05/20/2010 03:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Chase Report

JP Morgan Chase's annual report was sent to us by Rainforest Action Network (RAN). It is a masterpiece of Orwellian bland-speak. I quote the part about mountaintop removal (MTR):

The bank does not provide MTR project-specific finance to companies, but we do have banking relationships with a few clients that employ MTR. As the public record reflects, in 2009, JPMorgan Chase did no financing for any company with significant MTR operations. JPMorgan Chase will continue to follow the actions of federal and state government legislators and regulators tasked with environmental oversight and which bear the primary responsibility for regulating the environmental and social impacts of MTR coal mining.

RAN is a key negotiator with Chase on MTR, and they say this is progress. I can't help but notice this denial that they are a significant player in strip-mining, when some researchers put their market share at 80%! A layperson like myself can only assume that they are excusing themselves from the nightmare of MTR on technical grounds. Put it another way: their annual report must lull their share-holder into becoming just another bank consumer. The lie is within every sentence, and it is a bald lie in the face of the facts, but it is also a tone. It is a kind of marketing.

So this last Tuesday the Stop Shopping Gospelers and Savi and Lena and I take the subway to their giant Wall Street building. There we greet Chase's share-holders on the occasion of their annual meeting. RAN has purchased shares and will make speeches and corner execs on the inside. We will lead a rally against strip-mining and hopefully offer a passionate preface for the share-holders as they walk around us toward they day of Chase reports. But down on the street we quickly found ourselves in a sea of Chase protesters. The rally gathered those opposing predatory lending, ATM and credit card abuses that impact the poor, loan practices that force foreclosure ... on and on. We found that our mountaintop removal was probably only a small part of that annual report that a social justice worker would find misleading. Chase is a bad company with bad people running it.

How we could help was to sing and preach. We paraded around and around the Chase block, getting good echoes going up through the glass canyon. Our biggest congregation was bankers standing in those 60 stories of windows. We stopped at the big revolving doors and got some good booming mountaintop songs echoing through the hallways below. Police walked with us, teasing me good-naturedly about my new baby. Will the NYPD arrest me less now? They told Savitri, "We were hoping it was a boy with, you know, a collar and a suit and big hair!"

The speakers at our rally came from the cities and rural towns. The race and gender and age diversity of Chase's activists was -- not the Arizona superior race. Families would take the microphone, with the kids watching their parents talk about how they were gamed by this bank, after losing a job and hoping to keep their home. We sang and prayed and they joined us and we felt trusted by our instant friends. The language we shared had a clarifying directness. I suddenly realized that the speeches of this rally were the direct opposite of that tone-poem of lies in the annual Chase report.

And they appreciate that in our church, we never mention a specific god. "Justice" on this rainy morning is our faith. We definitely shared the same Devil.

See pictures of the rally by Brennen Cavanaugh on Flickr