The Federal Reserve has turned again to BlackRock.
The nation’s central bank said it tapped BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, to help oversee the Fed’s efforts to stabilize the bond market amid the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A BlackRock subsidiary will advise the Fed on the purchase of billions of dollars in commercial mortgage-backed securities and investment-grade corporate bonds — a decision that echoed a move from the 2008 financial crisis.
The details of the arrangement, including how much BlackRock will be paid for its services, have not yet been released. But it promises to be a lucrative venture for the firm, which could also be in a position to profit from the advice it gives.
Under one of the programs that BlackRock will help lead, the Fed can buy exchange-traded funds that hold stakes in investment-grade bonds, a type of investment that BlackRock sells.
BlackRock found itself in a similar situation during the last crisis. After Bear Stearns and American International Group collapsed, the New York Federal Reserve retained BlackRock to help oversee billions of dollars in ailing assets that had belonged to them. The firm helped price and sell those assets for the government at the same time it was helping private clients buy similar assets.
At the time, that arrangement prompted criticism from lawmakers and others who worried about coziness between Wall Street and Washington, as well as the potential for conflicts of interest.
“The key here is for the Fed to avoid the backlash like last time,” said Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a nonprofit group that supports