—I blew the whistle on Bloomberg News’s allegedly biased climate-news coverage, and lost my job
–Here’s some whistleblowing on a whistleblowing website that Bloomberg LP argues isn’t whistleblowing
Opinion by Mathew Carr
Oct. 18, 2021 — LONDON: It’s been playing on my mind for three weeks – what Employment Judge Burns said Sept. 24 at the online preliminary hearing about my climate-whistleblowing-unfair-dismissal case.
I tried to get protection afforded to workers in Britain, who warn their bosses about corporate complicity in environmental damage. At the time, my job was to write about energy and carbon trading.
I’m arguing I “blew the whistle” in a legal sense on the climate-news coverage at Bloomberg News, which was biased toward fossil fuels, over several years. I expected improvement, and instead suffered a swathe of detriments that included dismissal in May last year. After 20 years of service, Bloomberg said I wasn’t capable, anymore.
Judge Burns at the hearing said (words to the effect): Your case does not depend upon on whether it’s right to support the environment. That’s not what we are here for. Nor are we here to try and look into the soul of Mr Bloomberg or the way his company as a whole operates.
These words from the Judge are striking. After having to grapple with, since about 2015, Bloomberg LP managers allegedly trying to build a case to push me out, it’s my preliminary belief that someone does indeed need to look into Mr Bloomberg’s soul and the way his company as a whole operates. Even if it’s not the U.K. employment tribunals.
By the way, it is for the Tribunal to sort out the main motivation for my dismissal — ascribing motivation is notoriously difficult, yet I contend does require a wide survey of all the incentives at play at the time. It’s true that it’s still not 100% clear how far up the management chain deliberate discussions about my firing went.
The Tribunal seems to be saying it doesn’t want to look widely, so I’m saying some things here because it’s important to try to walk the complicated line between blowing the whistle properly and keeping within the contempt-of-court rules.
There are not many guidelines for this. If I don’t do it, the pandemic-induced backlog in the Tribunal system will have the effect of damping climate whistleblowing when it’s most needed.
I’m trying to be careful to comply with the contempt of court laws while I write this — there are no juries. I’m publishing facts already in the public arena and already presented in the Tribunal hearings. I’m not seeking to influence the outcome of the litigation. Many argue the whistleblowing laws are not fit for purpose.
I am asking more questions, including of this man:
Mr Mike Rubens Bloomberg is founder of Bloomberg LP, one of the most powerful companies on earth. He still owns nearly all of it, as his 79th birthday comes up in February.
Much of the trillions of U.S. dollars of capital being allocated and managed every year around the world is influenced by data structures controlled or influenced by his company. Bonds, equities, property, law and importantly for my case, commodities. He has the ability to influence it all, often from both sides of transactions (I’m not saying he does this).
Market theory says if a party has influence on both sides of a market, they can be very influential on price, especially if they have more information than market participants generally have. Indeed Bloomberg’s systems are designed to communicate information to the whole market.
At one point in my almost two decades there, influence was actually the stated aim of the newsroom – to be the most influential news organisation on earth.
Newsroom leaders didn’t stress that as much towards the latter end of my time there.
Switching away from Bloomberg momentarily, even large corporations might be reluctant to talk about their influence because attaining that kind of prominence would confront an associated responsibility for the world’s ills. See Facebook this month grappling with making money vs doing good, and its own whistleblowers.
As part of my litigation already before the Employment Tribunal, I estimated Bloomberg LP gets about $1 billion of its $10 billion or so revenue each year from fossil fuel-related business. That’s $4 million per working day, if accurate. (Bloomberg LP won’t say. It also doesn’t deny it.) Energy is the world’s biggest industry and amounts to about 10% of the U.S economy.
Mr Bloomberg is also a special United Nations envoy on climate change, replacing millions of dollars withdrawn by President Donald Trump from the UN climate system. He’s also head of a global task force on climate-related disclosure and transparency. (He has other roles, too.)
He’s not only deeply conflicted, but also in some respects not very transparent, which is interesting, considering his climate-transparency role. (This sentence is more like fact than opinion, I contend.)
His conflicts of interest might boost the risk of UN climate talks next month failing to come up with a biting rulebook to meet the limited carbon budget, yet again. They might be lowering that risk. I can’t work it out, even after going through a “discovery process” in the litigation. See the link below on the Bloomberg Commodities Index, for instance.
Last year, Mr Bloomberg apparently helped finance U.S. President Joe Biden’s win after losing his own bid to become the Democratic nominee. How does his role in the UN make Brazil, India, Russia, China (the BRIC countries) feel about the climate negotiations? Some officials are already deeply suspicious of U.S. motivations and intentions.
Mr Bloomberg’s personal worth is about $59 billion, being the 20th richest person in the world, according to Forbes – I think that’s after giving away about $9 billion, according to Wikipedia (I think that’s a low-ball estimate, btw).
I’m not saying he’s a bad or good bloke. I just don’t know, which is lucky because if I said one way or the other I might be in breach of U.K. contempt-of-court rules.
I’ve asked Mr Bloomberg and Bloomberg LP for comments and will put any responses in this story.
It’s safer to ask questions.
Aside from the BRIC countries, how does his wealth and involvement in the climate talks make the world’s most-vulnerable / least-developed countries feel about the negotiations? They are wondering: is this yet another stitch up, after 30 years of failure at UN level? (I’m not making this up — some of them say this.) Or, perhaps, it’s a sign of globalism finally working for more than just profit.
Judge Burns said my family might suffer costs of 100,000 pounds if I decide to continue pursuing my case, and lose. (Still, such an award would be unusual, he added. There’s a 10-day hearing listed for Dec. 6.
Boiling it down, I was pushing for more reporting on the quality of regulation of the climate crisis. I was asking why isn’t there more/better reporting on carbon pricing? Why aren’t we (Bloomberg News at the time) writing more about market structure and about why pension funds that need multi-decade returns face climate chaos instead in 2030, 2040 and beyond.
(Bloomberg’s middle managers wanted me to focus on natural gas, because I was apparently so good at it.)
Powerful Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren and others have been calling for tech companies to be broken up. Bloomberg is one of the first big tech companies. Is anyone looking into whether it should be broken up to make capitalism more transparent and competitive? EG should it divest its news arm or should it be better regulated?
I’ve asked and will add any replies here.
Warren said this month that U.S. bank regulation was getting worse, not better. (Bloomberg TV interview, by the way).
I will leave that context-making there, for now.
I’ll finish this whistleblowing article with one example of my whistleblowing (there are plenty more to come as the litigation progresses — this is one that’s already allowed by the Tribunal to the final, 10-day hearing set for Dec. 6).
The alleged whistleblowing, also known in the legal jargon as “making protected disclosures,” are a mixture of emails, messages on a dedicated system and meetings with executives in the newsroom.
In this example, I blew the whistle in June 2019, arguing that Bloomberg LP’s news coverage was pro-fossil-fuel (as I’d done many times before that). Then I was targeted to be managed out of Bloomberg LP in July that year — (so soon afterwards).
The Tribunal will need to decide whether I was fired for whistleblowing or lack of competence (Bloomberg’s stance).
I was presenting ways that Bloomberg News might lessen the environmental damage. “Information” is required for whistleblowing to be officially whistleblowing. Is there information here below? You be the judge.
A final word before the example:
The public suffers dire consequences when journalists don’t join the dots between economies, markets, companies, industries and governments, according to page one of the Bloomberg Way, an in-house style bible. Should environment (the climate emergency) and society be added to the list? See note 5.
Just part of what I said on the “Navex” whistleblowing system used by Bloomberg LP.
The possible retaliatory behavior I’m experiencing might be related to the fact that I’m pushing my managers to report the climate action story in a better way….and the retaliatory behavior follows my assertion to senior managers that the Financial Times seems to have overtaken us on this front and is doing a better job than us.
How Bloomberg’s climate coverage isn’t as good as it should be:
Or, since my bosses are asking me to be more constructive”:
How Bloomberg’s climate coverage could be improved:
*Improved coverage of the UN climate talks (or is this difficult given Mike Bloomberg’s role in helping to replace US funding for the UNFCCC?). Climate protection will only work if it’s global. It puzzles me that we are not describing the process better for our readers. Every pension fund in the world is grappling with the energy transition and is wanting to know how UN rules and guidelines might shape future national policy for all nations. It’s not reader numbers that are important here. It’s quality of readers. le if 100 of our pension fund customers want a story, surely it’s worth doing, even if it only gets 100 hits.
*We need to do more market structure stories because it is the structure of energy markets (and others) that will determine how investors make money/lose money during the climate transition over time. I’m a bit shocked that my managers still argue against this.
*Improved coverage of banking, insurance, pension funds, prudential regs and finance and their role in enabling the climate crisis…and potentially their role in enhancing the energy shift. (Maybe Mike Bloomberg’s role in the on the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures is also making this difficult. If so, why is this not being more openly discussed and addressed within Bloomberg News?) [Redacted] says he has been looking into expanding the finance team to include climate-he’s been doing this for many months.
*Bloomberg News could appoint point people in each team globally whose role it would be to track and lead on breaking news about how climate change is impacting the industry or market covered by the team. The person could also look out for what policy and technology changes are coming down the track for the industry/market. This would not necessarily require many new bodies.
*I’ve already pushed our oil team to include the climate frame in their stories. While I’ve had some success, the retaliatory behavior seems to continue/get worse. I thought this sort of behaviour from a senior reporter would be rewarded, but it appears to me that it’s punished. This is despite the fact we very consistently get told to do the right thing.”
Happy to provide more detail. My mobile phone: [Redacted]
What the UK employment law says (and you can make up your own mind). Litigation continues:
Disclosures qualifying for protection.
(1) In this Part a “qualifying disclosure” means any disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure, tends to show one or more of the following—
(a) that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed,
(b) that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject,
(c) that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
(d) that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered,
(e) that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged, or
(f) that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.
Emphasis added. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/23/section/1
(Tweaks headline twice; more to come)
1. What whistleblowers in the city focus on (not usually damage to the environment/climate):
2. I have not had that much success so far arguing my communications are whistleblowing, but some:
Check out how the above whistleblowing document is presented by the Tribunal in this decision.
Note, the Tribunal does not include this key line: How Bloomberg’s climate coverage could be improved:
3. That omission also happened here in a second decision: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/60dc4b1ad3bf7f7c367ee64d/Mr_M_Carr__vs_Bloomberg_LP.pdf
Still, the tribunal here rejected Bloomberg’s bid to strike out some of the whistleblowing, including the above.
I’ve appealed parts that were struck out.
4. Navex system used by Bloomberg:
5. Bloomberg Way, p1, 25th Anniversary Edition
6. Bloomberg Commodities Index story — as of Sept. fossil fuels remain above the stated upper limits of the index:
Buyer Beware: Commodity Indexes Lock In Dire Climate Status Quo (7)
Court Reverses Decision About Openness of my Bloomberg-Climate-Whistleblowing Hearing, After it Happened (3): http://carrzee.org/?p=5374
BBC Says Media in Petrostates Struggle to Properly Report Climate Change; I’m in the Employment Tribunal Today Debating My Struggle With Bloomberg News; You Can’t Watch, Yet (1)