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05/27/2021 | Organizing for a Just Recovery in Puerto Rico and Beyond

Letter to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry

We are alarmed to hear that you have selected private equity titan Mark Gallogly, the co-founder of Centerbridge Partners, for a key role on the White House’s international climate team.

May 27th, 2021

The Honorable John Kerry 
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate 
United States State Department
2201 C Street Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20520

 

Dear Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry,

We, the undersigned organizations have been encouraged by White House’s dedication to tackling climate change, including by creating the first-ever international climate envoy role(1). That’s why we were alarmed to hear that you have selected private equity titan Mark Gallogly, the co-founder of Centerbridge Partners, for a key role on the White House’s international climate team(2). Gallogly’s appointment threatens to undermine the Biden Administration’s commitments to addressing climate change, environmental justice(3), and reversing fiscal austerity in Puerto Rico(4).

Centerbridge was among the hedge funds that targeted Puerto Rico during an economic crisis to prey on the island. Centerbridge bought up large chunks of Puerto Rican debt at discounts and was a member of a steering committee of the “Ad Hoc” group of hedge funds in a Puerto Rico bankruptcy proceeding(5). This group used their leverage as bondholders to push for devastating austerity measures(6), including spending cuts and a regressive sales tax that hit working people the hardest(7).

While the Puerto Rican debt crisis deepened, and the threat of a debt restructuring loomed, Centerbridge and other so-called “vulture funds” took a more aggressive stance. They demanded payment on their bonds ahead of Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank, and demanded they be repaid in full in the event of a default, putting Puerto Rico into a fiscal vise(8). Centerbridge demanded low taxes on wealthy investors, higher taxes on working people, lower wages, harsh service cuts, and privatization of public schools(9).

Centerbridge also engaged in disaster profiteering in California, where it was at the center of what has been called the “first climate change bankruptcy.” Following the 2018 Camp Fire in California, Centerbridge bought up shares of the beleaguered Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and also bought $200 million in insurance claims(10). Centerbridge also bought stakes in a line of credit for the law firm representing the victims of the PG&E wildfires, raising serious questions on conflicts of interest among many fire victims who were concerned this would give them an edge in the bankruptcy negotiations(11). In the resulting bankruptcy settlement, Centerbridge and other private equity funds ended up receiving a larger cash settlement than the fire victims themselves(12). 

It is also deeply troubling that Gallogly would be tapped to lead diplomacy in the Climate Envoy office given Centerbridge’s dirty energy investments, which include Stallion Oilfield Holdings Inc, a production and logistics services company for oil and natural gas exploration(13). a majority stake in Seitel, a firm that provides data to the North American oil and gas industry(14), and HydroChemPSC, a firm providing maintenance services and technology solutions to petrochemical and other energy companies(15).  

Prior to co-founding Centerbridge in 2005, Gallogly spent 16 years at Blackstone, where he served on the firm’s management committee, and led the firm’s private equity unit(16). Gallogly’s legacy Blackstone lives on today, as his imprint on the firm is evident. A Wall Street Journal piece announcing Gallogly’s retirement noted that his “influence continues to be felt through a group of Blackstone executives that he helped mentor,” and that four of his mentees now serve on Blackstone’s management committee(17). Like Centerbridge, Blackstone has a track record of disaster profiteering. Blackstone took an ownership stake in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline(18). Blackstone also bought out oil pipeline operator Tallgrass Energy in 2020(19), owns nearly a half stake in a drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico(20), and invested $2 billion to create Cheniere Energy Partners, which has become the United States’ Liquid Natural Gas exporter(21). In the wake of the subprime crisis, Blackstone took advantage of the economic fallout by purchasing single family homes and securitizing them(22), earning $7 billion before it exited its investment(23). Blackstone’s subsidiary Invitation Homes became the largest single-family-rental company in America, owning 82,500 homes at its peak(24), but whose tenants faced problems of “leaky pipes, vermin, toxic mold, nonfunctioning appliances and months-long waits for repairs,” according to investigative reporting by Reuters(25). 

Solving the climate crisis is going to take a coordinated effort across financial regulators internationally, and demands for specific, tangible commitments from private firms. Gallogly’s track record in an industry that pursues profits at the expense of workers and communities makes his appointment to the White House Climate Envoy office deeply troubling. We can’t fix the climate crisis with vulture capitalism. We call on the White House to remove Gallogly from the international climate team.

Sincerely,

Action Center on Race & the Economy
Alianza for Progress
Churches United For Fair Housing
Diáspora en Resistencia
Occupy Bergen County NJ
Food & Water Watch
Businesses for a Livable Climate
Colorado Businesses for a Livable Climate
Climate Hawks Vote
CatholicNetwork US
Earth Action
New Energy Economy
New York Communities for Change
Oil Change International
RapidShift Network
Future Coalition
Call to Action Colorado
Hedge Clippers

Friends of the Earth US
Revolving Door Coalition
350 New Orleans
Center for Popular Democracy
California Businesses for a Livable Climate
Construyamos Otro Acuerdo Campaign
Wall of Women
United North Metro Denver

 

Endnotes:

  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/01/27/pres...

  2.  https://www.axios.com/kerry-climate-team-mark-gallogly-wall-street-2d08a...

  3. https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/

  4. https://joebiden.com/the-biden-harris-plan-for-recovery-renewal-and-resp...

  5. https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-puertorico/puerto-rico-hedge-fund-gr...

  6. https://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-p...

  7. https://www.ft.com/content/6fc34c54-f406-11e4-bd16-00144feab7de#axzz3eaV...;
    https://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-p....

  8. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-29/munis-meet-milken-as-... 

  9. https://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-p...

  10. https://www.kqed.org/news/11813173/attorney-for-pge-fire-victims-funded-...

  11. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-30/apollo-centerbridge-b...

  12. https://www.kqed.org/news/11805766/pge-victims-weigh-rare-stock-funded-t...
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/business/PGE-bankruptcy-wildfire-vict...

  13. http://littlejohnllc.com/newsitem/stallion-oilfield-holdings-inc-announc...

  14.  https://www.stephens.com/globalassets/investment-banking/transaction-pdf...

  15. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171011006062/en/PSC-and-HydroCh...

  16. https://www.wsj.com/articles/centerbridge-co-founder-mark-gallogly-prepa...

  17. https://www.wsj.com/articles/centerbridge-co-founder-mark-gallogly-prepa...

  18. https://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/2017/08/01/dallas-firm-behind...

  19. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tallgrass-energy-m-a-blackstone/tallg...

  20. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-navitas-petrol-blackstone-group/black...

  21. https://pestakeholder.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Blackstone-Fossil-F...

  22. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/magazine/wall-street-landlords.html

  23. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-21/blackstone-exits-sing...

  24. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/magazine/wall-street-landlords.html

  25. https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-housing-invitation/