Last week in the USA, JPMorgan Chase announced the demotion of former Exxon CEO and architect of climate denial, Lee Raymond, from his previous lead director role. Yet in Australia, the head of AMP David Murray stays in his position of chairman despite having previously disputed the science of climate change.
Today was the third annual general meeting in a row where Murray’s ability to manage climate-related risks facing AMP was called into question by shareholders. After a summer of horrible bushfires, the Australian public and the rest of the world saw the devastating impacts of not taking adequate action on the climate crisis.
JPMorgan Chase is by far the world’s biggest funder of dirty coal oil and gas the very industries fueling the climate crisis. According to campaigners in the US, “one key reason why: for more than three decades, JPMorgan Chase has had Lee Raymond, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, on its board of directors.”
A shareholder today spoke about the investor pressure on climate change that has recently seen Lee Raymond step down as Lead Independent Director of JP Morgan Chase and asked if Murray was concerned institutional investors in Australia might exert similar pressure.
“I remain chair of AMP limited only as long as shareholders want me here, and only as long as my fellow directors are prepared to elect me as chairman of the board.”
“Everyone on the board has different opinions about different things and that’s a healthy thing for our company.”
If Murray is suggesting an ‘opinion’ that denies the clear scientific evidence of human-induced global warming is a ‘healthy thing’ to have in the AMP boardroom, the company’s investors should be gravely concerned.
In the words of Noel Hutley SC, “a negligence allegation against a director who had ignored climate risks [is] likely to be only a matter of time.”
Last year 12% of shareholders voted against David Murray’s election as Chair of AMP. But what happened to the other 88%? This vote shows the vast majority of our super funds voted to put a climate skeptic in charge of one of Australia’s largest financial institutions. This and the millions of dollars that many Australian super funds invest in fossil fuel companies makes them out of step with members’ climate concerns. At a minimum, our super funds need to stop investing in coal, oil and gas companies, and vote out board members that threaten to block climate action.