"Bank of America's in a spiral, this greed's going viral!" That was the chant from protesters outside Bank of America's shareholders meeting today. It was the culmination of dozens of demonstrations across the country led by Take Back the Economy and SEIU to Fire Ken Lewis, Bank of America's loathsome CEO. They delivered over 90,000 signed "taxpayer proxy cards," which called on BofA to can Lewis, commit to genuine financial reform, curb predatory lending, provide workers affordable healthcare, and stop lobbying against Employee Free Choice. And the result? Ken Lewis is out as chairman!
This is a huge win for progressives, myself included, who have been up in arms for months over BofA's decision to continue its shamelessly greedy, predatory practices after receiving tens of billions in bailout funds. This outrage spilled onto YouTube, where Brave New Films put together a video narrated by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, documenting all of the reasons why Lewis deserved to be fired. As The NY Times reported today:
That message has resonated with some big shareholders of Bank of America. Calpers, the huge California public pension fund, said Tuesday that it was voting against re-electing Mr. Lewis and the rest of the bank's board. The fund joins Calstrs, the California teachers retirement fund, and several other state and union pension funds in opposing Mr. Lewis.
Two influential investor advisory groups, the RiskMetrics Group and Glass Lewis, have also recommended voting against Mr. Lewis.
Now it seems like all of this work, all the ranting and protesting, is finally starting to pay off as we see a major black eye for Lewis and corporate America. Lewis will remain BofA's CEO, but according to the AP, angry shareholders voted to separate that job from chairman, which will go to board member Walter Massey. This may not be as exciting as if BofA had ousted Lewis altogether, but it proves we can hold these bailed banks accountable for their ruthless ways. We can make examples of their CEOs--the poster boys of greed--as we demand re-regulation and the end to an era of corporate excess.
Follow ZP Heller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zpheller