BlackRock executive ousted over office romance

The global head of active equities was forced out of his job after failing to disclose a consensual relationship.

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    BlackRock's Mark Wiseman, once a rising  star in the company, says 'I regret my mistake and I accept responsibility' [File: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg]
    BlackRock's Mark Wiseman, once a rising star in the company, says 'I regret my mistake and I accept responsibility' [File: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg]

    BlackRock Inc. fired Mark Wiseman, once seen as a potential successor to Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink, for violating company policy regarding relationships at work with a consensual affair.

    Wiseman, global head of active equities, was in a group of about seven contenders widely thought to be in the running to replace Fink. He joined BlackRock in 2016, after serving as chief executive of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. His wife, Marcia Moffat, is BlackRock's Canada country head.

    It's the second senior departure in a matter of months over company policy violations at BlackRock. Jeff Smith, the firm's former global head of human resources, left the world's largest asset manager after failing to adhere to company policy, Fink and President Rob Kapito announced in a memo in July, without giving more details.

    "This is not who BlackRock is," Fink and Kapito wrote in a memo Thursday on Wiseman. This is not our culture. We expect every employee to uphold the highest standards of behavior. This is especially critical for our senior leaders."

    BlackRock is being roiled as companies worldwide are facing increased scrutiny over the behavior of top executives. The #metoo era ushered in by the allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein helped create a zero-tolerance policy for behavior that would have remained hush-hush in the past -- or handled internally.

    The issue with Wiseman had no impact on any portfolios or client activities, Fink and Kapito said in the memo to employees Thursday. The active equities business that Wiseman oversaw had about $290 billion in assets at the end of June.

    In a separate memo, Wiseman said that he failed to disclose a consensual relationship with a colleague.

    "I regret my mistake and I accept responsibility," he said.

    Wiseman had been steadily gaining power in his three years at BlackRock. He was chair of BlackRock Alternative Investors, in addition to his role at the helm of the active equities business. Alternative investments has been a major focus for BlackRock, which manages a total of roughly $7 trillion, as it looks to branch beyond indexed products like exchange-traded funds.

    Speculation about successors to Fink, who turned 67 this year, has increased as investors and analysts look to the company's future. Fink addressed his strategy over cultivating a select group of proteges in an interview with Bloomberg Markets magazine in 2017, when he said that when he leaves the company he does not expect to stay on as chairman.

    Wiseman, who has a law degree as well as an MBA, once served as a clerk to Canadian Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin, and spent part of his career in law.

    He joined Canada Pension in 2005 after leading the private equity division at Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and was named Canada Pension's CEO in 2012. His tenure at Canada's biggest pension saw it open offices and pursue investments abroad, particularly in South America and Asia.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg