10 May 2018
Acting AMP chief executive Mike Wilkins today dismissed deep concern over incoming chairman David Murray’s controversial views on climate change at the financial services company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Melbourne.
Wilkins affirmed his backing for Murray, an outspoken climate sceptic, during a fiery question-time session in which furious shareholders grilled the board over revelations of AMP’s shocking misconduct emerging from the Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Services Sector, which has seen half of AMP’s board step down and A$4 billion in value wiped off AMP’s shares.
Asked whether Murray’s climate denial stance would inhibit his ability to discharge his directorial duties, Wilkins reassured shareholders that AMP was a company that cared “deeply” about the environment and climate change and that Murray would undergo a thorough “induction” process to this effect. AMP was “delighted” to have someone of Murray’s business calibre, he said, and he had no doubt the ex-Commonwealth Bank chair would rise to the challenge. Listen here:
At last year’s annual general meeting it was revealed that AMP’s financing arm, AMP Capital, had an ongoing financial relationship with Adani, the Indian energy giant controversially planning to open up Queensland’s Galilee Basin to coal mining with their colossal Carmichael project. AMP Capital had facilitated a A$420 million loan in 2015 for Adani’s Abbot Point coal port on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Heritage area.
A question at today’s meeting on whether AMP would commit to ruling out funding Adani’s climate-destructive Carmichael mine sparked applause from the packed auditorium, an indication of how deeply unpopular the project is among many Australians.
The answer at least on this point was slightly more positive than former AMP chair Catherine Brenner’s refusal at last year’s AGM, but fell short of a categoric ‘no’ to future loans for Adani.
“I’m not aware that we have been approached to take any participation in the Adani mine…”, said Wilkins.
On whether AMP was prepared to join the list of 30 financial institutions that have now ruled out lending for Adani’s Carmichael and related project plans, Wilkins said he needed to speak to the board in more depth about this, “but I think the fact that we have not been approached can also give you some confidence in that”. Listen here:
Still a long way to go on climate risk disclosure
Demands for greater transparency and honesty came thick and fast at today’s AGM from all quarters. On the critical question of climate risk exposure, however, shareholders got the same platitudes and promises they’ve been hearing for a while now from AMP.
Mike Wilkins stated AMP embraces the importance of climate change and its potential economic impact upon business and that the organisation is very much hoping to move forward on the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and are “working hard” to improve such disclosure. He also expressed support for the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming to well below 2°C. But when asked by a shareholder if the company has internally conducted any analysis of how AMP can meet and implement the 2°C scenario goal, Mr.Wilkins conceded, “Not to my knowledge”.
It remains to be seen how far AMP is able to travel down this route with someone like David Murray at the helm.