Tag Articles: Bank of America

MSN Money: Shareholder Spring? Protesters Roil Annual Meetings

The Fiscal Times/MSN Money recently ran a story on how shareholders and protesters are paying more attention to annual shareholder meetings.

“ In Charlotte, city officials braced themselves for the biggest turnout of protesters yet, as Bank of America held its own annual meeting Wednesday and hundreds of protesters gathered outside the banks’ headquarters.”, writes Suzanne McGee.

“To a growing number of investors, the definition of acting in the best interests of a company’s shareholders is changing, slowly but steadily, as is that of what constitutes an acceptable return on their investment. It’s no longer enough to generate outsize returns if they come at the expense of the environment, human rights or other “social responsibility” issues. More investors are putting money into funds like those run by Trillium Asset Management, which in turn is urging support for “no political spending” shareholder proposals like that coming up for debate today at Bank of America”, McGee continues.

The entire article can be read here

Huffington Post: Bank of America Targeted By Protesters and Investors

Prior to Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting, The Huffington Post has been reporting on Trillium’s shareholder resolution that calls on the company to adopt a policy prohibiting the use of corporate funds for any political election or campaign.

“In recent years, significant percentages of shareholders at some large companies have voted to require their firms to provide increased disclosure about the extent of their political donations, although none of these resolutions have passed to date. And Trillium views its more aggressive proposal to get BofA to end all political spending as intimately connected with a campaign pressuring the SEC to require disclosure.

‘For the better part of the last decade, we’ve seen consistent and increasingly strong shareholder votes on political spending proposals,’ said Shelley Alpern, Vice President of Shareholder Advocacy for Trillium. A growing number of investors consider this area to be a material factor in evaluating the financial worth a company and the strength of its governance mechanisms. Investors will be better off when the SEC requires disclosure from all publicly traded companies. Companies deserve a level playing field and investors need the information.”

The entire article can be read here.

Newsweek Columnist: Getting Money Out of Politics is Good for Business

Rob Cox, U.S. editor for Reuters Breakingviews, highlights Trillium’s advocacy work on corporate political spending in his recent Newsweek column. 

Cox writes “[I]t will be up to citizen shareholders to blunt the impact of Citizens United. They can start on Tuesday in St. Paul and Wednesday in Charlotte when the shareholders of 3M and BofA, respectively, gather. They’ll be voting on proposals submitted by Trillium Asset Management of Boston to ‘request that the board of directors adopt a policy prohibiting the use of corporate funds for any political election or campaign.’”

You can read the entire column here.

Trillium Asset Management Solicits Shareholder Support for “No Political Spending” Proposals at Bank of America, 3M

As the annual stockholder meetings of 3M and Bank of America approach next week, Trillium Asset Management has reached out to shareholders seeking their support for our shareholder proposals at the two companies. The proposals call upon the companies to cease making all types of political contributions, both directly and indirectly through third-party vehicles. Read the full press release here.

On 2nd Anniversary of Citizens United, Trillium, Green Century Capital Management & Advocacy Groups Launch Drive to Stem Corporate Political Spending

On the second anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Trillium Asset Management, LLC and Green Century Capital Management announce that they have filed shareholder resolutions at three companies, Bank of America, 3M & Target Corporation, urging them to refrain from making political donations in the future. This is the first time institutional shareholders have asked corporations to entirely refrain from political spending.

Read more here

Prohibit Political Spending From Corporate Treasury Funds – Bank of America (2012)

WHEREAS:

Political spending and corporate money in politics is a highly contentious issue, made more prominent in light of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case that affirmed companies’ rights to make unlimited political expenditures to independent groups. In the 2012 election year, we expect even more media and public attention to corporate spending to influence elections. Experts predict that an unprecedented amount of money will be spent in the 2012 election season.

Recent polls highlight the public’s disapproval. In a June 2010 Harris poll, 85% of voters said that corporations “have too much influence over the political system today….” In February 2010, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 80% opposed Citizens United, noting, “the bipartisan nature of these views is striking in these largely partisan times.”

Corporate political contributions can backfire on a corporation’s reputation and bottom line. In 2010, Target and Valero received unwanted attention, consumer boycotts, and protests for their support of controversial candidates and ballot measures. In a Harris Poll released in October 2010, a sizable portion (46)% of respondents indicated that if there were option, they would shop elsewhere if they learned that a business they patronized had contributed to a candidate or a cause that they oppose.

According to the Institute for Money in State Politics, Bank of America’s political spending on the state and federal levels totaled over $2.1 million in 2007-2008. However, this figure does not include payments to trade associations or other tax-exempt organizations that may channel corporate money to political ends.

Many trade associations that receive corporate contributions spend vast sums in electoral politics; these payments are not required to be disclosed. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pledged to spend between $50 and $75 million in the 2010 election season, and announced that it would work to unseat any member of Congress who voted for healthcare reform.  According to Public Citizen, only 32% of groups broadcasting electioneering communications in the 2010 primary season revealed the identities of donors in their Federal Election Commission filings, down from nearly 100 percent in the 2004 and 2006 cycles.

Increasingly, companies such as IBM, Colgate Palmolive, Wells Fargo and others are adopting policies prohibiting spending of political funds directly or indirectly to influence elections.

Given the risks and potential negative impact on shareholder value, the proponents believe Bank of America should adopt a policy to refrain from using treasury funds in the political process.

RESOLVED:

The shareholders request that the board of directors adopt a policy prohibiting the use of corporate funds for any political election or campaign.

SUPPORTING STATEMENT:

We believe this policy should include any direct or indirect contribution that is intended to influence the outcome of an election or referendum. It should also prohibit the use of trade associations or non-profit corporations from channeling our company’s contributions or membership dues to influence the outcome of any election or referendum.

Bank of America – Mountain Top Removal Mining

WHEREAS

Bank of America (BAC) recognizes that its ability to attract and retain customers and employees could be adversely affected “to the extent our reputation is damaged” and that “failure to address, or to appear to fail to address various issues” could damage the Corporation and its business prospects (2005 Annual Report).

BAC also recognizes that:

  • The company’s health is dependent on the health of communities and our society;
  • Climate change and atmospheric pollution represent a risk to the ultimate stability and sustainability of our way of life; and
  • Every part of our business has a potential impact on our environment.

(http://www.bankofamerica.com/environment/index.cfm?template=env_clichangepos)

As a leading financial institution, BAC implemented a goal of reducing direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its facilities by 9% and indirect GHGs within its energy and utility portfolio by 7%. However, BAC’s greatest impact on climate change and the environment arises from its financing of businesses and activities such as coal mining that emit substantial greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane) and other pollutants.

Mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining, in particular, has serious adverse impacts on communities, the environment, and public health. MTR causes massive environmental devastation. Forests are clear-cut, the tops of mountains blasted away to reveal coal seams and the rubble dumped in the valleys below, filling streams and destroying water resources.

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency (EPA) found that approximately 1,200 miles of headwater streams in the Appalachian coal region (or 2% of the streams in the study area) were directly impacted by MTR. (http://www.epa.gov/region3/mtntop/index.htm)

Recently, EPA placed 79 MTR projects on hold to review of the permits due to concerns about water quality and environmental health.  (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=email_en&sid=aJjhGdHTDUH4)

Between 1992 and 2012, EPA estimates MTR will have destroyed approximately 7% of Appalachian forests in coal mining regions studied. (http://www.epa.gov/Region3/mtntop/pdf/mtm-vf_fpeis_full-document.pdf)

Deforestation is the second leading source of GHG emissions worldwide. (http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/service/gallery/fact_sheets/earthsci/green.htm)

Old growth forests, like those found in Appalachia, are important carbon sinks that store atmospheric carbon dioxide.  The carbon in forests destroyed by MTR each year roughly equals the annual emissions from two 800-megawatt coal-fired power plants.

RESOLVED

Shareholders request that BAC’s Board publish a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, by October 2010, describing (i) the implementation of its policy barring funding of companies engaged predominantly in MTR and an assessment of the efficacy of the policy in reducing GHG emissions and in protecting BAC’s reputation; and (ii) assessing the probable impact on GHG emissions and environmental harm to Appalachia of expanding the policy to bar project financing for all MTR projects.

SUPPORTING STATEMENT

Recognizing the particularly damaging impacts of MTR, BAC adopted a policy that bars it from financing companies “whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountaintop removal.”  However, BAC hasn’t reported on how this policy has impacted its lending.  Furthermore, unless the policy is broadened by barring all “project financing” for MTR projects, we doubt that it will significantly impact on the environmental concerns caused by MTR.

2008 Advocacy Review

For our 2008 advocacy efforts, we’re pleased to report a fair amount of progress — never as much as we’d like (we’d like superhero powers), but enough to confirm that shareholder activism remains a potent tool for change.

Climate change. Our shareholder resolution at ConocoPhillips requesting a report on the environmental and social impacts of tar sands drilling won almost 28% of the vote, an impressive vote in this arena. Our resolution at Bank of America addressing its financing of coal-fired power plants and mountaintop coal removal was deemed inadmissible by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but we eventually sat down with bank officials to express our displeasure in a more intimate setting. Our takeaway: don’t expect BAC to stop funding these projects any time soon, even while it invests more and more in less carbon-intensive projects. Alliant Energy agreed to our request to report publicly on its efforts to incent customers to reduce their energy use, leading us to withdraw a resolution.

Human Rights. We co-filed a resolution led by our friends at Domini Social Investments at Nucor after media reports linked the company’s supply chain to forced labor. Nucor agreed to implement a formal policy and code of conduct expressing opposition to forced labor, and to dialogue with us on how to best report to shareholders on this issue, leading us to withdraw. We also spent time in conversation with Talbots, Target, Liz Claiborne, Nike, Gap and Jones Apparel on how their purchasing practices put pressure on their suppliers that can lead to a higher risk of labor violations.

Experts on the genocide in Darfur have declared that if anyone has any influence over the Sudanese government that is perpetrating the atrocities, it would be China. China sells arms to the government, and two Chinese oil companies operating in Sudan provide major revenues. Since we don’t own shares in any of the Chinese or other foreign firms in Sudan (and US firms are prohibited by sanctions), we’re talking to their investment bankers and investors on Wall Street. This last year we filed resolutions with Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and JP Morgan Chase. We withdrew at Morgan Stanley and Merrill after constructive dialogues on diminishing the risks they incur from these relationships. Our resolution at JP Morgan received 7.7%, enough for us to proceed with a re-filing should it prove necessary.

Political contributions transparency. How much corporate trade association money is being diverted to ads and groups that are shaping the election this year? No one knows for sure, but it could run to the hundreds of millions, according to the Center for Political Accountability. In 2008, our resolution at Procter & Gamble prompted the company to commit to greater transparency, while Ford Motor and General Motors remained resistant despite resolutions.

Employment nondiscrimination. We withdrew a resolution at Pentair after the company agreed to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy. Our resolution at Expeditors International on the same drew 52% in support – and a strange silence from company management and the Board of Directors. Perhaps they’re waiting for a super-majority, or just like flouting the will of their shareholders. We’ll re-file and let you know.

Environmental Justice. Chevron‘s shareholders defeated our resolution addressing the strength of the company’s global environmental standards in light of its issues in Ecuador, Nigeria and elsewhere. The good news, however, is a major break in the multibillion-dollar lawsuit Chevron faces in Ecuador for Texaco’s widespread rainforest pollution. After more than a decade, the company has finally agreed to explore a settlement.

After persistent nudging, Toyota Motor Corporation is starting to take seriously the contradiction between its supposed boycott of Burma, and the Burmese involvement of the independent company Toyota Tsusho that has a distributorship in that country. As this progresses, as the saying goes, you’ll read it hear first.

Big Coal Losing Momentum in the U.S.

Poor coal. For so long, it has gotten away with being the largest contributor (41 percent) to global CO2 emissions from energy use, a widespread public health hazard by virtue of lead, mercury and other pollutants, the source of black lung disease, and now we can add deforestation to its achievements. “Coal will be coal,” they said. “Isn’t it great that it’s cheap and abun­dant?” Coal claims that it’s now clean and has offered to change its ways by burying its carbon instead of spewing it all over the atmosphere, but its persecutors have obtained restraining or­ders and are bent on keeping it out of the house.

According to Coal Moratorium Now! and the Rainforest Ac­tion Network (RAN), fifty-nine coal plants (of more than 150 proposed between 2000 and 2006) were cancelled or shelved in 2007. Carbon emissions played a role in at least 15 cancel­lations, and coal plants disappeared entirely from some utili­ties’ long-range plans due to increasing regulatory scrutiny of long-range integrated resource plans. In some states, regulators are starting to favor utility-scale renewables over coal. Inter­estingly, more plants have been abandoned by their sponsors than rejected outright by regulators, courts or local authorities. Rising construction costs, insufficient financing or lack of sub­sidies and even lower demand estimates were contributing fac­tors along with climate change.

At Trillium Asset Management Corporation, it’s always been our policy not to invest in mining companies, and we try to avoid holding electric power companies that favor coal over cleaner sources of energy. But fortunately our hands are not tied when it comes to advocacy. As my colleague Lauren McLean writes about in this issue (see p. 10), we’ve used our voice at Alliant Energy to promote greater development of energy efficiency incentives. We’re also on Bank of America‘s case. The Ceres member has received a lot of praise for being the first bank to adopt an “intensity” (reduction per unit) GHG target for its energy and utility lending portfolio; its goal is to realize a 7 percent decrease by 2008 from a 2004 benchmark. It is on its way to meeting that goal. So what’s wrong with this picture? It’s simple. Reductions per unit are all well and good, unless overall (“absolute”) emissions are going up – as Bank of America’s did by 11 percent between 2005 and 2007.

The company has refused to answer shareholders’ questions as to why this is. Could it have something to do with RAN’s re­search identifying the Bank as one of the top financiers of coal power plants? We’re starting to wonder if the kudos Bank of America is getting for its intensity reduction goals isn’t a little like patting a dieter on the back for reducing calories per meal even as he eats so many meals that he’s put on 11 percent more pounds since 2005.

This metaphorical epiphany was one of the motives behind our shareholder resolution calling on the Bank to embrace a moratorium on financing coal-fired power plants and coal min­ing by means of mountain top removal (MTR). A moratorium on building new coal plants is a radical idea that’s increasingly supported by non-radicals, such as the U.S. public. Seventy-five percent of American adults would support a five-year morato­rium on new coal plants if funding for renewable alternatives was increased and efficiency standards were tightened.1

Mountain top removal is a double whammy on the climate front. The method clear-cuts forests and blasts away mountain tops to extract coal. The rubble is dumped in the valleys below, filling streams and destroying water resources. Between 1992 and 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that MTR will have destroyed approximately 7 percent of Ap­palachian forests in coal mining regions studied.

Over 110 coal-fired electrical generating plants and synfuels plants are currently under construction or in the planning pro­cess. In addition to bearing their share of ethical responsibility for the disaster that is coal, those that finance it assume addi­tional financial risk due to rising construction costs for coal plants and the eventual attachment of a price tag for emitting carbon (which Bank of America recently estimated at $20-$40 a ton in the absence of federal regulation).

Coal enthusiasts insist that capturing and storing car­bon underground will solve the GHG problem, but as a new report from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsi­bility observes, these technologies are untested at actual plant-scale sizes.2

Bank of America successfully petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude our proposal from the proxy ballot. However, Citigroup’s shareholders will vote on a similar resolution filed by Boston Common Asset Management. Vote Yes on Proposal 9. Coal is a bad investment.

Notes

1. “A Post Fossi-Fuel America: Are Americans Ready to Make the Shift?” opinion survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, October 18, 2007.

2. ICCR and Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., The Risks Of Investing In New Coal-Fired Generating Facilities, p. 29.

Bank of America – Moritorium on Coal Financing

WHEREAS

Bank of America (BOA) is a diversified financial services company providing banking,investment, investment banking, credit card and consumer finance services.BOA recognizes that its ability to attract and retain customers and employees could be adversely affected “to the extent our reputation is damaged” and that “failure to address, or to appear to fail to address various issues” could damage the Corporation and its business prospects. (2005 Annual Report)BOA also recognizes that:

  • The health of our company is dependent on the health of communities and our society;
  • Climate change and atmospheric pollution represent a risk to the ultimate stability and sustainability of our way of life; and
  • Every part of our business has a potential impact on our environment.

http://www.bankofamerica.com/environment/index.cfm?template=env_clichangepos

BOA’s greatest impact on climate change and the environment arises from its financing of businesses and activities, such as electric power generated from coal-burning plants, that emit substantial greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide) and other pollutants.

As a leading financial institution, BOA has adopted a goal of reducing direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its facilities by 9% and indirect GHGs within its energy & utility portfolio by 7%.

However, BOA continues to provide financing for companies engaged in mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining and for coal-fired electric power, which, in addition to having serious adverse impacts on communities, the environment, and public health, may also increase the long-term indirect GHG emissions within BOA’s portfolio.

MTR devastates the environment. Forests are clear-cut, the top of mountains blasted away to reveal coal seams and the rubble dumped in the valleys below, filling streams and destroying water resources. Between 1992 and 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates MTR will have destroyed approximately 7% of Appalachian forests in coal mining regions studied. (http://www.epa.gov/Region3/mtntop/pdf/mtm-vf_fpeis_full-document.pdf)

Deforestation is the second leading source of GHG emissions worldwide. (http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/service/gallery/fact_sheets/earthsci/green.htm)

The carbon in forests destroyed by MTR each year roughly equals the annual emissions from two 800 megawatt coal-fired power plants.

Coal-burning plants, which supply nearly half of U.S. electric power, are responsible for 80% of the nation’s GHG emissions from this sector. Technology for capturing and sequestering carbon from coal-burning plants is in the pilot stage and not widely available. Uncertainties remain regarding leakage and impact on underground water sources.

Coal plants also release most of the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and mercury, which harms reproductive health and mental development in children. (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html)

Dr. James Hansen, a leading climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center, has urged an immediate moratorium on the construction of new coal fired power plants in the U.S. as a priority to avoid triggering dangerous destabilization of the Earth’s climate systems. (http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/dots_feb2007.ppt)

RESOLVED

Shareholders request that BOA’s board of directors amend its GHG emissions policies to observe a moratorium on all financing, investment and further involvement in activities that support MTR coal mining or the construction of new coal-burning power plants that emit carbon dioxide.