Montana Sen. Steve Daines blasts bank CEO for 'woke' suspension

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Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines blasted the CEO of banking giant HSBC in a letter for the "woke" suspension of an executive who argued at a conference that "investors need not worry about climate risk."

Stuart Kirk, global head of responsible investing at HSBC's asset management division, made the speech titled "Why investors need not worry about climate risk" during the Financial Times Moral Money Summit which was held on May 19.

One of the slides displayed during the presentation stated that "Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong."

Kirk said during the summit that throughout his 25-year career in finance "there was always some nut job telling me about the end of the world."

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Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) questions U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as he testifies at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the Fed’s “Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,” on Capitol Hill on March 3 (Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"25 years in the finance industry, there's always some nut job telling me about the end of the world. I've dealt with gold bugs my whole financial career. The roof's going to cave down. Y2K. Does anyone remember Y2K? Anyone old enough? The lifts didn't stop," Kirk said in the presentation.

Kirk added that what "bothers" him about climate change is "the amount of work these people make me do."

"I work at a bank that's being attacked by crypto. We've got regulators in the US trying to stop us. We've got the China problem. We've got a housing crisis looming. We've got interest rates going up, we've got inflation coming down the pipes. And I'm being told to spend time and time again looking at something that's going to happen in 20 or 30 years hence," Kirk said.

"The proportionality is completely out of whack," he added.

Sources familiar with the matter told the Financial Times that the presentation's title, theme, and content were agreed upon internally before the summit.

Following the presentation, HSBC suspended Kirk pending an internal investigation regarding the presentation given at the summit, according to the Financial Times.

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FILE PHOTO – The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. (Reuters/Reinhard Krause/File Photo / Reuters Photos)

In a letter obtained by FOX Business, Daines told Noel Quinn, CEO of HSBC, that he's concerned that the incident "may involve breaches of United States law, or indicate that you and the financial industry are falling prey to the same groupthink that led to the 2008 financial crisis."

Neither Quinn nor HSBC have been implicated in any illegal conduct in connection with Kirk’s suspension.

Daines also alleged in the letter that Kirk's suspension "appears" to be in response to pressure from outside parties.

"Based on the company’s prior approval of Mr. Kirk’s remarks, it appears to many that Mr. Kirk’s suspension was in response to pressure on HSBC from outside parties that may be legally prohibited from influencing the management of your company," Daines wrote.

Fox News is not aware of any evidence suggesting that Kirk’s suspension was a response to any pressure from parties legally prohibited from influencing HSBC.

The senator said that the company's treatment of Kirk's "heterodox remarks raises serious questions about HSBC’s risk management practices and culture."

"As you know, a key principle of risk management is establishing a culture where dissenting views may be candidly expressed. It is well established that groupthink can lead to suboptimal, even disastrous outcomes for businesses. When the excesses of green ideology within financial institutions inevitably lead to financial losses and resulting lawsuits, your action will be evidence of your industry’s failure to maintain internal controls providing for an appropriate risk management culture," he wrote.

Daines told Quinn that if Kirk's speech expressed disapproval of HSBC’s environmental commitments, it should prompt a re-examination, not a suspension.

"To the extent that Mr. Kirk’s speech implicitly rebuked HSBC’s environmental commitments as ill-advised or contrary to the financial interests of your investors, this should prompt re-examination of your commitments, not silencing for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes," Daines said.

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Quinn made a LinkedIn post after Kirk's speech, stating that his remarks were "inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy."

"I do not agree – at all – with the remarks made at last week’s FT Moral Money Summit. They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management. Our ambition is to be the leading bank supporting the global economy in the transition to net zero," Quinn said. "We have a lot of work to do, and I am determined that our team won’t be distracted by last week’s comments.

HSBC declined to comment when reached by FOX Business. Kirk could not be reached for comment by FOX Business. He did not respond to attempts for comment from the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal, according to their reporting.

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