Diana Marszalek 18 Aug 2022 // 1:42PM GMT
WASHINGTON — Two federal lawmakers are stepping up pressure on FTI Consulting to turn over information on climate change campaigns produced for oil clients, threatening to subpoena the firm if it doesn’t deliver the requested documents by August 24.
“On June 12, 2022, the House Committee on Natural Resources (“Committee”) sent FTI Consulting (“FTI”) a letter requesting materials relating to its public relations work on behalf of fossil fuel industry interests. In the subsequent weeks, our staff has had multiple conversations with FTI’s representation in a good-faith effort to accommodate any reasonable concerns FTI might have regarding this request," two House Democrats — Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the House Natural Resources Committee chair, and California Rep. Katie Porter, who chairs the committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee — said Wednesday in a letter to FTI CEO Steven Gunby.
"Despite such efforts, summarized below, FTI has refused to produce responsive documents, the identities of relevant clients, or even the number of relevant clients FTI served during the responsive period,” the letter said.
Mark McCall, global head of FTI’s strategic communications division, however, defended the company’s handling of the matter, telling PRovoke Media that it has been working to reconcile the government’s request with client confidentiality agreements.
“Our company takes the subcommittee’s request very seriously. We continue to be in regular contact with subcommittee staff as we progress our efforts to be responsive to the chair’s request in a manner consistent with our legal obligations to preserve our clients’ confidentiality and privileges. FTI Consulting is called upon by clients in dozens of industries globally, including those involved in traditional, renewable and alternative energy development, and we are committed to ensuring that all professional services we deliver align with our firmwide position to support action to address climate change,” he said.
While this week’s letter to FTI is the first of its kind, Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media, said advocates expect other PR firms to get similar communications. According to Fossil Free Media, FTI is the only firm so far that has been asked to turn over documents to the investigations and has not done so voluntarily.
The legislators’ issue with the industry dates to June, when Grijalva and Porter asked five firms — DDC Public Affairs, Singer Associates, Story Partners, and Blue Advertising and FTI, as well as the American Petroleum Institute — for their records covering campaigns for Big Oil clients.
The legislators’ call for information is the latest step in an ongoing campaign to see agencies cut ties with the world’s biggest polluters.
In January, more than 450 scientists called on PR and advertising firms to stop working with fossil fuel companies.
The effort was coordinated in partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists and Clean Creatives, an ad and PR industry advocacy organization which, in November, launched a high-profile celebrity and influencer campaign calling on Edelman to drop fossil fuel clients, most notably ExxonMobil.
Two weeks earlier, Edelman unveiled a series of actions it pledged to take in response to those calls, which include walking away from companies that do not meet a series of criteria on climate action. At that time, Edelman identified 20 emissions-intensive clients for follow-up discussions after a 60-day review of its portfolio.
Edelman, however, stopped short of dropping fossil fuel companies across-the-board, saying its work pushing clients toward achieving net zero goals is more productive than walking away.