A former BlackRock portfolio manager has paid $250,000 to settle claims that he failed to disclose that a film company in which one of the asset-manager’s funds invested had helped his daughter land a small acting role.
The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that while working at the world’s largest money manager, Randy Robertson asked BlackRock client Aviron Pictures — which distributed movies featuring Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves and Anne Hathaway — to “help his daughter’s career”.
Aviron received as much as $75mn from BlackRock’s Multi-Sector Income Trust (BIT) fund, which Robertson and others managed, the SEC said, making it one of the fund’s single largest investments.
The company — whose founder William Sadleir was convicted last year for fraud involving a Covid-relief programme — “presented [Robertson’s daughter] with potential opportunities in the film industry”, the regulator added.
In 2014, Robertson emailed his daughter’s curriculum vitae and headshots to an intermediary between the now-defunct Aviron and BlackRock, noting that “[a]ny help is appreciated”, the SEC said. The manager later discussed his daughter’s career with Sadleir on several occasions.
Sadleir offered to send Robertson’s daughter screenplays, claiming that he had “reasonable influence with the producers and their casting choices”, according to the SEC order. He also offered to fly her to the Cannes film festival, the SEC alleged.
Robertson’s daughter met an Aviron executive in August 2018, who later emailed the BlackRock manager to say he “was able to offer her a small talking role” in a film and was “setting her up on a few casting agents in LA”, the order said.
Lawyers for Robertson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The 62-year-old has not admitted to wrongdoing. BlackRock declined to comment on the SEC settlement.
“Investment professionals must be forthcoming about any conflicts of interest they may have with the companies in which they invest client funds, including situations involving favours or assistance to family members,” said Andrew Dean, co-chief of the SEC’s enforcement division overseeing the asset management sector.
“Investors must be able to know that the advice they receive is free of undisclosed conflicts, regardless of whether the conflict is financial in nature.”
Robertson was fired by BlackRock in February 2020. The asset manager sued Aviron, and said in a statement in 2020 that it had managed to “fully recover the amounts it loaned to Aviron and to realise a rate of return that is the same or better than the rate of return of the other assets in BIT’s investment portfolio during the relevant investment periods”.