Finance

As Palantir gears up to go public, activist groups are rallying BlackRock — a major investor — to ask the big data company to cut its ties with ICE (BLK)

  • On Thursday, several activist groups held a rally in front of BlackRock’s headquarters in New York City over its investments in Palantir.
  • Palantir, which is gearing up to go public on September 23 via a direct listing, has faced controversy for its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • Activists hope BlackRock will ask Palantir to cut its ties with ICE and divest its stake in Palantir if the firm refuses.
  • Activists had also been protesting BlackRock for its investments in the fossil fuel and agriculture industries.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the big data company Palantir gears up to go public on September 23, activist groups are rallying outside the offices of one of its major investors to demand change. 

Several activist groups gathered in front of the New York City office of investment firm BlackRock on Thursday to protest Palantir’scontroversialcontracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and convince the asset manager to pressure Palantir to back out of those contracts. BlackRock took part in a $635.71 funding round for Palantir in 2014

“As one of those large investors, they have a lot of power in terms of being able to change the conversation and hold Palantir accountable for their contracts with ICE,” Jacinta Gonzalez, field director and senior campaign director at Mijente, told Business Insider. “They’re an important voice in this conversation.”

According to USAspending.gov, Palantir has received contracts with ICE worth over $160 million, including active contracts worth about $53 million. In 2019, ICE agents used a Palantir program called FALCON Mobile to plan workplace raids, according to WNYC reporting.

Mijente says that it also found that ICE agents have used Palantir’s software to build profiles of undocumented children and family members, which could be used to plan raids and arrest or prosecute undocumented immigrants. 

On Thursday, activists delivered a letter signed by over 40 civil rights and environmental organizations as well as a petition signed by 40,000 individuals to BlackRock, demanding that the firm ask Palantir to end its contracts with ICE. 

The letter said that if Palantir refuses, BlackRock should divest its stake in the company and withhold any future investment as long as it continues contracting with ICE. Business Insider has reached out to BlackRock and Palantir for comment. 

“I’m hopeful that BlackRock will listen to community input and listen to what the community is asking for to engage Palantir,” Gonzalez said. “We also know even if the investors are unwilling to move, we are speaking to communities about the connections around these issues.”

For example, the activists are also spreading information about the connections between climate change and forced migration. The groups — which included Mijente, Friends of the Earth, Stop the Money Pipeline, and others — are not only protesting Palantir’s ties with ICE, but also BlackRock’s backing of fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, as well as agribusiness companies like JBS, which is linked to Amazon deforestation. 

Read more: Palantir, a secretive tech company started by members of the ‘PayPal mafia’ with close ties to the Trump administration, could be one of the biggest tech IPOs ever. Take a closer look at how it makes money

Through these protests, activists hope that BlackRock — the largest asset manager in the world — becomes a more socially responsible investor.

Agribusiness and fossil fuel industries often violate the rights of indigenous people by taking and destroying their land, says Gaurav Madan, senior forests and lands campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“These companies are not just responsible for environmental destruction, but also human rights violations as well,” Madan told Business Insider. “We saw what was happening: the climate of this country and intensifying war and violence against immigrant communities. If we’re going to fight for environmental justice and climate justice, that’s not divorced from social justice.”

So far, BlackRock had started making some moves on climate changes issues. For example, earlier this year it joined the Climate 100+ investor group, which is seeking greenhouse gas emissions curbs.

“BlackRock holds a lot of power,” Madan said. “We hope they get the message. If they are sincere about their commitments of being socially responsible to upholding climate and human rights, Palantir is one of those companies you’d want to divest from given their own record.”

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at rmchan@businessinsider.com, Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request.

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