By Chris Lang
A company called Compass Carbon LLC is threatening to sue REDD-Monitor. On 12 April 2021, REDD-Monitor received a letter from a London-based firm of solicitors that states, “We act for the carbon sequestration project development and technology company Compass Carbon LLC. Our clients instruct us concerning grossly defamatory and seriously damaging allegations . . . first published by you on your REDDIT-Monitor [sic] website on 18 December 2020.”
The letter is marked “Strictly private and confidential. Not for publication”. The solicitors explain that, “This Letter of Claim is sent pursuant to the Pre-action Protocol for Media and Communications Claims”, and they helpfully provide a link to the Protocol.
The solicitor’s letter explains how Kurt Kaiser, a director of Compass Carbon, came to be involved with a company called World Wide Carbon – and subsequently Compass Carbon:
In 2017 World Wide Carbon was an apparently reputable business involved in buying carbon credits, reverifying them, wrapping them with Lloyds of London insurance and re-selling them through the cap-and-trade auction. An old friend and associate of Mr. Kurt Kaiser’s was an investor in World Wide Carbon who had raised close to two million dollars of investment in the company from friends and family. This associate invited Mr Kaiser to become involved in selling carbon credits to Mr Kaiser’s contacts, predominantly in the oil industry. Mr Kaiser brought in Mr Brad Upham, who was active in the coal industry, Mr Shayne Reeb, very experienced in the carbon industry, and Mr Todd Jones, a Georgia state attorney with years of carbon industry experience. Together they formed a group whose initial intention was to sell carbon credits to their contacts in the oil, coal and energy industries.
Todd Jones was listed as “Lead Counsel” on Compass Carbon’s website. On 21 December 2020, REDD-Monitor wrote to Todd Jones to ask him about his role in the company. Jones replied that he had not given permission for his name to be used. “I will ask them to remove my name,” he wrote. And very soon afterwards his name was removed from Compass Carbon’s website.
So let’s see if I’ve got this right. A bunch of US-based carbon traders and fossil fuel entrepreneurs got together to sell carbon credits to their mates in the oil, coal, and energy industries.
Unfortunately, their due diligence failed to uncover the fact that two people involved in the company they joined, World Wide Carbon, were involved in a carbon credit investment scam.
On 1 December 2020, Mark Loewen, the director of World Wide Carbon, pleaded guilty. One of the court documents is a “Statement of Facts”, the first paragraph of which states that,
The United States and the defendant, MARK HAROLD LOEWEN, agree that the allegations in Count One of the Indictment and the following facts are true and correct, and that had this matter proceeded to trial, the United States would have proven each of them beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Statement of Facts goes on to state that,
World Wide Carbon LLC through LOEWEN, McLarty, and other agents, told investors that their funds would be invested in the carbon offset credit market. In truth and fact, as LOEWEN well knew, LOEWEN, McLarty, and another representative spent almost all of the WORLD WIDE CARBON LLC investor funds on purposes other than buying carbon offset credits.
World Wide Carbon promised rates of return from 5 to 20%. The Statement of Facts notes that, “Any funds returned to investors came from other investors’ funds.”
The Statement of Facts also states that Lloyd’s of London was not in fact involved:
World Wide Carbon LLC, through LOEWEN, McLarty, and other agents, told investors that their investments would have reduced risk because of a reinsurance policy Lloyd’s of London. In truth and fact, as LOEWEN well knew, he and others had met with a domestic insurance broker and worked out the details of a policy, but no Lloyd’s of London policies had been issued in relation to World Wide Carbon LLC investments.
The carbon traders and fossil fuel entrepreneurs are keen to point out that the scam had fizzled out by the time they got involved in the company, and the Department of Justice did not contact them in relation to the investigation into the two scammers. They set up a new company called Compass Carbon.
Compass Carbon is now threatening to sue REDD-Monitor for calling them “carbon credit fraudsters”. In fact REDD-Monitor has done no such thing.
A timeline of REDD-Monitor’s reporting on Compass Carbon
18 December 2020: REDD-Monitor wrote about a company called World Wide Carbon LLC and its director Mark H. Lowen. On 1 December 2020, Loewen pleaded guilty to defrauding investors in a carbon credit scam.
At the end of the post, I wrote that the website of a company called Compass Carbon was almost identical to World Wide Carbon’s website. The company was registered (anonymously) in Wyoming one day after Loewen pleaded guilty. And a key difference in the two companies’ websites was the absence of Loewen on Compass Carbon’s website.
19 December 2020: Kurt Kaiser, a partner in Compass Carbon, LLC, wrote to REDD-Monitor. He wrote, in part:
Your article was of great concern to us as it seems to imply that Compass Carbon, LLC is somehow currently connected with Mark Loewen. Let me state in no uncertain terms that this is not the case. . . .
The one member of Compass Carbon who was working with WWC prior to that date was involved primarily in raising friends and family investment for Worldwide Carbon. He raised over $1.7 million and the entirety of his family’s investment was lost. His relatives are in fact all listed as victims on the DOJ victims report and was in no way involved in any of Mark Loewen’s fraudulent activities. This partner of Compass Carbon and his family have in fact suffered the most by Mark Loewen’s illegal activities.
Kaiser asked REDD-Monitor to “please revise your article to remove any suggestion that Compass Carbon is in any way affiliated with Mark Loewen”.
21 December 2020: Kaiser wrote again, this time threatening legal action against REDD-Monitor. “Be advised that time is of the essence!” he wrote.
22 December 2020: REDD-Monitor posted Kaiser’s two responses, along with some questions for Kaiser. One of the questions reads as follows:
Could you please explain why you think that my post about World Wide Carbon implies that “Compass Carbon, LLC is somehow currently connected with Mark Loewen”. My post clearly states that “Mark Loewen is not listed as a team member” of Compass Carbon.
I’m pretty sure that this question explains that my intention was not to imply a link between Compass Carbon and Mark Loewen. It also gives Kaiser the opportunity to describe in his own words just how far apart Compass Carbon and Mark Loewen actually are.
Another one of my questions asks for details of the “750 domestic and international carbon credit projects” that Compass Carbon claims on its website that the company and its team have completed. I asked for details of the company’s IFM (improved forestry management) projects and whether they were registered with standards organisations (such as Verra).
But Kaiser did not reply to any of the questions.
22 December 2020: Kaiser wrote to REDD-Monitor. He didn’t answer any of my questions, but he did threaten legal action again. “Under no uncertain terms, we have contacted a very prominent London solicitor,” Kaiser wrote, “and we have a very strong defamation case against you.”
23 December 2020: REDD-Monitor posted Kaiser’s email. That post ended with the following statement:
The first post includes just three sentences about Compass Carbon. If any inaccuracies were to be pointed out to me in any of these three sentences, I would be happy to correct them. Kaiser has so far not pointed out any inaccuracies. The second post consists of emails from Kaiser and my questions to Kaiser (so far unanswered). Again, if any inaccuracies were to be pointed out to me, I would be happy to correct them.
12 April 2021: London-based solicitors acting on behalf of Compass Carbon wrote to REDD-Monitor. The solicitors’ letter accuses me of “recklessly branding our clients criminal fraudsters”. It describes what I wrote about Compass Carbon as a “smear”. And it states that I have a “cynical indifference to the truth”.
But nowhere in any of the three posts that mention Carbon Compass does REDD-Monitor accuse Compass Carbon of being carbon fraudsters.
Referring to the fact that REDD-Monitor posted Kaiser’s response to the first post on REDD-Monitor that mentions Compass Carbon, the solicitors’ letter states that,
You published his email in a separate, second article on a different webpage, in no way revising or qualifying or explaining your libelous reference to our client in the first article. As a result, it remains there to be read by readers who may or may not read the second article.
In fact, on 22 December 2020, I posted an update to the first post to include a link to Kaiser’s response and my questions. Here’s a screenshot of the update – the link to Kaiser’s response is very clear:
This is clearly an example of libel tourism. Compass Carbon is a US-based company. REDD-Monitor is not based in the UK. While the website is available for people in the UK to read, I think Compass Carbon and its solicitors would be surprised to learn how few people have viewed the posts about Compass Carbon, in the UK or anywhere else. More people have read the two posts about Kurt Kaiser’s responses than have read the original post.
Compass Carbon’s solicitors describe REDD-Monitor as “an influential website”. I wish.
One of the purposes of REDD-Monitor is to counter the insane idea that we can offset emissions from burning fossil fuels against stories about emissions that didn’t happen as a result of “avoided deforestation” or other equally nonsensical offsetting mechanisms.
Despite my best efforts, carbon offsetting is booming. To give just one example, REDD-Monitor recently described Mark Carney’s Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets as “madness”. The Taskforce, unfortunately, completely ignored REDD-Monitor’s opinion. Mark Carney continues his pursuit of ever more voluntary carbon trading. Madness.
Compass Carbon’s demands
The solicitors’ letter states that,
Our clients are not interested in providing you with further material for your website in the form of revised versions of what has been published already. The first article must be taken down in its entirety or all references to Compass Carbon and/or to its personnel on that webpage must be removed. The second article must be taken down in its entirety.
Then I’m supposed to post an apology to Compass Carbon on REDD-Monitor, pay legal costs, and “a reasonable sum in damages”.
For some reason, the solicitors’ letter makes no mention the third post on REDD-Monitor that mentions Compass Carbon. That’s the one with the headline, “Another response from Kurt Kaiser, Compass Carbon: ‘All of Mark Loewen’s illegal activities occurred prior to us working with Worldwide Carbon. We had no involvement or knowledge whatsoever in any Mark Loewen’s activities that resulted in his conviction’”.
REDD-Monitor’s statements of fact about Compass Carbon
A look at the three sentences about Compass Carbon from the first post on REDD-Monitor, dated 12 December 2020, reveals that they are simply statements of fact.
The solicitors’ letter argues that REDD-Monitor’s first post “is clearly not suggesting” that the events described were coincidental. In fact, I give no opinion about whether they were coincidental or not.
Let’s look at each one in turn:
The day after Loewen pleaded guilty in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a company called Compass Carbon LLC was registered in Wyoming.
Compass Carbon’s website was registered anonymously on 9 November 2020.
That is another statement of fact, as this screenshot of the Whois Record shows:
Compass Carbon’s website is almost identical to World Wide Carbon’s website. In one of his emails to REDD-Monitor, Kaiser acknowledges that, “You are correct to observe that the website and that many of the team members listed on the Compass Carbon website are the same and the website has a similar look and feel. The reason for this is that I paid for the website in 2018 and I took it with me when we created Compass Carbon.”
The statement that “Mark Loewen is not listed as a team member” is another simple statement of fact. Here’s a screenshot of part of the Team Members page on World Wide Carbon’s website:
And a screenshot of the same part of the Team Members page on Compass Carbon’s website:
The translated versions of the website haven’t been updated recently. The text refers to Loewen’s involvement in Worldwide Carbon. The French page about the team members is in English. And Todd Jones is listed as a member of the team, despite asking to have his name removed from the website back in December 2020. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for Loewen’s inclusion on Compass Carbon’s website.