Multinational bank HSBC suspended a senior executive after he blasted the tendency to overstate the financial risks of climate change to “out-hyperbole the next guy,” according to a Sunday report from Financial Times.
At last week’s Financial Times conference, Stuart Kirk — the global head of responsible investing at HSBC’s asset management division — delivered a presentation called “Why investors need not worry about climate risk.” Top executives internally agreed upon the theme and content of the speech before Kirk delivered it on Thursday, according to Financial Times.
During the presentation, Kirk accused policymakers of exaggerating the financial implications of climate change to “out-hyperbole the next guy” and compared concern over the climate to Y2K. Kirk said that there has always been “some nut job telling me about the end of the world” throughout his 25-year career in financial services.
One of his presentation slides said, “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong.”
HSBC CEO Noel Quinn denounced Kirk’s remarks in a LinkedIn post.
“I do not agree — at all — with the remarks made at last week’s FT Moral Money Summit. They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management,” Quinn wrote. “Our ambition is to be the leading bank supporting the global economy in the transition to net zero. I hope my colleagues, customers and others will all know, from our work and my public comments, that HSBC is absolutely committed to a net zero future.”
“Given our global reach and capabilities we have an obligation to lead,” he continued. “I want HSBC to be a leader in supporting our clients, the finance sector and others through the massive transformation that’s needed to build a better future. We have a lot of work to do, and I am determined that our team won’t be distracted by last week’s comments.”
Quinn’s remarks align with an investment philosophy called stakeholder capitalism, which claims that everyone in the “community” has a say in how a company’s activities impact issues such as climate change and minority board seats. The approach argues that for the sake of a greater social good, corporations must be involved in causes that may have nothing to do with their businesses — whether it benefits their shareholders or not.
In many cases, a company may emphasize its use of green energy, association with LGBTQ suppliers, or otherwise arrange its operations such that producing shareholder value is inseparable from a leftist agenda. Such goals are often laid out in accordance with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria — and many prominent business leaders are now sounding the alarm.
When software engineer and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen recently criticized ESG funds’ willingness to “make the weapons required to fight wars with hostile regimes we buy energy from” and simultaneous refusal to invest in energy companies, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk pointed out that “ESG rules have been twisted into insanity.”
Meanwhile, entrepreneur and former pharmaceutical executive Vivek Ramaswamy launched an asset management fund called Strive earlier this month to take on BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street with an approach he calls “excellence capitalism.” PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman are among the company’s financiers.