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BlackRock fees in limbo over donation to U.S. presidential candidate

By Trevor Hunnicutt

By Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A senior BlackRock Inc executive made a donation to an unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate last year, an action that may prohibit the world's largest asset manager from collecting some fees from a state government, a company regulatory filing showed.

Mark Wiedman, a BlackRock senior managing director, donated $2,700 to the presidential campaign of Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was seeking the Republican Party nomination, according to a filing made earlier this year with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and reviewed by Reuters on Monday.

Federal securities rules prohibit companies or their executive officers from making donations to government officials who could influence the hiring of a fund manager or have authority to appoint a person who could do so and then providing asset management services to their governments for a fee. The ban is in effect for two years after the contribution is made.

The state of Ohio uses BlackRock-managed funds, and its relationship with BlackRock "substantially predates" the donation, the filing said.

In the May filing, BlackRock asked the SEC for permission to accept fees from the state of Ohio, saying that exceptions to the rule have been granted before. Without such a ruling, BlackRock said it could face a loss of approximately $37 million.

BlackRock said Wiedman asked for and received a refund of his campaign contribution to Kasich, which was "made because of the personal political beliefs of the contributor and not because of any desire to influence the award of investment advisory business."

The SEC has not yet responded to BlackRock's request.

In an emailed statement, BlackRock said its application is "fair and reasonable, and consistent with the intent of the relevant rule."

"The contribution in question was made solely in support of Mr. Kasich's presidential campaign and for no other purpose," BlackRock spokeswoman Tara McDonnell said in the statement.

"Through BlackRock's robust policies and procedures, we discovered the contribution in question, and both BlackRock and Mr. Wiedman worked together to promptly address the error, including obtaining a refund of the $2,700 contribution," McDonnell said.

A spokesman for the SEC, Ryan White, declined to comment on the filing. A spokesman for Kasich did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the donation.

Wiedman is global head of iShares and index investments, a booming business within BlackRock that includes its exchange-traded funds. The iShares brand brought in nearly $74 billion of new cash into BlackRock in the second quarter. BlackRock manages $5.7 trillion overall.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Leslie Adler)