By Richard Smith
Back in April, L’Uomo Vogue, the Italian version of men’s fashion magazine Vogue (I had to look it up: it’s not a genre I am very familiar with), ran an “eco-sustainable issue”. And there on the front cover was the admirable Mayor Bloomberg (“I saw the pictures, and thought, ‘he’s not bad, this man’“), intoning on climate change:
Inside the issue, Bloomberg speaks of the importance of active climate change reform in urban environments. “Cities are at the frontline of the battle against climate change,” he told the magazine. “Half of the world’s population already lives in urban centers and that number is only going to rise. Urban centers are also responsible for about 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Also in that issue, there was a full page spread devoted to an outfit called Carbon Neutral Investments. It’s not available online any more, but CNI (UK) Limited, Carbon Neutral Investments’ successor company, proudly display it on their web site. Handily enough, it’s also in the Wayback Machine, so if CNI (UK) suddenly remove it, or are shut down, you will still be able to see it there. Take a look at that page now and then come back here.
At the top of the web page we have another chance to view the not-bad Michael Bloomberg in his well-cut suit.
At the bottom of the web page we receive a barrage of the not-subliminal marketing message, in English, “We buy Carbon Credits”, juxtaposed with some chat in Italian about the British alternative investments custodian Carbon Neutral Investments Limited, directing us to its web site www.cni-uk.com.
Now, you might have the impression, from that whole page banner proclamation, that Carbon Neutral Investments Limited “buys Carbon Credits”. It ain’t necessarily so, as CNI UK’s web site clarifies to us, in slightly stilted English:
CNI (UK) does not undertake any business activity relating to personal carbon credit investments. As such CNI UK is unable to respond to any queries regarding this industry.
Which is a little disobliging, since, until late April, Carbon Neutral Investments Limited was a provider of back office services to alternative investment brokers and managers, who all specialised in carbon credits for personal investors. Yet on CNI’s web site, now, CNI doesn’t even try to refer any personal investors to any of its former back office clients. There was plenty of choice: Carbon Neutral Investments had dozens and dozens of clients. Here’s the most up to date list, 22nd April 2013 (which is to say, right up until after that Vogue article was published), from the Wayback Machine (h/t: the excellent redd-monitor blog).
And the startling reason for that reticence, or repudiation of its own past, is that, apart from a half-handful of sheer idiots, every single one of the former clients of Carbon Neutral Investments’ back office service was a boiler room scammer.
That warning was originally issued on the 29th March 2013, just a few days before L’Uomo Vogue’s spread; which timing, you would hope, neatly scuppered any crummy publicity campaign CNI was just about to mount, based in part on the juxtaposition of the very respectable, not bad, and well tailored Mayor Bloomberg, on the one hand, and CNI’s own cheesy offering, on the other.
But maybe the FCA warning had had no effect at all: six months later CNI is still there, and Bloomberg is still on the same page as an ad for scams. If I was Mayor Bloomberg, I’d be hacked off with that. Perhaps the editor of L’Uomo Vogue is enough of an airhead to laugh the whole thing off. A more ambitious journalist wouldn’t be at all happy. But, to be fair, how many Italian fashion magazine editors look out for warnings from the UK financial regulator?
Many, many, many more of the world’s
great and good conspicuous are credulously helping to market the same scammy story, from the same bad actors, Carbon Neutral Investments. In the next few posts, I will give you a tour. It is quite a spectacle.