Banking

Bank of America CEO on gun violence: 'We have to help.'

Brian Moynihan, Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2017.
Brian Moynihan, Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2017. AP

At Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, CEO Brian Moynihan stood firm on his company's decision to stop serving some gun makers in the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

During the question-and-answer session, a shareholder asked Moynihan how much business the bank was giving up because of its decision to stop lending to manufacturers of military-style guns sold for civilian use. The shareholder — Justin Danhof, director of a group called the Free Enterprise Project — noted that renowned investor Warren Buffett has said he wouldn't take a similar action.

Moynihan didn't provide any financial figures, but said the bank's support services group has worked with about 150 employees directly affected by the shootings. "This comes from our teammates saying we have to help," he said.

Later in the meeting, another shareholder said he was proud to be a shareholder because of the company's decision.

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The comments around gun policy sparked perhaps the most drama in an efficient, one-hour meeting in which bank executives promoted the company's "responsible growth" strategy.

In a video montage, director Frank Bramble Sr. described the bank's approach in Everyman terms: "We’re not going to do anything crazy to the customer, and we’re not going to do anything crazy for the customer."

After Bank of America suffered big losses on bad home loans during the financial crisis, its current strategy has been paying off lately. The Charlotte bank racked up $18 billion in net income in 2017 — its biggest profit since 2006 — and is on pace to make even more this year, with an assist from the federal tax overhaul.

At Wednesday's meeting, shareholders showed their approval, re-electing all directors, backing executive pay packages and voting down a proposal to separate the CEO and chairman roles held by Moynihan.

In other notable moments Wednesday:

Protesters briefly interrupted the proceedings, calling on the bank to stop providing financing for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project over environmental concerns. "Save our grandchildren," one protester shouted as security escorted him from the room.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, in town for Bank of America's annual meeting, emphasized access capital, jobs that pay, affordable housing and healthcare in helping to improve upward mobility in Charlotte.

Civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson called on the bank to do more to help impoverished communities. "The bank has recovered, but many people have not," Jackson said of the financial crisis.

Moynihan said he and his team accepted the challenge to "keep making progress."


Correction

This story has been corrected from an earlier version to say that Bank of America has worked with about 150 employees who were directly affected by recent shootings.


Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker


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