January 15, 2015 / 4:08 AM / 3 years ago

Bank of America strikes deal to avoid activist resolution on chairman role

The Bank of America building is shown in Los Angeles, California October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - An activist investor group said it is withdrawing a shareholder resolution that called for Bank of America to have an independent board chair, easing some of the pressure the bank faced after giving its Chief Executive Brian Moynihan the additional title of chairman last year.

In return for avoiding a vote on the resolution at its springtime annual meeting, Bank of America agreed to produce a report on its corporate culture and business practices, said Seamus Finn, chair of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

It had sponsored the resolution and recently forced JPMorgan Chase & Co to complete a similar review.

Bank of America spokesman James Mahoney confirmed the deal with the activist group.

Finn said getting such a report completed was a higher priority than forcing a leadership change at the bank, based in Charlotte, N.C. His group has pushed financial institutions to do more to acknowledge their role in the 2008 global financial crisis.

But Moynihan took over the bank after the worst of the crisis, Finn said, making it easier to argue he can hold both titles. “He has delivered for the bank and he’s the leader they want to run with,” he said.

Finn also credited the bank with naming Jack Bovender as its lead independent director in October as it gave Moynihan the additional title. 

While various critics have urged banks to maintain independent board chairman to improve oversight, Bank of America gave Bovender new duties it said were in line with best corporate governance practices.

Bank of America spokesman Mahoney declined to comment on another request from two big pension funds for a vote on Moynihan’s new dual role as chair and CEO. They have asked the bank to hold a binding vote on the change at the company’s springtime shareholder meeting.

Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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