What Do Greenpeace And JPMorgan Chase Have In Common?

M.V. Greenpeace
The M.V. Greenpeace in 1995

Greenpeace International has fired a well-intentioned but misguided employee who lost the Amsterdam-based environmental advocacy group more than $5 million on a badly timed currency trade last year

Greenpeace, funded solely by charitable donations, said it's continuing to audit its treasury procedures to repair its reputation and win back some disillusioned members.

“We’ve completely rewritten our authorization policy to make it absolutely explicit who can authorize which transaction and who can sign off on invoices,” Greenpeace representative Mike Townsley said to Bloomberg.

“There have been two failures. One, an individual acting outside their authority, and the second is that the existing systems were not adequate,” he said.

Greenpeace officials announced in June that the financial expert was acting outside of his authority.

His trades bet that the euro, which was rising when the trade was done, would continue to do well against other currencies. He was wrong, to the tune of  3.8 million euros, or more than $5 million.

While his job included managing currency risks, he wasn’t authorized to be making such big bets, the group said.

“Every indication is, this was done with the best of intentions but not the best of judgment,” spokesman Mike Townsley said to NBC News.

Intentions aside, the fallout was real. With a substantially lower budget than usual adding to continued pressure from international governments such as India that have condemned the organization’s activities, its workers made their feelings known.

Just days after the scandal broke, Greenpeace’s German chapter lost 700 supporting members, as other branches made public apologies, according to a report in Der Spiegel.

“We will make adjustments for these losses in the coming two or three years by amending planned infrastructure investments,” a June 15 press release says. “No money will be taken from our frontline campaigning to protect the climate, our oceans, rainforests and precious natural environment.”

Last year Greenpeace International had an income of $99 million (72.9 million euros) out of a $408 million (300 million euro) global budget, according to the release. 

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