Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition Members Respond to Climate Votes at Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo Shareholder Meetings
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Contact: Arielle Swernoff, [email protected]
New York, New York – Shareholder meetings at Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo this morning demonstrated that Wall Street is simply incapable of appropriately managing or responding to the climate crisis and climate risk on its own. At these meetings, a majority of shareholders voted against several climate and Indigenous rights resolutions, demonstrating what most people know: Wall Street is a broken system. While some investors bucked the status quo, major shareholders, including BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity, and State Street, Wall Street banks and insurance companies, as well as, in all likelihood, many large public pension funds, once again chose to ignore their own stated climate commitments, and what science clearly requires to protect against the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
At the same time, nearly 30% of investors supported requiring Bank of America to release a 2030 climate transition plan, and 31% of investors at Citi supported a resolution requiring the bank to release a report detailing how effective its policies and practices are at respecting Indigenous human rights. Even within a broken system, some number of investors, representing tens of billions of dollars in capital, stood up to the status quo.
“Some bank investors understand the critical link between cash and carbon and don’t want money funding the climate crisis. But we are operating within a broken system, which is clearly failing to hold banks to account. Asset managers and banks continue to pump money into fossil fuel companies hell-bent on destroying our planet. This is duplicitousness at the highest level,” said Amy Gray, Senior Climate Finance Strategist at Stand.Earth.
“Big investors are ignoring science and the needs of frontline communities, protecting the status quo over the changes needed to protect people and planet from climate disaster. A transition is coming one way or another: banks and their investors can help make it orderly and just, or they can pretend they don’t see what’s coming as they drive the planet off a cliff. Investors who voted against these resolutions should expect to have a hard time sleeping at night with the knowledge that their misplaced greed will lead to climate destruction and chaos,” said Alec Connon, Stop the Money Pipeline coalition co-director.
In the lead up to this week’s annual general meetings, banks put out greenwashing and misleading proxy statements. For example, Citi claimed it did not help finance Enbridge’s Line 3 and Line 5 pipelines as they did not provide specific project financing when these pipelines were financed out of general corporate financing.
In addition, Wall Street is incestuous: banks are owned by other banks and financial actors, who likely voted in line with management at their peers. For example, asset managers Vanguard, Blackrock, and State Street, and banks JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, hold over 24% of shares at Citi. If these companies are trying to block accountability by shareholders at their own annual general meetings, they are hardly going to support similar resolutions at Citi’s.
In addition, Bank of America representatives at this morning’s shareholder meeting said that shareholder resolutions related to climate “don’t really impact” how they run the company, exhibiting immense disdain for the millions of people impacted, both directly and indirectly, by the bank’s financing of fossil fuel projects.
While the resolutions were publicly supported by New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third largest pension fund in the country, via their exempt solicitation filing, three of New York City’s pensions and Seattle’s funds, and asset manager Legal & General, many public pension funds are likely to have voted no, in dereliction of their fiduciary duty. The climate crisis, and continued investment in fossil fuel expansion, directly threatens both the financial and physical well-being of public sector workers.
Analysis from Ceres and the Transition Pathways Initiative Centre found that none of the US banks have 2030 targets sufficient to align their oil and gas targets with 1.5°C pathways. A new Banking on Climate Chaos report found that the top 8 North American banks have provided over USD $2 trillion since the Paris Agreement, approximately 29% of which has been provided since 2021, the year the banks joined the Net Zero Banking Alliance. Since 2016, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America have consistently been among the top 5 financiers of companies engaging in fossil fuel expansion.
Preceding the AGMs, climate activists planned a coordinated shut down of the Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America headquarters. In San Francisco, activists dropped a large banner in front of Wells Fargo with the text, “Danger: This Bank Engages in Climate Destruction,” preventing executives and employees from accessing their headquarters for several hours. In Charlotte, faith leaders staged a die-in in front of Bank of America causing a lock down of their headquarters. In New York, hundreds of activists rallied in front of Citi’s headquarters, then occupied the plaza in front of their building overnight ahead of the AGMs. If banks continue to finance fossil fuel expansion, they can expect more protests of this caliber.
“While just over a third of Citi shareholders continue to support evaluating its policies and impacts on Indigenous peoples, it’s saddening and maddening to see the numbers drop a few points as our homelands are destroyed across the globe. These are not uninformed people, they are folks who hold an incredible amount of influence on social discourse and outcomes that impact all life. Hiding behind jargon and polite rooms are actions they choose as the world’s finite freshwater is irreparably harmed. They didn’t stop Enbridge Line 3 tar sands from crossing the Mississippi River headwaters; they can still stop Line 5 and protect the Great Lakes,” said Tara Houska from the Giniw Collective.
“The six largest U.S. banks – JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley – are among the largest fossil fuel financiers in the world. By way of example, they poured $44 billion into the top methane gas (also called liquefied natural gas or LNG) export and import companies in the last six years alone. Yet, as communities of color are literally fighting for our lives on the frontlines of the climate crisis, U.S banks continue funding the fossil fuel industry. These banks target communities, like mine, treating us as collateral damage to corporate profiteering. In the last 7 years Citibank has poured billions into the industries that are killing us, killing our children, poisoning our air and water, and tearing our communities apart. When will enough be enough. When will Citibank put people before profit. Our communities can’t take it anymore,” said Roishetta Ozane- Gulf Fossil Finance Coordinator for Texas Campaign for the Environment and Executive Director of The Vessel Project of Louisiana.
“Once again, these financial institutions prioritize profit over people and our planet. Pollution from fossil fuels worsens the effects of climate change, and together they create a destructive loop that disproportionately impacts the well-being of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Black people are also exposed to more pollution than any other group from every type of source, including agriculture, construction, and vehicles. Making Black people more susceptible to compromised immune systems, cancer, and asthma due to toxic waste and oil, coal, and gas infrastructure in our communities. We must continue to use all the financial levers of power to shift financial capital away from industries causing harm and toward communities that hold the solutions,” said Stephone M Coward II, Economic Justice and Paid in Full Campaigns Director at the Hip Hop Caucus.
“Investors have once again failed to align their voting with their stated positions on climate-related financial risk. Stewardship is central to many investors’ own net-zero commitments, so it’s alarming that investors — including the biggest institutional investors like BlackRock and Vanguard — continue to choose a hands-off approach to climate risk mitigation. Investors sent the message that banks need to disclose transition plans for meeting their near-term targets, but it remains clear that banks’ current targets and policies are not sufficient and must be strengthened. As the climate crisis worsens, investors must move beyond calls for disclosure only and demand companies take real steps to align their business practices with their stated climate commitments,” said Jessye Waxman, Senior Campaign Representative in the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign.