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A fake letter purportedly written Wednesday by the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said it would require all companies it has a stake in to align their business models with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Driving the news: The Yes Men, an activist group long known for pranks like this, sent the fake letter, which Axios and other media outlets received early this morning. BlackRock said in a tweet a couple hours later: “Don’t be fooled by imitations.”

Reality check: Some outlets, including the Financial Times, wrote on the fake letter before realizing it wasn’t real. Axios confirmed it was fake when seeking a comment from BlackRock before publication.

  • While BlackRock has big investments across the global economy, including major fossil-fuel companies, it can’t unilaterally require companies to change their business models in the way the fake letter wrote. That was one clear indication something was amiss.
  • The Paris deal calls for a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, which likely necessitates a big drop in fossil fuels over the coming decades.
  • Any requirement for companies to do that would be a big deal for some fossil-fuel producers.

The big picture: BlackRock has been more aggressive urging all companies, and particularly fossil-fuel producers, to more readily acknowledge and disclose the risks climate change and climate regulations pose to their businesses. It's a void they are, almost by default, filling as President Trump retreats the U.S. government from climate policy.

Yes, but: BlackRock still has faced criticism from some environmentalists for not being aggressive enough with fossil-fuel companies. This excerpt from the letter indicates it was an effort to highlight what some see as BlackRock not doing enough itself.

"We see the Paris Agreement as an important framework for long-term sustainability. Despite denouncing the short-term thinking that pervades management, BlackRock's voting record has not aligned sufficiently with our own ideals. That's going to change. Moving forward, we will demand more accountability. We will require all companies we hold stakes in to align their business models with the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have made strides in this direction, but the urgency of the threat demands that we increase our focus."
— Fake BlackRock CEO letter

Flashback: Hoaxes like this come around every now and again. A decade ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the target of an elaborate hoax — a fake press conference — announcing the business lobby group was supporting climate change legislation (it wasn't). That was also done by Yes Men.

What’s next: A BlackRock spokesperson didn’t have an immediate comment other than to note the real letter is coming soon.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add the organization behind the hoax.

Go deeper

Trump political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Marine One carries President Trump away from the White House on Inauguration Day. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

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The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.