Greenpeace, the environmental charity that lost its way over a decade ago, has announced it has also lost money – over $5 MILLION dollars of donations have been frittered away in currency speculation.
Greenpeace headquarters, a marble-lined former bank in Amsterdam is a place where self-important Greenpeace executives plan their next vital air journey to visit a politician or industrialist. Greenpeace executives work is too urgent, you see, to follow the rules they prescribe for others. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo loves to be photographed at meetings around the world.
Now, one of their management cadre has embarrassed the organisation by running up the huge losses on money markets. The cost helped push Greenpeace into a loss for the year of €6.8m on a global budget of €300m Euros.
It raises the question,why they have $5 million sitting around? Surely the environmental emergency they are always fighting requires spending the money we gave them, not sitting on it?
The problem emerged in Greenpeace International’s Amsterdam headquarters, where about 10 people work in a finance unit that handles payrolls, invoice processing and currency transfers for the organisation that operates in some 40 countries.
Nearly 3m people help to fund Greenpeace annually, with its biggest income streams in Germany, the USA and Switzerland.
In October last year, one employee in the unit decided to take out contracts with a company specialising in foreign exchange deals that effectively locked in exchange rates for future transactions, according to Greenpeace’s international communications director, Mike Townsley.
This occurred just before the US began to taper, or gradually reduce, its monthly purchases of government and mortgage bonds, a process known as quantitative easing, or QE.
It also came before the euro strengthened. “We got caught in that crossfire,” said Mr Townsley. “It was horrible timing.”
Mr Townsley said the strategy seemed prudent at the time, and the contracts were designed to minimise risk rather than make speculative currency bets.
“This is not an unusual practice per se,” he said. “It’s something we haven’t used before and it’s arguable we just didn’t have the expertise to be doing this.”
The charity board has ordered an independent audit and the member of staff involved has been removed from their position, Greenpeace said, adding that there was “no evidence of personal gain”.
“We offer a full apology to our supporters for the series of errors that led to the loss,” the group said in a statement. It said the losses would be covered by cuts in its infrastructure investments, but that “no money will be taken from our frontline campaigning”.
“Greenpeace International is funded with many different currencies, valuations of which can change rapidly,” the company said.
“Greenpeace International entered into contracts to buy foreign currency at a fixed exchange rate while the euro was gaining in strength. This resulted in a loss of €3.8m against a range of other currencies.”
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