Yesterday, Ken Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Bank America was in San Francisco speaking about the opportunities for businesses and banks to cash in on the “Greening of America”. He talked about the role of responsible investing, and how Bank of America has high values for all their business operations.
Two members of Rainforest Action Network’s Global Finance campaign decided to attend the lecture, and see how Bank of America reconciles their stated concerns for the environment and communities – while still funding dirty coal developments, including Florida Power and Light, Arch Coal, Foundation Coal, Massey Energy, and others.
Massey Energy is widely regarded as one of the most destructive mining companies in the world – and are directly responsible for much of the Mountain-Top Removal being practiced in Appalachia. They recently have been slapped with a federal lawsuit – alleging over 4,000 repeated violations of the Clean Water Act. This blatant disregard for the regions they operate in, the ecoystems they are destroying, the communities they are poisoning, and extremely important laws have made Massey very controversial – and this most recent lawsuit is leveling $2.4 BILLION in fines.
We had prepared several tough questions for Mr. Lewis regarding Bank of America’s recent investments in dirty energy companies, but unfortunately it was a moderated event so we had to submit our questions on paper. While the moderator didn’t quite ask our questions as we had written them, he did at least ask Mr. Lewis about the bank’s role in funding fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Lewis was a bit put off, and his response was a vague “we look at things on a case-by-case basis” – but the audience seemed quite concerned over those issues.
At the end of the speech, we raced to the podium, and presented Mr. Lewis with a number of letters written from coal-field residents in West Virginia, including students from Marsh Fork Elementary school. We explained that his bank was funding some of the most destructive mining practices in the world, and that other banks such as Wells Fargo had made the smart decision to drop Massey as a client. He actually accepted the letters and photos of Marsh Fork Elementary – but made no commitments or statements regarding their funding of Massey.
I also recently attended the Bank of America shareholders meeting – and stood up in front of several hundred shareholders questioning Mr. Lewis on these issues. Recently, grassroots groups like Rising Tide North America have targetted Bank of America via direct action, and many coal-field groups are looking at banks’ role in the destruction of their communities. Together – we can get Wall Street out of dirty energy!