BlackRock Inc. CEO Larry Fink shared a cloudier view on climate change efforts and inflation than Bank of America Corp. CEO Brian Moynihan at a virtual industry gathering on Tuesday.
Fink said the U.S.’s long-term shift toward a gig economy has left workers without traditional pensions and other benefits, and is feeding a drive toward sharper wage increases nowadays.
“You have more flexibility, but we lost the connection between our workers and many companies,” Fink said in his remarks at the Institute for International Finance (IIF) annual meeting. “The fragmentation and polarization of society is because of these issues.”
Fink said the push by public companies to become more green has resulted in private companies simply buying dirty businesses from them. The amount of net amount of pollution being produced hasn’t fallen significantly. Both public and private companies and emerging countries need to be part of the solution, he said.
The developing world will need about $1 trillion a year to become greener, Fink said, but it’s only getting about $150 billion.
“This is the ultimate green washing,” Fink said. “We’re moving forward but we’re doing the easy lifting, which is saying to public companies, ‘You must do this.’ We’re not going to get to net zero that way. We’re fooling ourselves.”
In terms of the economy, Fink said he’s optimistic about the amount of money sitting on the sidelines, aggressive monetary policy by central banks and the prospect of additional fiscal stimulus from Congress. But he said inflation won’t be transitory, as some pundits have said.
“I’m not calling for stagflation, but do I see persistence in inflation? Yes,” Fink said. Higher fuel prices will dampen consumer confidence and a lack of benefits provided to American workers may drive up wages more quickly amid labor shortages in some businesses, he said.
Meanwhile, Bank of America CEO Moynihan said he is confident the economy will grow at rate of about 5%-plus this year, and around that level in 2022, fueled by a double-digit rise in consumer spending. Countries more impacted by COVID-19 will see lower growth, however. Read more about the impact of COVID-19 in MarketWatch’s “Coronarivus Update” column.
“Spending is good,” Moynihan said. “It’s hard to spend money in some cases because stores are running out of inventory…The supply chain problems will work out.”
The Bank of America’s stock
fell 0.5% in afternoon trading. It has run up 43.8% so far this year.
Bank of America has seen about 100,000 of its employees, or a little less than half its workforce, return to the office with the benefit of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have to get the culture back of working together,” Moynihan said. “We’d like to get back to being face to face.”
Moynihan said larger companies with good scores on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues tend to outperform others with lower scores. That axiom has been accepted by bigger businesses and is starting to percolate into middle market companies, he said.