BlackRock tells staff they must disclose office romances

Kalila Sangster
·2-min read
A BlackRock building is seen in New York June 12, 2009. BlackRock has agreed to buy Barclays Global Investors to create the world's biggest asset manager, BlackRock Global Investors, in a $13.5 billion deal that British bank Barclays hopes will put to rest concerns about its capital.    REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES BUSINESS)
BlackRock says disclosures would be treated with discretion. Photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Investment firm BlackRock (BLK) has implemented new rules for staff concerning personal relationships and office romances.

The new policy says employees must reveal any sexual, romantic or other personal relationships with “external partners” who have a connection to the company so as to avoid conflicts of interest.

Existing company policy already requires its 16,000 staff members to tell managers if they are dating a colleague.

While many businesses ask staff to be open about office romances within the company, BlackRock's new rules go a step further in asking for information about partners at other firms.

BlackRock wants staff to disclose any personal relationship they have at any “service provider, vendor, or other third party (including a client), if the non-BlackRock employee is within a group that interacts with BlackRock,” according to an internal memo, seen by the BBC.

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The world’s largest money manager aims to address any conflicts of interest, or perceived conflicts of interest, by allowing human resources and lawyers at the firm assess whether there is an issue.

BlackRock defines which relationships come under the new policy as any that could be “susceptible to perceived impropriety, bias, favouritism, and/or abuse of authority within a work environment.”

This includes family connections and outside business interests, as well as romantic and sexual relationships.

“Friendships with work colleagues” do not have to be disclosed to the company.

However, the boundaries are unclear as the question of at what point does a friendship, or a series of dates, become significant enough to require disclosure is ambiguous.

Employers are allowed to ask workers questions about relationships, but must handle the answers carefully to respect privacy rules.

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BlackRock says disclosures would be treated with discretion, and if necessary, “alternative work arrangements” may be put in place, according to the BBC.

US firms have been attempting to limit secret workplace relationships since the #MeToo movement began in 2017, shedding light on sexual harassment within a range of professional settings and bringing attention to workplace strategies to clamp down on relationships between bosses and employees.

Last year senior BlackRock executive Mark Wiseman was fired for failing to disclose an affair with a colleague.

The New York based firm manages more than $7tn (£5.5tn) and works with huge numbers of suppliers and clients across the world, meaning that the new rules will have far-reaching implications for the personal lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of people.