Occupy and bank accountability activists have staged a major protest at Bank of America’s shareholder meeting today. This is the latest in a series of shareholder activism events that have gone hand in hand with the rebooting of the Occupy movement this spring. Direct challenges to the nation’s biggest corporations and financial institutions have often included legitimate efforts to constrain corporate power through shareholder resolutions, like the one that rejected pay packages for top executives at Citigroup last month.
As Zach Carter pointed out this morning, the BofA protests in Charlotte have also been seen as a type of dry run for the activist plans at the Democratic National Convention, to be held in the same city. And activists planned an inside-outside strategy:
Inside the Bank of America meeting, disgruntled shareholders — including Trillium Asset Management, the City of New York and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — will force votes on proposals that would curb the bank’s political spending and force it to review its foreclosure practices. Foreclosure victims are hoping to give testimony during the meeting.
Outside the meeting, protesters promise a boisterous slate of events to draw attention to Bank of America’s relationship with the federal government, the coal industry and its long record of foreclosure abuse. Occupy Atlanta’s Tim Franzen said there are three marches planned, each with its own theme: the bank’s environmental record, the housing crisis and corporate accountability issues. The marches will converge into one big protest.
This appears to have happened. Foreclosure victims did get inside the shareholder meeting and gave testimony to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, part of a coalition of around 100 activists. Shareholder activists attempted to submit a resolution forcing BofA to review its foreclosure practices and provide a public report to shareholders of that review. But none of the resolutions were accepted.
None of the shareholder proposals were approved, and all of the bank’s directors up for shareholder approval were given another term.
Bank of America’s executive compensation packages were approved with 92 percent of the shareholder vote.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the meeting, in a peaceful demonstration that included at least some arrests. Demonstrators eventually moved to Bank of America Stadium, where President Obama will accept the 2012 Democratic nomination for President.
Aaron Krager had good coverage outside the protest, while local North Carolina reporter Andrew Dunn had similarly good coverage from the inside. He says that the shareholder proposal that got the most support, around 30%, was on more disclosure of BofA lobbying practices. Also, Dunn writes that Moynihan said BofA “is still looking at putting Countrywide in bankruptcy, but didn’t elaborate.” The criticisms of the shareholder activists generated lots of applause, but didn’t break through on the resolutions. For now, BofA merely had to face the pressure. They have not yet been fully challenged by it.
It’s not a bad start, however. And for a company as vindictive as Bank of America, you have to start challenging them somewhere, even in the streets.
Progressive groups have scheduled a number of solidarity actions against Bank of America across the country today. There’s one in Los Angeles at noon.