Bank of America Exec Speaks Against Amendment One
BY Julie Bolcer
May 04 2012 6:50 PM ET
Blankfein acknowledged that not every CEO can take the stand he has, but he said that whatever position they take, it will likely translate as the view of the company, not just the individual.
“One of the reasons why you’re attracted to get the CEOs is because they have a big platform, and they’re high profile,” he said. “And so for other companies that operate in places, I think you have to respect that they’re going to be bound by their sense of duty to the organization that provides them the platform that made them interesting you in the first place.”
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan spoke in broad terms about the company’s efforts to advance equality during his welcome remarks to the conference. He touted the company’s long-running 100% score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index and said that the bank’s diversity efforts are guided by a “simple goal.”
“I want to come in to work every day and not have to leave who I am at the door on the way in,” he said. “That’s how we gear our whole diversity and inclusion efforts in our company. You can come in, be yourself, be successful, be all you want to be.”
He said part of that philosophy includes the equalization of health benefits for gay employees. The bank announced last year that it would reimburse employees with same-sex partners for extra taxes paid on health insurance.
Stephanz said such changes in benefits policy represent the easiest and best way for corporations that reach across geographies to make a statement on equality. Although Bank of America is headquartered in North Carolina, the state is home to about 5% of employees, who number around 300,000 across the world.
“Companies want to reflect their customers, their clients, and their shareholders, and so all of those constituents are from various regions,” he said. “With Bank of America or Goldman Sachs or other big banks, they’re global corporations. I can understand why it’s difficult, on what I personally don’t find any gray area on, it’s very black-and-white, but why it’s difficult for these big global companies to take one position or the other.”
Observers offer various explanations for why top corporations have kept a lower profile in North Carolina compared to states like Washington and New York. The conservative leanings of the region could play a part, as could the more buttoned-up attitude of the financial industry compared to coffee and technology companies. Even among banks, there are different considerations, where Goldman primarily serves institutional investors, but Bank of America serves a broad consumer base. Also, professional campaigns around ballot initiatives like those seen with Amendment One are rare in North Carolina.
“North Carolina companies are not used to speaking out publicly,” said Nation Hahn, director of online engagement for Protect Families NC. “Of course, we would like for a corporation to make a statement, but I think it’s a flawed prism to use for looking at North Carolina.”
He said that from the perspective of those fighting the amendment, when a corporate leader speaks, even as an individual, it still carries significant weight. And notably, far more members of the North Carolina business community have spoken against Amendment One than in support of it.
“We’ve received incredible support and press based off the business leaders,” said Hahn. “The story is the willingness of business and civic leaders to speak against the amendment, and how few have spoken for it.”