An executive with one of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks said during an April 22 conference call that the cure for low oil prices was “to begin to reopen the economy and increase consumption,” according to audio of the call obtained by The Young Turks.
Supporters of reopening did not address in the call whether they assumed any specific public health precautions. Epidemiologists have warned against allowing non-essential business to reopen without measures such as widespread testing and contact tracing.
One participant on the call who supported reopening the economy has a long record as a climate-change skeptic, and currently lobbies on behalf of a group with its own history of climate-change denial that is backed by the fossil-fuel industry.
Concerns about oil companies driving political decision-making have stoked public ire in the past. "No Blood For Oil," for instance, was a rallying cry against the Iraq War.
Trump on Tuesday told ABC News that “it’s possible” there will be some deaths due to reopening.
The April 22 call, hosted by Morgan Stanley, featured a panel of five top officials from the law firm Akin Gump, including former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), former Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), and two former Republican Hill staffers. Akin Gump is also one of Washington's most influential lobbying shops.
The discussion came less than a week after Pres. Trump issued guidelines for states to reopen. As of Monday, most states reportedly had begun to ease restrictions, despite the lack of a drop in the number of new deaths or new infections.
Smith, who sat on the House Energy Committee, raised the prospect of reopening during the call, which was focused on potential federal aid for the oil industry. Now a lobbyist for Akin Gump, Smith said, “We have to increase the demand, and that means get the economy back on its feet.”
His remarks were seconded by Morgan Stanley Executive Director Devin McDermott in the following exchange:
Lamar Smith (Akin Gump): The problem we have, the crisis isn’t just one of over-production, it’s one of under-demand and we’re never gonna really solve the crisis, any form of the crisis, I don’t think, until we both reduce the impact it’s going to have on health care and the economy both. We have to increase the demand, and that means get the economy back on its feet, and we have to look out for the energy industry, which is so essential to our national security and so essential to our economic well-being.
Devin McDermott (Morgan Stanley): That’s very helpful. We definitely agree with your last point there, the underlying issue here, with what’s going on in oil markets, is really a demand issue and the demand’s not there to consume the fuel that we’re producing, and to really fix that sustainably, we need to begin to reopen the economy and increase consumption. The shorter-term Band-Aids are fixes that we’ve seen so far, such as the OPEC supply cut, that ultimately are positive on the margins but don’t fix the underlying issue.