Equator Principles hit by fake website update and fictitious bank exclusions

Spoof site follows fake Larry Fink announcement earlier this year

The Equator Principles, the bank sustainability risk management framework, has been hit by a fake website purporting to show a release of its updated principles and the fictitious exclusion of Japanese banks over coal power financing.

The fourth update to its principles, Equator Principles 4 (EP4), had been expected at about this time.

“The Equator Principles Association has been made aware of a website impersonating the Association,” the body said on its home page. “The site has released a fake version of EP4.”

EP Association chair Nigel Beck, Group Head of Environmental & Social Risk and Finance at Standard Bank Group, confirmed to RI that the site was fake.

A press release purporting to be from the Equator Principles was sent out this morning and appeared on financial news distribution networks.

It linked to a genuine-looking website, although the URL www.equator-principles.org is not correct (the genuine URL is www.equator-principles.com).

The fake announcement included the ejection of three Japanese banks (named as Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) for funding coal-fired power.

The spoof resembles the fake letter from BlackRock’s Larry Fink earlier this year that was the work of activist group the Yes Men.The Equator Principles, which were set up in 2003, have been adopted by 96 financial institutions in 37 countries.

Their planned update comes amid the launch of the new Principles for Responsible Banking. These principles, open for consultation until the end of this month, are set for launch in September in New York during the UN General Assembly.

In the meantime, the Equator Principles Association has faced pressure from investors, member banks, and NGOs. In November 2017, the body which oversees the principles, announced an unprecedented review of its sustainability framework after the pressure.

Dutch-based campaign group BankTrack had said that without reform the principles’ reputation as a “global sustainability gold standard” could be undermined.

Meanwhile, BankTrack and other groups have released their latest Banking on Climate Change – Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2019. They found that the world’s top banks have put $1.9trn into fossil fuel financing since the Paris Agreement was adopted.

It’s the tenth annual fossil fuel report card and the campaigners say it is the first ever analysis of funding from the world’s major private banks for the fossil fuel sector as a whole.