Veteran carbon journalist sues Bloomberg over dismissal

Published 18:58 on July 8, 2020  /  Last updated at 14:13 on November 27, 2020  /  Bavardage, EMEA, EU ETS  /  No Comments

A veteran carbon market journalist has sued Bloomberg over his dismissal, alleging it was based on him ‘whistle-blowing’ over the news agency’s “biased” coverage of climate change and the Paris Agreement.

*The claimant’s application was dismissed in late August. See the postface at the bottom of this article for more details*

A veteran carbon market journalist has sued Bloomberg over his dismissal, alleging it was based on him ‘whistle-blowing’ over the news agency’s “biased” coverage of climate change and the Paris Agreement.

Mathew Carr was let go by Bloomberg’s London bureau in May after working for the firm for 20 years, with the company claiming the decision was based on the reporter’s deteriorating performance and poor attitude.

But the former European carbon and gas correspondent alleges he was bullied by management and his sacking was in retaliation to him filing seven protected disclosures over the way Bloomberg was covering the climate crisis.  Carr also claims the outlet’s news was influenced by its significant number of clients in the fossil fuel industry and its primary objective of selling terminals.

“After 20 years of loyal service to Bloomberg News, I’m surprised at the way it’s treated me.  Its behaviour has damaged the mental health of myself and my family,” Carr said in a statement.

At an employment tribunal in London on Wednesday, Carr’s barrister Jonathan Cook said his client’s decision to contact a whistle-blowing hotline stemmed from his belief that Bloomberg “tended to publish stories more sympathetic to fossil fuel interests and less sympathetic to climate change”.

Cook said Carr believes that Bloomberg “was indirectly contributing to fossil fuel emissions in the way it covers climate-related news”, thereby “damaging or concealing damage to environment”.

“This contributed to a lack of awareness amongst companies and others as to the effects of emissions on global warming, and specifically the obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

But Bloomberg’s barrister James Laddie countered that the claimant could not provide a single example where his copy was “withdrawn or materially changed to distort [the news agency’s] reporting of the climate crisis”.

He said Carr’s dismissal was solely based on his performance after he showed an increasing level of bias in his reporting and failed to meet a series of “reasonable standards” set in a mid-2019 disciplinary meeting.

Laddie added that while Carr was once considered a high-performing employee at Bloomberg, the quality of his work had deteriorated over the past decade, to the point where in most years management raised concerns about his performance, including a lack of interview pieces, market-moving stories, and article pitches.

“The respondent’s view is he was no longer good enough at the job he was employed to do,” Laddie said, comparing Carr’s recent work to “a batch of out-of-date food”.

Bloomberg’s barrister also argued the former London bureau chief who made the ultimate decision to sack Carr was unaware that he had filed protective disclosures about the company’s climate coverage.

Laddie closed by contending that Bloomberg takes “its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously” and makes efforts to ensure it covers climate change “fully and fairly”, including through its analysis division BloombergNEF and its new news venture Bloomberg Green.

“Bloomberg has an enviable track record when it comes to green issues. It embraces green initiatives, all while maintaining an impartial style of journalism.”

Employment Judge B. Hodgson, who presided over the tribunal, said he will reflect on both sides’ arguments and will deliver his ruling in due course.

The case is Mathew Carr vs. Bloomberg LP, with case number 2203206/2020.

Postface – Below are excerpts from Hodgson’s Aug. 2020 ruling, which determined that Carr’s case should not face a final tribunal hearing:

“There is a serious paucity of information in this case, and I do not accept the claimant is likely to demonstrate a disclosure of any relevant information that tends to show a relevant failure.”

“The claimant may believe that the actions of the respondent are either leading to a distortion of the share price or leading to the destruction of the environment; however, I think it is unlikely that a tribunal could find those views are reasonably held or reasonably made in the public interest.”

“It seems to me that there is strong evidence that the claimant’s performance was poor and had been for many years.  It was not poor because of the quantity of work produced; it was poor because of the quality of work produced.”

“Given the number of managers who appear to have reached the same conclusion about the quality of his work, I think it is unlikely that the claimant will demonstrate causation.  It is likely that the respondent will demonstrate that the sole or principal reason revolved around the claimant’s capability.”

“The claimant does not approach the threshold for demonstrating the claim is likely to succeed.”

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com

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