US senator questions whether HSBC was pressured to suspend banker over controversial climate-change comments
- Republican Steve Daines slams bank for ‘woke’ suspension of senior asset manager who downplayed climate change risks
- Daines accused the financial industry of falling prey to ‘groupthink’ on climate change in a letter to CEO Noel Quinn
Steve Daines, a Montana Republican and member of the Senate banking committee, criticised the suspension as “woke” and questioned whether BlackRock, one of HSBC’s largest shareholders and the world’s biggest asset manager, or other parties had pushed the bank to suspend Kirk.
Daines, whose state relies heavily on income from fossil fuels, has previously said the “jury’s still out” on climate change and accused BlackRock and HSBC of promoting “extreme environmental ideology” through their businesses.
BlackRock and HSBC declined to comment.
As part of its engagement philosophy, BlackRock has said it “is not in a position to dictate a company’s strategy or its implementation”.
HSBC, one of Hong Kong’s three currency-issuing lenders, has sought to establish itself as a leader in addressing climate change in the financial industry and in supporting transition financing among its global clients.
Republican congressmen have criticised the outsized power of index funds in American companies, particularly as BlackRock and the big asset managers have placed a greater emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
“The financial services industry’s lockstep commitment to out-of mainstream environmental ideology raises serious concerns about whether your industry’s susceptibility to groupthink is repeating itself,” Daines said in his letter.
Daines is among a group of Republicans who have opposed a proposed rule by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to require greater disclosure by companies about their climate change risks and has called the Paris agreement on reaching net-zero emissions a “horrible deal for America”.