Elizabeth Warren Presses Consulting Firms to Disclose Saudi Arabia Work
(Bloomberg) -- Senator Elizabeth Warren is stepping up pressure on large consulting firms to disclose the work they do related to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a letter dated Wednesday to the chief executive officers of Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte Consulting LLP, the Massachusetts Democrat said the Saudi government’s conduct in the Khashoggi matter prompted her request.
“Given the kingdom’s recent actions, your firms’ continued business relationships with this government appear to be inconsistent not only with American values but with your stated principles,” Warren wrote.
She added that the Saudi role in the Yemen civil war, in which thousands of civilians have died, also influenced her decision to contact the consulting firms.
Khashoggi, a former palace insider turned critic, was strangled at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and his body dismembered, the city’s chief prosecutor has said. Turkey has stopped just short of blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who runs the affairs of the kingdom day to day.
Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally and a crucial player in President Donald Trump’s strategy to contain Iran, has vehemently denied that the crown prince had any knowledge of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death. The Saudi authorities initially asserted that he had left the consulate unharmed, then said Khashoggi died in an interrogation that had gone wrong.
Warren’s letter outlined the ways the U.S.-based firms have consulted on issues involving improving the crown prince’s image, assisting the Saudi army and helping the Riyadh government diversify its oil-dependent economy. She cited the firms’ materials and public records on the topic as evidence.
Warren, who was re-elected last week, wrote in the letter that Washington-based Booz Allen and the Boston Consulting Group, based in her state, have “placed some limits on their work for the Saudi government.”
Last month, Warren sent McKinsey & Co. a similar letter requesting that it answer a list of questions about the nature of the company’s work for the Saudis. McKinsey said it was working to provide answers but didn’t give a deadline for doing so.
In the latest request, Warren asked each company: for electronically searchable forms of all contracts with the Saudi government from the last five years; the amount of payments received; and whether they plan to continue offering consulting services to the Saudi government or institutions associated with it.
The senator also asked if the consulting firms had a risk management process for taking on business from foreign governments that could possibly lead to human rights abuses. She set a deadline of Nov. 30.
The New York Times reported last month that McKinsey prepared a nine-page report in 2015 on reaction within the kingdom to government austerity measures, which included traffic on social media. Some social media users who were thought to be driving negative comments were later arrested or had their online accounts shut down, according to the Times.
Booz Allen Hamilton spokeswoman Jessica Klenk said the firm hadn’t yet received the letter and couldn’t comment. Boston Consulting Group said in a statement it received the letter and is reviewing it. Deloitte didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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