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Major news organisations and business leaders withdraw from Saudi investment conference over missing journalist

On October 2, 2018, prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi, a once royal advisor turned critic, was murdered by Saudi agents in the consultate. Khashoggi's case prompted a number of media organizations and business leaders to withdraw from a high-profile investment conference dubbed "Davos in the Desert" due to take place in Riyadh on October 23, 2018. The following organisations and personalities have reportedly pulled out of the conference: Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, Financial Times, Fox Business, The New York Times, Ajay Banga (MasterCard), Arianna Huffington (Thrive Global), Bill Ford (Ford), Bob Bakish (Viacom), Christine Lagarde (IMF), Dara Khosrowshahi (Uber), Diane Greene (Google Cloud), Ernest Moniz (former US Energy Secretary), Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan), Jean Lemierre (BNP Paribas), Joe Kaeser (Siemens), John Flint (HSBC), Kai-Fu Lee (Sinovation Ventures), Larry Fink (BlackRock), Liam Fox (UK International Trade Secretary), Fréderic Oudéa (Société Générale), Patrick Soon-Shiong (LA Times), Richard Branson (Virgin Group),  Masayoshi Son (SoftBank), Sheila Patel (Goldman Sachs), Stephen Schwarzman (Blackstone), Steve Case (AOL), Steven Mnuchin (US Treasury Secretary), Tidjane Thiam (Credit Suisse), William Winters (Standard Chartered), and Zanny Minton Beddoes (The Economist).

On October 19, we reached out for comment to several companies that were reported as planning on attending and/or sending their staff to the conference: EDF, Credit Suisse, and Siemens responded to our invitation - their responses are available below.

Read the latest news below on companies withdrawing from Saudi Arabia's investment conference.

Related story: Saudi govt. deployed "Twitter troll army" to silence critics and allegedly used McKinsey analysis to target dissidents

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Article
29 October 2018

HSBC sees little impact on Saudi Arabia investment after Khashoggi murder: CEO

Author: Lawrence White, Reuters

Saudi Arabia is unlikely to see significant impact on its foreign trade and investment flows following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the chief executive of Europe’s biggest bank HSBC said... “I understand the emotion around the story, but it is very difficult to think about disengaging from Saudi Arabia given its importance to global energy markets,” he said...But while many global companies made a show of protest by withdrawing their top executives from a high-profile investment conference in Riyadh last week, industry and banking chiefs seem likely to continue courting the kingdom and its oil wealth as before. While HSBC’s Flint pulled out of the conference, the lender’s investment banking chief Samir Assaf spoke onstage at the event. HSBC has played an increasingly active role in Saudi Arabia in recent years. Flint said the bank will remain supportive of its local affiliate in the kingdom, Saudi British Bank (SABB) 1060.SE...

Read the full post here

Company non-response
23 October 2018

Accor did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Accor to respond, it did not.

Company non-response
23 October 2018

Bank of America did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Bank of America to respond, it did not.

Company response
23 October 2018

Credit Suisse responded

Last week we announced that our CEO will no longer attend the 2018 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. 

In our role as an employer, and as user and provider of services, Credit Suisse is committed to human rights and respects them as a key element of responsible business conduct. By incorporating human rights principles into our own policies and operations, we encourage our business partners to do likewise and to recognize and respect human rights.

Further information:

-          Credit Suisse and Human Rights: https://www.credit-suisse.com/corporate/en/responsibility/banking/human-rights.html

-          Credit Suisse’s “Statement on Human Rights”: https://www.credit-suisse.com/media/assets/corporate/docs/about-us/responsibility/banking/human-rights-statement-en.pdf

Company non-response
23 October 2018

Deutsche Bank did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Deutsche Bank to respond, it did not.

Company response
23 October 2018

EDF responded

Please note that Mr Lévy will not be attending the FII conference in Saoudi Arabia. Mr. Lévy is expected to attend a working session held by the French President Emmanuel Macron on the 24th of October, dedicated to Energy. The meeting, organized in the lead-up to the announcement of the French Pluriannual Energy Policy,  will gather more than 30 French CEOs.

Company non-response
23 October 2018

Ernst & Young did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Ernst & Young to respond, it did not.

Company non-response
23 October 2018

HSBC did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited HSBC to respond, it did not.

Company non-response
23 October 2018

JPMorgan Chase & Co. did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited JPMorgan Chase & Co. to respond, it did not.

Company non-response
23 October 2018

McKinsey did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited McKinsey to respond, it did not.