How FTI Consulting Drove Influence Campaigns Nationwide for Big Oil – The New York Times

Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times wrote a devastating expose of the tactics used by FTI Consulting on behalf of its fossil fuel company clients, including dark money-funded fake front groups, fake “news” organizations, even a fake Facebook profile of a woman who loved farmers markets and ice cream, which they used to monitor activists. One especially outrageous detail is the in-house memoranda about the various personas for fake social media characters to use in attacking climate change scientists and activists.

From the article:

An examination of FTI’s work provides an anatomy of the oil industry’s efforts to influence public opinion in the face of increasing political pressure over climate change, an issue likely to grow in prominence, given President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pledge to pursue bolder climate regulations. The campaigns often obscure the industry’s role, portraying pro-petroleum groups as grass-roots movements.

As part of its services to the industry, FTI monitored environmental activists online, and in one instance an employee created a fake Facebook persona — an imaginary, middle-aged Texas woman with a dog — to help keep tabs on protesters. Former FTI employees say they studied other online influence campaigns and compiled strategies for affecting public discourse. They helped run a campaign that sought a securities rule change, described as protecting the interests of mom-and-pop investors, that aimed to protect oil and gas companies from shareholder pressure to address climate and other concerns.

How FTI Drove Influence Campaigns Nationwide for Big Oil – The New York Times

FTI was also behind the Main Street Investors Coalition and its various sock puppet supporters, which we have documented extensively since 2018. Tabuchi wrote:

In spring 2018, Nell Minow noticed a tweet from a new group, one she had never heard of, seeming to support small investors. Ms. Minow, vice chair of ValueEdge, a firm that advises investors, and a longtime advocate for mom-and-pop investors, was excited.

“I thought, ‘Great, a shareholder group! I need to know about them,’” she said. “Then I started looking into them and thought, this is really fishy.”

Though the group, Main Street Investors, described itself as representing small investors, it was started by a number of industry organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers. Main Street has criticized the ability of pension funds and other powerful investors to influence companies’ policies on matters like climate and the environment.

Working for the National Association of Manufacturers, FTI produced a study arguing that activist shareholders tend not to help shareholder value. The report’s five authors were employees of the consulting firm Compass Lexecon, a wholly owned FTI subsidiary. The Main Street Investors website is now offline.

FTI also represents groups trying to address climate change, and Financial Times reports that the firm is now facing questions and possible defections from those clients.

Some of the largest players in the sustainable investing market are reviewing their relationships with FTI Consulting, a business advisory and public relations firm, after a US media report highlighted controversial work it has done on behalf of the oil industry. CDP, a non-profit group formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project which collects climate data from companies, has suspended its business with FTI until it completes an investigation into the New York Times story. “We are taking this very seriously,” CDP told the Financial Times. “We will be reconsidering our relationship with FTI in light of this report.”

Minow has written to the CEO of FTI Consulting. We will update with information about any response.

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