Demonstrators targeting BofA annual meeting
By Rick Rothacker
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Demonstrators are expected to swarm Bank of America Corp's BAC.N annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday to voice anger over a range of issues from foreclosures to corporate taxes to financing for the coal industry.
The meeting, held in the bank's headquarters city of Charlotte, North Carolina, has drawn protesters in the past, but advocacy groups operating under the name 99% Power are predicting much bigger crowds this year. Inside the meeting, stockholders will vote on the bank's executive pay plan, elect directors and get a chance to voice their opinions to Chief Executive Brian Moynihan.
"Shareholder season is one of the only times of the year when everyday people can go face-to-face with the most powerful corporate decision makers in the country," said Amanda Starbuck, of the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental activist group that is part of the coalition.
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, demonstrators have been targeting corporate shareholder meetings this year to keep a spotlight on concerns about economic disparity in the United States. More than 500 demonstrators engulfed Wells Fargo & Co's WFC.N meeting site in April, resulting in 24 arrests.
Charlotte officials have declared the Bank of America meeting an "extraordinary event" under an ordinance passed in January to help officials handle protests expected in the city during the Democratic National Convention in September. The ordinance allows the city to ban certain items, ranging from backpacks to crowbars, at large events.
Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri declined to comment on the planned protests.
The second-largest U.S. bank has faced intense scrutiny for taking government bailouts during the financial crisis, for mishandling foreclosure paperwork and for attempting to implement a now-canceled monthly $5 debit card fee last fall.
Meanwhile, stockholders aren't happy about a stock price below $10 and a quarterly dividend slashed to a penny per share since the financial crisis. Moynihan, who will be presiding over his third annual meeting, made progress last year building the bank's capital levels but faces questions about the company's ability to increase future earnings. To boost profits, the bank is focused on cutting costs, including plans to eliminate about 300 jobs in its investment banking and capital markets group. Continued...