Investment giants BlackRock and The Vanguard Group stand to benefit from their ownership stakes in most of the corporations that imposed COVID vaccine mandates, and in some of the technology firms developing vaccine passports.
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%).
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.
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.
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.
Delta Air Lines indirectly imposed a vaccine mandate for its employees, charging those who are not vaccinated a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge. CEO Ed Bastian previously said the company is "not opposed" to mandates and claimed 90% of Delta's employees were vaccinated as of October 2021. Vanguard and BlackRock are the top two stockholders, at 10.15% and 4.63%, respectively.
DoorDash permits only fully vaccinated employees to voluntarily return to the office, even as its office return is delayed indefinitely. Vanguard is its third-largest stockholder (3.26%), while BlackRock is the tenth largest (1.57%).
Emergent BioSolutions, a pharmaceutical company that produced the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and which attained infamy for losing a $600 million federal contract after millions of vaccine doses were ruined, requires employees be vaccinated. The company's federal contract allowed it to keep a "reasonable quantity" of COVID vaccine doses for its "employees and critical subcontractors, and their respective immediate families." Vanguard and BlackRock are its two largest stockholders, at 10.07% and 9.81%, respectively.
The Equinox Group, which owns SoulCycle and a chain of gyms, required employees to provide one-time proof of vaccination. It is an exception in that it is privately owned.
Gap required employees in its New York, Bay Area and Albuquerque hubs be vaccinated as of Sept. 7, 2021, and conducts weekly $1,000 drawings for vaccinated employees as an incentive. Vanguard is its second-largest stockholder (7.20%), while BlackRock is fifth largest (2.51%).
Gilead Sciences Inc., a pharmaceutical company, requires all workers and contractors to be vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are its second-largest and fifth-largest stockholders, at 7.96% and 6.30%, respectively.
Goldman Sachs requires anyone entering its offices be fully vaccinated, as of Sept. 7, 2021, while those who are not vaccinated are obliged to work remotely. Booster shots are mandated for employees physically working in its offices, as well as for visitors, starting on Feb. 1. In January, the bank also required staff to receive twice-weekly COVID tests. Vanguard and BlackRock are its largest and third-largest stockholders, at 7.34% and 4.76%, respectively.
Google, also known as Alphabet, Inc., in a policy described as "compassionate," gave most of its unvaccinated employees in the U.S. a Jan. 18 deadline to get vaccinated or be placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days. After 30 days, those who are still not vaccinated are placed on unpaid leave for up to six months, after which they will be dismissed. In November 2021, some employees at Google circulated a manifesto opposing the company's widened vaccine mandate. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 7.21% and 4.32%, respectively.
Hawaiian Airlines required its U.S. workers to be vaccinated as of Nov. 1, 2021. On Feb. 2, a judge denied a bid by seven Hawaiian Airlines employees to block the company's vaccine mandate. BlackRock and Vanguard are their two biggest stockholders, at 14.41% and 9.71%, respectively.
Hershey implemented a vaccine mandate for its salaried employees that went into effect Oct. 4, 2021. Recently, the company announced a "small number" of employees who did not get vaccinated or receive an exemption were "separated from the company." Frontline employees received four hours' pay as an incentive to get vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are the company's two biggest stockholders, at 8.86% and 6.93%, respectively.
Humana, a healthcare company, enacted a no-jab, no-job policy for its employees, requiring them to be vaccinated as of Oct. 22, 2021. The company offered employees rewards points as part of an existing employee incentive program to encourage them to get vaccinated. Vanguard is its second-largest stockholder at 7.39%, while BlackRock is the fourth-largest, at 4.32%.
IBM, the developer of New York State's digital vaccine passport, the Excelsior Pass, allowed only fully vaccinated U.S. employees to physically return to the office, as of Sept. 7, 2021, and mandated employees be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, 2021, or face an unpaid suspension. In December 2021, some IBM employees circulated an open letter questioning the company's vaccine mandate. Vanguard and BlackRock are IBM's biggest and third-biggest stockholders, at 7.94% and 4.87%, respectively.
Intel employees were given until Jan. 4 to get vaccinated or apply for an exemption, while employees who would not get vaccinated and who were not granted an exemption were to be placed on unpaid leave in April. This policy was, however, recently "paused." Vanguard and BlackRock are Intel's two largest stockholders, at 7.94% and 5.33%, respectively.
Jefferies, a financial services company, allows only vaccinated individuals into its physical offices and outside company events, while non-vaccinated employees can continue working remotely. The company recently claimed over 95% of its global workforce has been vaccinated and said boosters would soon be required as part of the company's "JefVaxPass strategy." Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 8.84% and 6.46%, respectively.
Johnson & Johnson enacted a no-jab, no-job policy, and required all of its employees and contractors to be vaccinated, as of Oct. 4, 2021. Vanguard and BlackRock are its largest and third-largest stockholders, at 8.46% and 4.67%, respectively.
KraftHeinz enacted a no-jab, no-job policy for its U.S. employees and implemented a vaccine mandate as of January. Vanguard is its second-largest stockholder (4.21%), while BlackRock is the fourth largest (2.43%).
Lyft required corporate employees physically working in or entering its offices, but not its drivers, to furnish proof of vaccination to enter offices, as of Aug. 2, 2021. Vanguard is its biggest stockholder (7.18%), while BlackRock is the fourth biggest (3.47%).
MGM Resorts International requires salaried employees and all new-hires be fully vaccinated even if working remotely, while unvaccinated hourly employees can provide weekly negative COVID tests. Vanguard and BlackRock are its largest and third-largest stockholders, at 8.76% and 3.96%, respectively.
Microsoft required proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and guests entering its physical locations in the U.S. as of September 2021. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 7.75% and 4.35%, respectively.
Morgan Stanley required employees to get vaccinated before returning to its New York offices, and required staff to disclose their vaccination status by July 1, 2021. The policy was extended to contingent workers, clients, and visitors visiting its New York City and Westchester County, New York locations, as of July 12, 2021. As of August 2021, the company claimed 90% of its employees were vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are its second- and third-biggest stockholders, at 6.27% and 3.81%, respectively.
NBCUniversal required U.S.-based workers returning to the office be fully vaccinated and provide details about their vaccination status, while a full return to the office has been indefinitely postponed. NBCUniversal is fully owned by Comcast, whose largest and third-largest stockholders are Vanguard (8.26%) and BlackRock (4.12%). Comcast, in turn, has required all of its employees to get vaccinated.
The New York Times Company requires proof of vaccination for employees who voluntarily wish to return to the office, and is eyeing a full return to the office in the first quarter of this year. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 9.25% and 7.32%, respectively.
Nike requires office-based employees be vaccinated, and in January made headlines for firing a vaccinated employee who refused to furnish proof of vaccination to a third-party verification service hired by the company. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two biggest stockholders, at 7.88% and 4.62%, respectively.
Pioneer Natural Resources mandated vaccination for its new-hires and offered a $1,000 incentive to employees who get vaccinated. Vanguard is its largest stockholder (9.53%), while BlackRock is the fifth largest (4.57%).
PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) required staff visiting any physical office or client location to be fully vaccinated as of Nov. 1, 2021, and introduced a work-anywhere policy for its U.S. employees, allowing them to work remotely in perpetuity. PwC is an exception in that it is not publicly traded -- it is the fourth biggest privately owned company in the U.S.
Roche, a pharmaceutical and medical equipment company, requires U.S. employees be vaccinated. The company is largely family-owned, but Vanguard mutual funds are two of the five largest mutual funds holding shares in Roche Holding AG.
Salesforce, a cloud software provider, requires office employees be vaccinated, but allows the majority of its global workforce to choose remote work. Vanguard is its largest stockholder (7.07%); BlackRock is the fourth largest (4.28%).
TJX, the parent company of retail chains such as HomeGoods, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, required U.S. "home and regional office associates" be fully vaccinated as of Nov. 1, 2021, and mandated a booster shot by Feb. 1. Vanguard is its largest stockholder (7.17%), while BlackRock (4.13%) is the third largest.
Twitter requires employees be vaccinated and demonstrate proof of vaccination prior to returning to the company's offices in San Francisco and New York City. In May 2020, the company announced an indefinite work-from-home option for its workforce. Vanguard (8.35%) and BlackRock (4.49%) are its second- and third-largest stockholders, respectively.
Tyson Foods mandated vaccination for its employees, and in Nov. 2021, announced 96% of its workforce was vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two largest stockholders, at 11.38% and 4.91%, respectively.
Uber requires U.S. office staff be vaccinated in order to return to the office, but did not extend this requirement to its drivers. Vanguard (4.07%) is its second-largest stockholder, while BlackRock (2.50%) is the fourth largest.
United Airlines implemented a no-jab, no-job policy and required employees be vaccinated five weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved a COVID vaccine or five weeks after Sept. 20, 2021, whichever came first. In December 2021, a court declined a bid by some United employees to block the company's vaccine mandate. Vanguard and BlackRock are the airline's biggest and third-biggest stockholders, at 10.16% and 4.28%, respectively.
Verizon required non-union employees -- representing most of its workforce -- provide proof of vaccination as of Dec. 8, 2021. Vanguard and BlackRock are its two largest stockholders, at 7.44% and 4.71%, respectively.
ViacomCBS requires all of U.S.-based employees working onsite during the company's "Yellow Phase" be fully vaccinated, while the company is "still assessing" whether this mandate will be extended into its "Green Phase," when most staff will physically return to the office. Vanguard (10.29%) is its largest stockholder, while BlackRock (5.03%) is third largest.
Walgreens required employees in the company's U.S. support offices be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30, 2021, or enroll in a COVID testing program. Vanguard is the top stockholder of the Walgreens Boots Alliance (6.61%), while BlackRock is third largest (4.22%).
Walmart implemented a no-jab, no-job policy for corporate staff, but not for store or warehouse employees. It has, however, offered a $150 incentive to store and warehouse workers to get vaccinated. The company claimed the "overwhelming majority" of its employees who were mandated to get vaccinated, have done so. Notably, the company enforced a vaccine mandate for shoppers in Canada, generating criticism. Vanguard is its largest stockholder (4.31%), while BlackRock is the third largest (2.30%).
The Walt Disney Company required much of its U.S. workforce be vaccinated, though the company was obliged to pause this policy for its Florida employees after state lawmakers barred employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated. Vanguard and BlackRock are Disney's two biggest stockholders, at 7.15% and 4.24%, respectively.
Warner Media, a subsidiary of AT&T, required salaried and non-union U.S. employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office in September 2021, while proof of vaccination is required to enter a WarnerMedia office building.
The Washington Post requires all employees, including new employees, to provide proof of vaccination, implementing a no jab, no job policy. The newspaper is owned by Nash Holdings LLC, which is fully owned by Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon, whose two largest stockholders are Vanguard (6.19%) and BlackRock (3.51%).
What about the two asset management companies, BlackRock and Vanguard?
Of the two, only BlackRock has implemented a vaccine mandate, allowing vaccinated staff to return to the office in July 2021.
Vanguard has not implemented a mandate, but offered a $1,000 incentive to its employees to encourage them to get vaccinated.
Vaccine passport technology -- another way BlackRock, Vanguard profit from vaccines
BlackRock and Vanguard also are stakeholders in tech companies involved in the development of digital vaccine passports or "digital wallets" and technology that can track and allocate "personal carbon allowances."
These companies include:
Apple, which is collaborating with several U.S. states to make official documents such as drivers' licenses and medical records available digitally via Apple Wallet. Vanguard is its top shareholder (7.35%) and BlackRock is its third-biggest (4.12%).
Mastercard, which supports the Good Health Pass vaccine passport initiative that is also backed by the ID2020 alliance, and promoted technology that can be embedded into the DO Card, a credit/debit card that can keep track of one's "personal carbon allowance." Its top two stockholders are Vanguard (6.82%) and BlackRock (4.13%).
In turn, Mastercard is the fifth largest investor in Doconomy, a Swedish "FinTech" firm that is also heavily involved in the development of the DO Card.
Doconomy, in turn, collaborates with another Swedish "FinTech" firm, Klarna, in providing 90 million customers with "carbon footprint insights" based on their Doconomy transactions. While Klarna is privately held, its top investors include BlackRock and Visa.
Oracle is a backer of the SMART Health Card, which is gaining prominence in the U.S. as a de facto national digital vaccine 'passport', and also is a provider of cloud services to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its top two stockholders are Vanguard and BlackRock, with 5.16% and 2.99%, respectively.
Thales Group, is a founding member of the Security Identity Alliance, which is a stakeholder in the UN's Legal Identity Agenda Task Force that has set the establishment of digital identification for all by 2030. Thales Group has also developed a "smart health card" and digital ID wallet technology.