World

Greenpeace red-faced after staffer's costly speculation

Philip Oltermann

Greenpeace has suffered large losses after an employee speculated on currency markets.

Because Greenpeace receives most of its donations in euros but has to spend them in other currencies, it is highly exposed to currency fluctuations. (Flickr)

Greenpeace International has parted company with one of its employees after the organisation lost €3.8‑million of donations last year through speculation on currency markets.

An employee at the environmental campaign group’s Amsterdam headquarters took out currency exchange contracts that speculated on a weak euro in the second half of 2013, the organisation said. As a result of the euro strengthening later in the year, Greenpeace had to file record losses when closing accounts at the end of the year. Its 2013 annual report will show a budget deficit of €6.8-million.

“We offer a full apology to our supporters for the series of errors that led to the loss,” Greenpeace stated. “We further wish to reassure people that every possible action is being taken to avoid the possibility of such a loss ever occurring again in future.”

Greenpeace says the staff member, who worked in its international finance unit, was not acting for personal gain but had failed to obtain authorisation from senior management. He has since been released from his contract.

With an annual income of €72.9-million in 2013, the loss of €3.8-million represents a significant hit for Greenpeace International, though the environmental group said none of its current campaigns will be affected. It has combined funds from more than 40 national organisations and a global budget of around €300-million.

Greenpeace’s international programme director, Pascal Husting, said it does not generally use its funds to make investments or speculate on the stock market, but keeps money in deposit accounts from which it can be withdrawn quickly when needed, but because Greenpeace receives most of its donations in euros but has to spend them in other currencies, it is highly exposed to currency fluctuations and therefore takes out exchange contracts to protect its assets, Husting said.

The organisation also invests in property, but only in cases where it is cheaper to buy than to rent. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

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