Media coverage

Guardian exclusive on latest PESP report: Private equity billionaires splurge to clean up their image, not their dirty oil investments

February 15, 2022

A new report by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project and LittleSis examines a “dirty dozen” of private equity executives whose fossil fuel investments drive climate crisis and environmental injustice.

As The Guardian exclusively reported (see ‘Biggest oil barons’: the US private equity firms funding dirty energy projects) the Private Equity Stakeholder Project and LittleSis examined how a group of super-rich private equity executives run firms that own dozens of dirty energy companies while they sit on the boards of prestigious cultural, higher education and policy organizations. These Wall Street heavyweights burnish their reputations through hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropy, even as their investments help drive climate catastrophe.

The report, “Private Equity’s Dirty Dozen: 12 firms dripping in oil and the wealthy executives who run them,” profiles a dozen private equity firms with some of the most extensive oil, gas and coal investments on Wall Street. The report profiles private equity billionaire and multi-millionaire executives, such as Blackstone’s Stephen A. Schwarzman, Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein, KKR’s Henry Kravis, and Ares’s Tony Ressler.

“It’s a serious problem when super-rich private equity executives who invest billions in harmful fossil fuels can greenwash their reputations through acquiring coveted board seats at prestigious universities and cultural institutions,” said Derek Seidman, the Research Director of LittleSis and a co-author of the report. “This helps these Wall Street billionaires hide the fact that they’re among the world’s biggest oil and gas barons.”

“The private equity industry largely evades public scrutiny, despite investing billions in fossil fuel investments that have spewed greenhouse gasses from pipelines, fracking operations and power plants across the globe,” said Alyssa Giachino a Research Director at Private Equity Stakeholder Project and co-author of the report. “Private equity should move away from fossil fuels. It’s necessary to help mitigate climate change and it’s necessary for environmental justice.“

Private equity oil investments have harmed frontline communities and communities of color through emissions and spills that damage health and local environments – while also contributing to climate change.

“Private Equity firms like ArcLight Capital have polluted communities and made billions buying and running outdated, inefficient peaker plants in New York City and elsewhere. These fossil fuel investments inflate utility customers’ bills, have an outsized climate impact, and particularly harm public health in communities of color and low-income communities. It’s time Wall Street firms to change course, retire their fossil plants, and put their money into 100% renewable energy and storage technology” said Justin Wood, Director of Policy at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

Dozens of prestigious universities, museums and other cultural institutions – from Harvard to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the National Gallery of Art – help greenwash private equity fossil fuel investors by giving them board seats and naming buildings after them, providing them reputational cover even as their firms maintain in climate-destroying investments. The report also examines the lush lives of these super-wealthy private equity executives – the mansions, private jets, superyachts, and much more, that they’ve accumulated in part through their oil profiteering.

To read the full report, go to:

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