Leaders from Lakeview Action Coalition delivered an open letter with over 5,000 signatures collected by The New Bottom Line community to Chase Bank, demanding that CEO Jamie Dimon refuse his bonus and put that money into the community instead.
While American families struggle through the Great Recession this holiday season, the bankers that caused much of the financial crisis are set to award themselves near-record breaking bonuses. Today, The New Bottom Line in partnership with The Public Accountability Initiative, released the 2011 Big Bank Bonus Report. The report release comes on the heels of two actions last week in Minneapolis and Chicago demanding big bank CEOs to put money in communities, not their pockets.
Big banks are expected to pay out $156 billion in compensation (including salaries, benefits and bonuses) to executives in 2011, a near record-setting number in the midst of a financial crisis that big bankers themselves caused. The 2011 numbers are 3.7 percent increase over 2010.
“Three years ago, big banks like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo created a massive mortgage crisis and crashed the economy. Today, they could solve the crisis once and for all. Instead of taking bonuses this year, bank executives need to put aside that money for
principal reduction for underwater homeowners and paying their fair share of taxes,” said Tracy Van Slyke, co-director of The New Bottom Line.
“We found that the big banks are on track to pay out even more this year than they did last, despite a continuing mortgage mess, high rates of unemployment, and a financial meltdown in Europe,” said Kevin Connor, co-director of the Public Accountability Initiative. “The Too-Big-
To-Fail compensation model continues to reward disastrous, irresponsible behavior by financial executives, to the detriment of the 99%.”
In anticipation of today's report release, partners of The New Bottom Line in Illinois and Minnesota took action last week to rally at big banks send an open letter to CEOs demanding that they forgo their big bonuses and use that money to keep families in their homes. Below are reports from those actions in Illinois and Minnesota.
In Chicago on Thursday, over 40 protesters organized by Lakeview Action Coalition deliverd over 5,000 signatures on an open letter to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, demandind that Chase use that money to reduce principal on underwater mortgages and help keep families in their home this holiday season.
The protesters delivered the letter and signatures to the bank's manager, then occupied the lobby chanting "Bust Up Big Banks" before being escorted out of the bank by Chicago police.
The group announced its members were committed to moving $218,000 of their money from Chase and Bank of America accounts to community banks and credit unions as part of the Move Our Money campaign.
Reporting from Progress Illinois:
Laurie LeBreton, who transferred her account from Bank of America to local North Shore Community Bank, said she was inspired to action when she realized that the bigger banks were directly affecting her livelihood.
“I have a small business and my husband has a small business. And we’re concerned that loans to small businesses are dropping radically.” In particular, she saw access to local lines of credit as having a positive impact on job creation in the community.
“My husband [who runs a real estate management business] just got a loan from our local credit union. And it really struck me how important that access to money is for a small business. He’s keeping people employed because he’s got access to that kind of loan.”
For others, the decision to protest big banks was rooted in a moral reckoning. “Usury is a sin in every Abrahamic tradition,” said Daniel Dale, pastor at nearby Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ. “All of those religions critique the concentration of wealth because it leads to injustice.”
Dale is encouraging his congregation to move their money out of banks like Chase and into local banks and credit unions, which he sees as helping to avoid undue accumulations of massive wealth.
According to the Bible, said Dale, corporate executives receiving huge bonuses had an obligation to redistribute their wealth: “Do you care for the widow, the poor, the orphan, or not?”
As the crowd was escorted out of the lobby, bank tellers chanted "Don't be back, don't be back." But we'll be back. We'll keep moving our money until banks commit to community investment and a new bottom line.
In Minneapolis on Friday, over 50 of protestors organized by Take Action Minnesota and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy to the Wells Fargo Center, where they demanded that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf invest in communities, rather than stockpiling cash for huge bonuses. The group noted that since that bailout in 2008, Wells Fargo executives have awarded themselves a staggering $141 million dollars. Activists put that number on full display at the Wells Fargo Center:
Reporting from Workday Minnesota:
Grace Bowman, an unemployed data analyst from Minneapolis recently travelled to Washington, D.C. as part of a hundred person delegation to “Take Back the Capitol” — an event designed to turn politicians’ attention to the needs of the 99%. “Money is fungible,” Bowman said. “The money big banks spend on huge bonuses and give to politicians and lobbyists could be spent helping underwater homeowners instead.”
“I hear that John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo makes eighty-five hundred dollars an hour. With that amount of money here in Minneapolis we could feed a thousand people for a month, house eight families, and fund a safe-zone after school program,” said Vaughn Lodge, of the American Indian movement, who also travelled to D.C. to lobby and protest for the 99% agenda.
“It’s a vicious cycle for working people. Big Banks and Big Finance lavish fat bonus checks on their top executives who turn around and hand out big donations to their favorite politicians, the ones that maintain their tax breaks and loopholes,” said Chris Conry, an organizer with TakeAction Minnesota. “The 1% continue to get richer while the 99% continue to suffer unemployment and the other effects of an economy these banks wrecked.”
Check out this great video from the action in Minnesota: