Shareholders Silenced – Banks Evade “Responsibility” For Climate Impacts

Oakland, CA-March 18, 2019 – Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, two banks with major investment and loan portfolios in fossil fuel projects, filed motions to exclude from their proxies a climate related shareholder resolution. The resolutions ask them to reduce the full carbon footprint of their loan and investment portfolios in alignment with the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of maintaining global warming well below 2 degrees. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently granted the banks (Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs) the right to prevent shareholders from raising the issue with other shareholders, management, and the banks’ boards.

Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs

cocoparisienne / Pixabay

The resolution calls attention to the significant climate risk banks create by financing fossil fuel projects and infrastructure that lock in carbon emissions for decades. At a time when every company should be taking responsibility for reducing its climate-related emissions, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs have been ranked as increasing their funding of oil and gas projects and infrastructure.

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Climate change is an issue of deep concern for shareholders due to the risk it creates to shareholder portfolio value and to the individual companies in which they invest. Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and other U.S. banks continue to ignore or downplay their role in creating climate emissions, and have failed to begin measuring the emissions associated with their fossil fuel investments and loan portfolios, while other banks are taking action.

BBVA, Standard Chartered, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, and ING have all committed to decrease the climate impact of their loans in alignment with Paris climate goals. Others are working to develop the methodologies needed to measure banks’ full carbon footprints. Some banks, such as BNP Paribas are also committing publicly to reduce or eliminate their financing of some of the highest-carbon, highest-cost fossil fuel projects, including tar sands or Arctic drilling.

In contrast, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs continue to finance carbon intensive projects and companies, with no comprehensive policy to limit such activities.

Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, had this to say about the SEC ruling:

“We are very disappointed that these banks refuse to allow this important issue to be raised and voted on by other shareholders. This issue will not go away by ignoring it. Every dollar that banks like Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure increases risk and slows transition to a clean energy economy. Common sense proposals asking banks to measure and reduce their extensive carbon footprints should not be off limits to shareholders whose portfolios face value destruction from climate impacts.”

Lila Holzman, energy program manager of As You Sow, made the following statement:

“It is unacceptable for banks like Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs to continue financing high-risk fossil fuel projects like Arctic drilling and tar sands. Despite this unfortunate SEC ruling, we hope to continue our dialogues with companies in the financial sector to raise shareholder concerns regarding the role banks play in increasing climate catastrophe.”

For more information on As You Sow’s work on climate change, click here.




About the Author

Jacob Wolinsky
Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of ValueWalk.com, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Prior to ValueWalk, Jacob was VP of Business Development at SumZero. Prior to SumZero, Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at)valuewalk.com - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver