World first legal case alleges REST breached duties over climate risk

Remember Mark McVeigh, the 23 year old taking his super fund to court over climate change risk? Well Mark has just taken his action to the next level.

Mark and his legal team, including our friends at Environmental Justice Australia, have just updated their claim to allege REST breached its duties as a trustee by not properly considering the risks climate change poses to members’ retirement savings.

If the court finds REST, one of the biggest super funds in Australia, neglected its duties on climate change, how many other funds could also be breaking the law? We need your help to make sure every super fund in Australia is acting on climate risk.

Use the form to contact your fund and find out!

This is now a world first test case that could have major impacts, both in Australia and internationally. Mark’s case could set a new legal precedent, confirming superannuation fund trustees must consider and manage the risks climate change poses to members’ retirement savings.

That could mean investments in high-carbon industries, like fossil fuels companies, suddenly look a whole lot less appealing to those in charge of our superannuation.

Where it all started

Mark first contacted REST about climate risk back in August 2017, after reading our Risky Business research, which found REST was one of many Australian super funds not demonstrating transparent climate risk management.

After sending multiple emails through Market Forces and a formal letter of demand, Mark didn’t receive any of the information he asked for. So, with the help of lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia, Mark launched a case in the Federal Court in July. The case was essentially about enforcing the rights of super fund members to get information about the management of their retirement savings, with a specific focus on information about climate risk management.

Latest developments and potential impacts

According to Environmental Justice Australia's media release, the updated claim alleges REST’s trustee failed to act with care, skill and diligence when investing for Mark, and  failed to act in his best interests, by not properly considering the risks climate change poses to the fund’s investments.

This landmark case asks the Federal Court of Australia to find that climate change risks must be taken into account when asset owners like REST manage other people’s money.

The laws around financial trustees and their duties to beneficiaries are similar in many parts of the world. The outcome of this case could have huge and international ramifications, forcing investors worldwide to properly consider climate change risks.