27 Apr 2020

Berkshire, AIG Urged by NYC's Comptroller to Divest from Coal

27 Apr 2020  by Bloomberg   
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., American International Group Inc. and Liberty Mutual are under pressure from a New York City official over their ties to the coal industry.

Comptroller Scott Stringer, on behalf of three New York City pension funds, sent letters to executives at the three insurers, urging them to stop underwriting coal projects and divest from the industry, he said in a statement Friday.

“Divesting from the coal industry is the right thing to do for our planet, our future and our children -- and it’s the smart thing to do for investors,” Stringer said in the statement. “Continuing to invest in coal projects will only create greater financial risk, potential liability and future cost burdens.”

Berkshire has faced scrutiny from environmental activists before, with some in 2016 asking the company to detail how climate change would affect the conglomerate’s insurers. Liberty Mutual appointed its first chief sustainability officer in December and said it would stop underwriting risk for companies where more than 25% of their exposure arises from the extraction or production of energy from coal, and not make new debt or stock investments in similar firms.

Stringer acknowledged Liberty Mutual’s actions while noting that the company hasn’t moved to divest its existing portfolio tied to coal.

A Liberty Mutual spokesperson said the company is taking action to reduce carbon emissions and that environmental sustainability is a “key focus” for the company. Representatives for AIG and Berkshire Hathaway didn’t have an immediate comment.

Earlier this week, Stringer and other pension officials joined a push to remove Lee Raymond from JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s board due to his track record on climate change.

Stringer helps oversee the city’s public pension funds. His letter to Berkshire, AIG and Liberty Mutual is on behalf of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System.

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