pdf) Thomas Isen and Sanam Rastegar, and once with Sezaneh Seymour, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology at the National Security Council.

Perhaps most curiously, Donilon has had at least four one-on-one meetings with Kimberly Lang. Despite a detailed investigation into Lang’s role in the White House, we’ve yet to determine precisely which job responsibilities she fills.

Lang appears to be absent from the official Annual Report to Congress on White House Office Personnel (pdf) dated July 1, 2021, despite having held meetings as far back as Jan. 29, 2021, prior to the report’s release. The only record of her existence that we could obtain comes from federal payroll records, which indicate that she worked with the National Security Council in 2016 in one of the highest-salaried government positions attainable (GS-13).

In her current unspecified role, the White House visitor logs clearly show that Lang regularly holds private meetings with top foreign policy and national security elites. Of the 308 meetings she has personally hosted as of February (the last publicly available tranche of meetings), some of her visitors included William Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Colin Kahl, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy; and Philip Étienne, French ambassador to the United States.

Lang also met with numerous prominent political scientists and experts specializing in geopolitical risk, nuclear threats, terrorism, and economic sanctions.

Donilon and Lang have been in close contact since at least 2010, when Donilon was national security adviser to the Obama administration, during which he ran the National Security Council to which Lang has been linked. According to a variety of emails obtained from WikiLeaks, Lang was closely apprised of Donilon’s whereabouts, often directly communicating with him in addition to powerful government officials, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

As for the recent White House meetings between Donilon and Lang, there are no publicly available records about their purpose, nor have there been public statements made by the Biden administration, BlackRock, or Donilon. Although we’ve requested further information from BlackRock and the White House, we’ve yet to receive a response from any of the relevant parties.

These meetings raise serious ethical concerns, especially in light of the stated mission of Donilon’s BlackRock Investment Institute. According to its website, BII “leverages the firm’s expertise and generates proprietary research to provide insights on the global economy, markets, geopolitics and long-term asset allocation—all to help our clients and portfolio managers navigate financial markets.”

In other words, it’s Donilon’s fiduciary responsibility to read the geopolitical tea leaves in order to help BlackRock clients earn a better return on their investments. Such a job would be substantially easier if one had access to regular meetings with officials closely plugged into foreign policy and security decision-making, a benefit Donilon has clearly attained.

The fact that an important figure at BlackRock held numerous closed-door meetings at the White House throughout 2021 is disconcerting enough, but Donilon’s connections to the Biden administration run much deeper than monthly meetings with policymakers.

Not only did Donilon work alongside Biden in the Obama administration as national security adviser, but he was also reportedly on Biden’s shortlist to become CIA director. His brother, Mike Donilon, is the senior adviser to the president and one of Biden’s closest confidantes. Mike served as Biden’s chief strategist throughout the 2020 presidential campaign.

Thomas Donilon’s wife, Cathy Russell, was the head of the powerful White House personnel office during Biden’s first year in office, although she left the administration to become executive director of UNICEF on Feb. 1. As the director of the Presidential Personnel Office, Russell was vested with the important task of hiring and vetting administration employees.

Coincidentally, Thomas Donilon’s daughter, Sarah, also works in the Biden administration, as a staffer for the National Security Council.

BlackRock’s connections with the Biden administration don’t end with the Donilon family. Brian Deese, Biden’s director of the National Economic Council, was formerly the global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock. Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the Treasury Department, previously worked as a senior adviser at BlackRock and served as chief of staff to BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink.

Fink has also had at least one unpublicized meeting at the White House in the Biden era. On Feb. 8, just two weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Fink met with Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president and a man dubbed “Biden’s sherpa” by Politico. Again, there are no media reports or acknowledgment of this meeting occurring.

Why are members of the Biden administration meeting frequently with key figures at BlackRock? Have the close relationships between BlackRock executives and the White House impacted public policy? Has BlackRock profited financially from these important relationships? Has BlackRock worked with the White House to influence policy toward Russia or used information gleaned from White House sources to divest themselves from riskier holdings?

BlackRock is the world’s most powerful investment management firm, so it’s essential that these and many other important questions are answered. The American people deserve to know whether their government prioritizes their needs over those of gigantic Wall Street investment firms. But without a more far-reaching investigation by Congress, the answers we seek aren’t likely to fully come to the surface soon.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is the editorial director and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.
Jack McPherrin is research editor at The Heartland Institute.