Bill McKibben: Lee Raymond Stuck in the Past on the Climate

Updated: May 5

Shareholders at JP Morgan Chase should block a former Exxon chief from another term on the bank’s board.

The opinion article below was originally published in the New York Times.

By Bill McKibben

Mr. McKibben is a founder of the climate advocacy group and a leader of fossil fuel divestment efforts.

April 24, 2020 -- If you want to know why young people increasingly despair that the rest of us will leave them without a habitable world, consider the case of Lee Raymond.

At a time when millions are losing their jobs, JP Morgan Chase said this month that 81-year-old Mr. Raymond would be up for re-election to his post as the bank’s lead independent director when its shareholders meet in May, despite the fact that he led a company that has helped cause chaos on a scale hard to even imagine.

The bank said that Mr. Raymond had offered not to stand for re-election, given his age, but that the bank’s board wanted him to retain his seat because “his broad experience” both within and outside JP Morgan was “in the best interests” of shareholders.

And his previous outside experience? He was the chairman and C.E.O. of the oil giant Exxon from 1993 to 1999 and of Exxon Mobil from 1999 to 2005, years when it helped pioneer corporate efforts to create doubt about climate change. Even though, according to internal company memos, the company’s own scientists knew that global warming was very real and very dangerous, and even though Exxon started doing things like safeguarding its infrastructure projects against the sea-level rise they knew was coming, it didn’t tell the rest of us. Instead, with its peer companies, Exxon helped build the expensive architecture of deceit and disinformation that brought us 30 years of phony debate about whether climate change even existed.