Posturing and evasion from Bank of Montreal

  • Victor Dubreuil, "Barrels Of Money" (c. 1897, oil on canvas). Public domain via Wikimedia.com {{PD-1923}}

Bank Vows Not to Disavow Financing of Coal Terminal

In response to NCIO’s letter to Bank of Montreal’s ombudsperson Bindu Dhaliwal, the bank has responded. Sort of. Michael Torrance — Chief Sustainability Officer and Associate General Counsel for the bank — wrote to NCIO at length, but failed to substantively address any issue raised by NCIO’s letters to Dhaliwal and to bank CEO Darryl White.

By acknowledging that “for confidentiality reasons we will not be discussing particular clients or transactions with third parties,” Mr. Torrance clearly implies that Bank of Montreal is still involved in financing for the proposed Bowie Resource Partners coal terminal, fronted by Oakland’s would-be coal developer Phil Tagami.

However, Torrance’s letter does not address NCIO’s request for dialog, and frankly refuses our demand for a public pledge that it will not finance or assist in financing the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT). Torrance makes an unsubstantiated, blanket assertion that the bank has not violated responsible investment principles to which it is signatory (including the Equator Principles), but does not refute NCIO’s specific accusations that Bank of Montreal has failed to require (a) an assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the OBOT project or (b) consultation with stakeholders who would be affected by the project — most importantly, West Oakland residents, already disproportionately impacted by high levels of airborne toxins. Both of these requirements are mandated by the Equator Principles, which the Bank of Montreal signed onto in September 2005.

The substance of Torrance’s letter is exhausted by the end of its first paragraph, sixty-three words out of nearly five hundred. The remainder is boilerplate: lofty claims about purported corporate virtue, including the bank’s active interest in renewable energy investments. These claims do nothing to address the substantive, specific, and thoroughly documented issues raised in NCIO’s correspondence with the bank. The bank makes vague claims that our letter contains inaccuracies. We have given the bank a chance to point out any errors if it can. Torrance’s letter identifies none.

No Coal in Oakland is neither impressed nor dissuaded by this thin response, sent four months after our initial letter to Bank of Montreal CEO Darryl White. We will continue to dial up our campaign to hold the bank publicly responsible for its participation in the coal industry’s efforts to further poison Oakland’s community and our planet’s environment.

NCIO’s letter addressed to Bank of Montreal ombudsperson Bindu Dhaliwal followed up on our letter to the CEO of the bank, sent on March 29, 2018. A detailed background paper describes the Bank of Montreal’s role in raising funds for the proposed coal terminal. The letter from Michael Torrance is available in full for the community’s review.