After an emergency had been created to save the planet, the financial world no longer even embarks on the illusion of being its rescuer, but rather on a quagmire. The news has just come in (1) that the Frankfurt offices of Deutsche Bank have been raided as part of an investigation into fraud by its fund management subsidiary DWS in selling products that are presented as greener than they really are.
This is a very original legal action if we remember the full page of small letters accompanying each prospectus presenting a financial product and disclaiming any responsibility of the issuing or selling institution. It is therefore up to the investor to know how to distinguish the manure from the rose, without being able to incriminate the dung producer.
Is it sustainable or not to refine raw oil that is so essential to build solar panels, or to manufacture polluting missiles that will be used to avert wars, or to wage them if necessary? However incompetent they may be, do financial analysts have any legitimacy to assess the greenness of manufacturers of products that have been duly approved and monitored by the supervisory authorities on the pretext that, like any chemical substance, their products have some toxic properties? Is it up for bankers to know and for judges to judge?
This investigation is therefore bizarre because it presupposes that justice has criteria for judging the greenness and sustainability of an investment and, therefore, for identifying lies that may be told about it. The actual lie consists in letting people believe that such attributes can be defined objectively, as an absolute and indubitable truth. This is already what tends to do the horrific European ‘taxonomy’ that endorses some technologies and dismisses others; it is an even greater fraud against which no one is investigating. As I write in an essay on this aspect of environmentalism, “there will be as many choices and modes of attribution as there will be designers of this kind of system; and if, one day, a standard would impose itself, it would be as perfectly arbitrary as any other. (2)” Everyone, private or public administration, develops its own greening method, which is of course better than the average. Why then, as Jean-Paul Oury suggests, not create “Made in Nature (3)”, a label of all labels? How can an investigation conclude that criminal acts have been committed when the object of the crime is indefinable? Or are we dealing with a totalitarian revival that dictates to everyone how to manage their property and, as this is incoherent and contrary to fundamental liberties, invents adequate means of coercion and repression. Could this investigation indicate the first signs thereof?
Greenwashing does exist. Fortunately! Otherwise, no human activity could be justified, from the first cry to the last breath. It is practised with varying degrees of skill, often through lies by omission, and therefore hardly detectable. It is a race to the bottom in which the financial community wants to believe it must participate. Like others, it adheres for fear “of being accused of bad feeling, of being badly seen, of being ostracised from society, or of finding oneself isolated in a chapel that one has not even chosen. This is what makes one fear the worst which is the loss of power and the lack of respect.(4)” Yet it would be better to be wary of bargains that are not bargains at all and that are limited to marketing narratives which, of course, flatter the investor who feels virtuous, but which offer no other perspective than that of compliance with a sum of pious wishes, with no obligation of result. It is therefore much preferable to stay out of this circus where one risks getting dirty or even drowning. The investigation continues…
Although with poor ESG ratings (environmental – social – governance), investments are still necessary because they are dictated by the physical constraints of the real world. This is like the “Nutriscore” sham whereby an A rating rewards a product that is actually made up of essential ingredients that have the worst score (oils, sugars and other carbohydrates). Just like a well-balanced dish, an investment portfolio should remain diversified, including pronounced tastes. Making investments less accessible because of poor ratings will not make them less necessary or less profitable but, paradoxically, perhaps even more attractive. Moreover, when taken out of the open markets, they may be financed by unknown agents without established credentials.
With its famous and invisible hand that has never set foot in a carbon footprint, the market does not need to be placed under tutelage, capable as it is of identifying quality where it is self-evident, without relying on the tall tales that almost everyone now thinks they must spin.
(1) Reported in Le Monde: https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2022/05/31/perquisitions-chez-deutsche-bank-soupconnee-de-greenwashing-en-allemagne_6128357_3210.html
(2) “The Great Delusion of Rescuing the Planet by a Great Reset” Michel de Rougemont, 2021, p 36.
(3) Oury, J.-P. (2020) « Greta a tué Einstein : La science sacrifiée sur l’autel de l’écologisme. » VA PRESS..
(4) Michel de Rougemont, op-cit, p 67.
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