Fund manager questions FTI over US fossil fuel campaign

FTI has been criticised for running several pro-fossil fuel campaigns that were made to look like grassroots movements

FTI Consulting is fighting a rearguard action as clients demand answers over reports the advisory and public relations firm ran controversial campaigns promoting fossil fuels in the US.

Ninety One, the £119bn fund manager, and Greencoat Renewables, the wind and solar power investor, are among the London-listed clients to have raised concerns with FTI.

FTI, which is listed in the US, designed and ran several pro-fossil fuel campaigns that were made to look like grassroots movements led by ordinary citizens but were in fact funded by oil and gas companies, The New York Times reported this month.

The campaigns, with names like “Texans for Natural Gas”, raised ethical red flags because FTI created fake social media accounts to monitor activists, the newspaper claimed. Hendrik du Toit, chief executive of Ninety One, told The Sunday Telegraph this week: “We don’t discuss our supplier relationships in public. But neither do we deal with firms that embarrass our brand.”

FTI confirmed on Saturday that Ninety One, which considers environmental factors when it invests, had conducted a review and decided to continue its relationship with the firm, which handles its media relations. 

Greencoat Renewables said it has asked FTI to provide a report, which it will “carefully review”.

FTI represents about one in eight FTSE 350 companies. The revelations could embarrass clients that have made high profile climate change commitments, including Lloyds Bank and Smurfit Kappa, the FTSE 100 packaging group. Both firms declined to comment.

Sustainable investment firms Morningstar and MSCI have suspended FTI pending investigation.

FTI has called the claims “unfounded” and said it complies with the highest professional and ethical standards.

John Waples, head of FTI’s UK strategic communications division, said: “We have been humbled by the supportive comments of our clients throughout the past week. We take this matter very seriously and are confident we will emerge stronger from the lessons we have learned.”

FTI said the fake Facebook profile “was a one-off created without knowledge of the firm, is against policy and that the employee [responsible] is no longer with the firm”.   

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