A rising number of multinational banks are banning their employees from staying at hotels that are owned by the Sultan of Brunei, where adultery and homosexuality are deemed to be punishable by death.
Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and others — which are called to task by celebrities such as George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, and Elton John — have prohibited their employees from staying at properties that are owned by the Dorchester Collection hotel group, which is run by the Brunei state-owned investment agency. The ban includes luxury names such as the Dorchester and 45 Park Lane of London and the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air of Los Angeles.
The news was first reported by the Financial Times. A J.P. Morgan spokesperson confirmed the report during an interview with CNBC, however, it declined to comment further regarding the matter.
Early this month, Deutsche Bank announced its boycott of the properties that are owned by Brunei as a sign of support for LGBTQ rights. Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have confirmed that they are no longer using the Dorchester Group. According to Financial News Network, Jefferies, CitiGroup, Nomura, and Morgan Stanley have also prohibited their employees from staying at nine luxury hotels that are owned by the small, Southeast Asian nation.
In a statement, chief risk officer and member of the management board at Deutsche Bank, Stuart Lewis, said: “The new laws introduced by Brunei breach the most basic human rights, and we believe it is our duty as a firm to take action against them.”
It added: “We are proud to support LGBTIQ rights around the world, and as part of this we regularly review our business partnerships to ensure that they are aligned with this principle.”
Earlier this month, Brunei introduced some laws that make gay sex punishable by death by stoning. Rape, robbery, adultery, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, sodomy, and defamation or insult of the Prophet Muhammad are also banned from the country — and will be prosecuted the same way. Homosexuality has always been considered illegal in the small, oil-rich nation, however, the new, stricter Islamic laws introduce the death penalty as punishment.
As a response to the boycotts, the Dorchester Collection disclosed in a statement that they “understand people’s anger and frustration but this is a political and religious issue that we don’t believe should be played out in our hotels and amongst our 3,630 employees.”
George Clooney and Singer Elton John have both called for corporate boycotts. In a column that was published in Deadline last March, Clooney said that while you cannot shame “murderous regimes,” you can “shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”
The United Nations has also denounced the said laws. The Michelle Bachelet, the group’s Commissioner for Human Rights, called them inhumane and cruel punishments that breach international human rights law. According to Amnesty International, gay sex is considered a crime in 72 countries and punishable by death in eight, including Saudi Arabia.
However, according to AFP, a French news agency, in a recent interview Hassanal Bolkiah, the billionaire leader Sultan of Brunei who has an estimated fortune amounting to $20 billion, called for “stronger” Islamic teachings in the nation. The sultan has been in power since 1967.