Corporate Vaccine Mandates and Vaccine Passports — Brought to You by BlackRock and Vanguard?
After the U.S. Supreme Court last month froze the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private employers, some companies — including Boeing, General Electric and Starbucks — dropped plans to implement the mandate.
Others, based on guidance issued in 2020 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, left the mandates in place.
Most of the large employers that opted to mandate COVID vaccines for their employees, even though the Supreme Court ruled they didn’t have to, have something in common: BlackRock and The Vanguard Group have ownership stakes in them.
BlackRock and Vanguard, two of the world’s “Big Three” asset managers, also are among the top three shareholders of COVID vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — which means the two investment giants stand to benefit from these companies’ soaring profits and the resulting rise in those companies’ stock prices.
BlackRock and Vanguard don’t just benefit from sales of COVID vaccines. As it turns out, they also have ownership stakes in technology companies developing vaccine passports and digital wallets.
BlackRock: the ‘fourth branch of government’?
Combined, BlackRock and Vanguard manage more than $15 trillion in global assets.
To put this figure into perspective, that amounts to more than three-fourths of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and more than triple the GDP of the European Union’s economic powerhouse, Germany.
BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, with more than $9.5 trillion in assets as of July 2021, while Vanguard held more than $7 trillion in assets as of January 2021.
Notably, Vanguard is the largest stockholder in BlackRock (7.61%), while BlackRock is the biggest stockholder in Vanguard (13.06%) — though the actual ownership structure of these companies has been described as “dark.”
In an August 2021 article about the two firms, Dr. Joseph Mercola pointed out that, far from the appearance of competition promised by capitalism, BlackRock and Vanguard own significant shares in companies that ostensibly compete directly with each other, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, or Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
This influence extends to the media. BlackRock alone owns significant shares in supposed “competitors” such as Fox News, CBS, Comcast (NBC), CNN, Disney (ABC), Gannett (USA TODAY and 250 daily newspapers throughout the U.S.), Sinclair Media (whose television stations reach 72% of the American public), and the Graham Media Group (Slate, Foreign Policy).
BlackRock is also politically influential and well-connected, having been chosen by the Obama administration to buy up toxic assets following the 2007-2008 financial collapse.
In 2020, BlackRock received a no-bid contract from the U.S. Treasury Department to manage a $454 billion fund, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), for businesses adversely impacted by the COVID lockdowns early that year. It wasn’t the first time BlackRock had been granted a no-bid contract from the federal government.
BlackRock along with other firms also is engaged in a real estate purchasing spree, buying up entire neighborhoods of single-family homes and converting them to rentals, driving up home prices by reducing supply on the marketplace.
BlackRock’s real estate strategy echoes the words of the World Economic Forum: “You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy.”
This level of power and influence promoted none other than Bloomberg in 2020 to characterize BlackRock as the “fourth branch of government.”
BlackRock, Vanguard among top 10 stockholders in most companies mandating vaccines
It is unclear to what extent BlackRock and Vanguard are able to dictate the vaccination policies of the companies in which they hold a stake — but what is clear is that the two investment firms are among the top 10 stockholders in most of these companies.
Here’s a rundown of major U.S. employers that continue to mandate COVID vaccines for their employers, and these companies’ relationships with BlackRock and/or Vanguard (all ownership figures are accurate as of this writing):
- Abbvie, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, mandated its employees either get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests and continue to follow anti-coronavirus measures. Vanguard and BlackRock are its top two stockholders, at 7.80% and 4.47%, respectively.
- Albertsons, a grocery store chain, required its office employees to get vaccinated and offered its staff a $100 incentive to get the vaccine. BlackRock is its third-largest stockholder (0.85%), and Vanguard is the sixth largest (0.43%).
- American Express imposed a vaccine requirement for employees in its U.S. offices. Vanguard is its top stockholder (5.78%), while BlackRock is the third largest (3.68%).
- Anthem Inc., a health insurer, requires employees to be fully vaccinated to physically enter the company’s offices, offered financial incentives to its workforce to get vaccinated and requires new candidates to be vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are its top two stockholders, at 7.38% and 4.68%, respectively.
- AstraZeneca requires its U.S. employees and visiting clients to be vaccinated. Three of the top 10 mutual funds holding shares in AstraZeneca PLC are managed by Vanguard.
- AT&T, in two separate policies, required company managers (by Oct. 11, 2021) and unionized employees (by Feb. 1), to be vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are its top two stockholders, at 7.58% and 5.10%, respectively.
- Blackstone, an investment management company, mandated employees be vaccinated and boosted in order to return to the office. Vanguard and BlackRock are its top two stockholders, at 5.57% and 3.14%, respectively.
- CapitalOne required employees in office-based positions to be vaccinated. Vanguard is its second-largest stockholder (7.62%), and BlackRock is its fourth largest (4.79%).
- Carhartt, a clothing and apparel company, issued a vaccine mandate for its employees. It is one of the few exceptions on this list, as it is privately owned.
- Centene, a healthcare provider, required its workforce to be vaccinated, and gave employees up to 10 days’ paid leave and a $1,000 discount on health premiums as incentives. Vanguard is its largest stockholder (10.25%), while BlackRock is the fifth largest (4.34%).
- Chevron issued a vaccination requirement for employees who travel internationally, expatriate employees, offshore workforce in the Gulf of Mexico and some onshore support personnel. Vanguard is its biggest stockholder (7.98%) while BlackRock is the third-largest (4.57%).
- Cigna, a healthcare and insurance company, required employees working remotely who visit the physical worksite to be vaccinated as of Sept. 7, 2021, and employees whose roles can only be performed onsite to be vaccinated as of Oct. 18, 2021, with an alternate option for two weekly COVID tests. Employees also were offered a $200 incentive to get vaccinated. Vanguard is Cigna’s largest stockholder (7.62%) while BlackRock is its fourth-largest (4.52%).
- Cisco allows only vaccinated “critical workers” to go to the office, and claims that 90% of its employees are vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 7.54% and 4.87%, respectively.
- Citigroup required employees be vaccinated before returning to its offices, claiming it has reached 99% compliance. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 8.00% and 4.75%, respectively.
- Columbia Sportswear required employees in its corporate headquarters to get vaccinated as of Feb. 1, placing those who didn’t comply on unpaid leave and commencing a termination process against them. Vanguard is its largest stockholder (5.39%) and BlackRock is the fourth largest (4.15%).
Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle previously said his company was “thrilled” with the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.
- CVS Health has a no jab, no job policy, requiring corporate staff and employees who interact with patients to have been fully vaccinated as of Oct. 31, 2021. Vanguard and BlackRock are its top two stockholders, at 7.79% and 4.41%, respectively.
- Deloitte, one of the Big Four accounting firms, requires its staff to be vaccinated. It is another exception in that it is a partnership firm and not publicly traded.
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