Banking

Panthers’ game protest latest targeting Charlotte’s Bank of America

A protester hangs from a cable attached to the upper level during the Carolina Panthers vs Indianapolis Colts game on Monday.
A protester hangs from a cable attached to the upper level during the Carolina Panthers vs Indianapolis Colts game on Monday. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

A protest at Monday’s Carolina Panthers game targeting Bank of America and one of its corporate customers is just the latest in a long line of demonstrations aimed at the Charlotte-based bank.

In recent years, the nation’s No. 2 bank by assets has faced protests at its headquarters, annual shareholder meetings, branches and other venues over matters related to everything from foreclosures to its financing of the coal industry.

The bank is a big target as the city’s largest corporate citizen (No. 23 on the Fortune 500 list) with branches and office towers from coast-to-coast. The company, like other big banks, drew even more attention to itself when it received a government bailout during the financial crisis.

Here are some of the more notable demonstrations of recent years:

▪ In spring 2011, a Washington-based organization called U.S. Uncut staged protests at Bank of America branches around the country and crashed the bank’s New York investor conference over allegations that the bank was dodging taxes, accusations the company denied.

▪ In March 2012, a group called Codepink interrupted an investor presentation by CEO Brian Moynihan in New York. Several women took off their jackets and blouses to show pink bras that read “Bust up Bank of America,” a reference to calls to break the company into smaller pieces.

▪ In May 2012, members of the Rainforest Action Network, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve rainforests, hung a banner reading “Bank of Coal” on Bank of America Stadium, before the bank’s annual meeting of shareholders. Five members of the group were arrested.

Later that day, an estimated 500 to 750 protesters blocked the streets in Charlotte in a demonstration at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting that led to six arrests. The disruption came at the height of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that targeted industry misdeeds during the financial crisis.

▪ During Monday’s Panthers-Indianapolis Colts game, a male and female protester suspended themselves from the upper deck of Bank of America Stadium and dropped a banner that read “BoA: Dump Dominion, WeAreCovePoint.org” – a reference to Bank of America and Dominion Resources, which is building the natural gas facility.

In a statement, Dominion said its relationship with Bank of America is “not project specific, but for broader corporate purposes.” Bank of America declined to comment on the incident.

Until the Monday night game, Bank of America had seemingly become less of a target as it settled lawsuits and government inquiries related to the financial crisis and focused on improving its financial results.

This spring’s annual meeting was the most subdued in years and for the first time since 2012, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department did not designate the gathering an “extraordinary event.” This designation prevents people from bringing a range of items into a certain area, such as hammers, fireworks and other things that can be used as weapons.

And at the meeting itself, Amanda Starbuck of the Rainforest Action Network commended the bank for a new coal-related policy in which the bank said it will continue to reduce its lending to the global coal-mining industry. “It is a model that we would like to see other financial institutions follow,” Starbuck said.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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