Despite abruptly canceling the in-person portion of their annual general meeting (AGM) today, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) faced growing calls to phase out coal, oil, gas, and tar sands funding, and instead invest in a safe, and renewable future. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and climate finance experts asked the RBC Board and management about their role in violating Indigenous rights by bankrolling projects that perpetuate genocide against Indigenous Peoples, such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline, as well as the role of RBC’s fossil fuel financing contributing to the climate crisis. Melina Laboucan-Massimo, the co-founder of Indigenous Climate Action, spoke to shareholders about how RBC’s financing of the tar sands has detrimental impacts to her homelands, the health of Indigenous people on their territory and to the climate.
Banks that fund fossil fuel operations are just as guilty as the fossil fuel companies themselves: that was the message delivered to TD Bank and Bank of America at their branch locations in downtown Northampton, MA, on Saturday morning. Protesters demanded that the two banks “stop the money pipeline” by ending all loans and investments in the fossil fuel business and diverting those resources to the renewable energy sector. Participants funneled bags of cash into a giant model oil pipeline constructed out of cardboard. Pedestrians were invited to share their opinions on the alternative projects that the banks could be funding. Many people stopped to share their proposals for community-owned solar projects, community agriculture, and other programs by posting green dollar bills on a white board entitled “What Future Do You Want to Fund?”
In a trial that took place on the last scheduled day of the COP 26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Judge Kerry Taylor allowed the 11 pro se defendants who last June sat in rocking chairs in the main thoroughfare in front of JP Morgan Chase Bank’s credit card headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, to submit testimony about the climate crisis and the role of banks in funding it. Defendants pursued a “choice of evils” strategy, which under Delaware law allows someone to break the law to prevent a greater “imminent” harm. The prosecutor, who was the arresting officer, kept asking defendants who took the witness stand how their blocking the road prevented “imminent” harm that would justify the inconvenience to motorists who were delayed for a short time.
San Francisco - Today across 8 countries, 4 continents, and 50 U.S. cities, hundreds of climate and Indigenous rights activists are protesting 20 banks that have backed loans for Enbridge, the company constructing the Line 3 tar sands pipeline through Anishinaabe territory in Minnesota. The protests feature elaborate and artful displays such as a body mural in Seattle spelling “Defund Line 3,” a fake oil spill in New York, a large floating banner display in Chicago, a fake oil spill and giant dance party in D.C., and a street mural in San Francisco. Activists also effectively shut down branches of the 20 target banks in San Francisco, Seattle, London and others protested outside of branches in Japan, Switzerland, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, the Holland, France and Canada.
Police have arrested a group of environmental activists who smashed the windows of Barclays’ London headquarters on Wednesday to protest against the bank’s “continued investments in activities that directly contribute to the climate and ecological emergency”. Seven members from the Extinction Rebellion group were detained following the protest outside the bank’s Canary Wharf office, after they pasted the message “In Case of Climate Emergency Break Glass” on the front of the building. The protesters, wearing patches on their clothes that read “Better broken windows than broken promises”, accuse Barclays of investing too much in fossil fuels. Sophie Cowen, a 30-year-old campaigner from London, said: “You may dislike our action today but I ask you to compare a crack in a window to funding wildfires and flooded homes.”
City of London - Several people have been arrested as Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Fossil Fool’ protesters sprayed the Bank of England with fake oil to highlight the “societal collapse” the activist group say global financial institutions are driving the planet towards. XR’s latest theatrical protest saw suit-clad activists descend on the heart of London’s financial district, demanding the Bank of England regulate the banks which continue to fund fossil fuel companies. The biodegradable fake oil, a mixture of black pond dye and guar gum extracted from beans, was sprayed from fire extinguishers onto the grand entrance to the bank. A sign reading ‘No More Fossil Fools’ has since been removed.
As global banking giants and investment firms vow to divest from polluting energy companies, they’re continuing to bankroll another major driver of the climate crisis: food and farming corporations that are responsible, directly or indirectly, for cutting down vast carbon-storing forests and spewing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. These agricultural investments, largely unnoticed and unchecked, represent a potentially catastrophic blind spot. “Animal protein and even dairy is likely, and already has started to become, the new oil and gas,” said Bruno Sarda, the former North America president of CDP, a framework through which companies disclose their carbon emissions. “This is the biggest source of emissions that doesn’t have a target on its back.”
We got another one. On Monday evening, Bank of America said that it will no longer finance fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic, joining Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Chase, Wells Fargo, and CitiBank, which all announced similar policies this year. That means no major U.S. bank will fund oil and gas production in the region anymore. The news follows years of public pressure from climate organizers for companies to stop enabling Arctic drilling. The movement heated up since last fall when a coalition launched Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign to call out Wall Street firms’ role in particular.
Discrimination in home lending goes back to the beginning of home lending itself. During the last housing boom, when subprime mortgages were all the rage, predatory lending to minority borrowers was rampant. When the mortgage market came crashing down, taking the economy with it, some major lenders were held accountable. They ended up paying massive, multibillion-dollar settlements to the federal government. But there is clearly still bias in the market. A majority (59 percent), of Black homebuyers, are concerned about qualifying for a mortgage, while less than half (46 percent) of white buyers are, according to a recent survey by Zillow, a home listing website, which launched its own mortgage lending arm, Zillow Home Loans, late last year. That is because lenders deny mortgages for Black applicants at a rate 80 percent higher than that of white applicants, according to 2020 data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. For refinances specifically, Black borrowers are denied mortgage refinance loans, on average, 30.22 percent of the time, far higher than the overall denial rate of 17.07 percent
When the Dodd Frank Act was passed in 2010, President Obama triumphantly declared, “No more bailouts!” But what the Act actually said was that the next time the banks failed, they would be subject to “bail ins” – the funds of their creditors, including their large depositors, would be tapped to cover their bad loans. Then bail-ins were tried in Europe. The results were disastrous. Many economists in the US and Europe argued that the next time the banks failed, they should be nationalized – taken over by the government as public utilities. But that opportunity was lost when, in September 2019 and again in March 2020, Wall Street banks were quietly bailed out from a liquidity crisis in the repo market that could otherwise have bankrupted them.
It’s been over a decade since the 2008 banking meltdown, and yet many Americans are still living with the consequences of the financial crisis and the Obama administration’s decision to bailout banks over people with their own tax money. As Covid-19 spread around the world, and the economic impacts of the public health crisis began to take shape, the U.S. government once again faced a similar choice regarding bailouts. This time, Congress passed the CARES Act, which, on paper, aimed to help working people and small business owners most affected by both the virus and the lockdown measures used to combat the crisis, seemingly marking a shift from the 2008 crisis handling. Yet, as banking expert Nomi Prins points out to “Scheer Intelligence” host Robert Scheer in the latest installment of his podcast, banks and large companies are once more taking advantage of a crisis to swindle the public.
Congress seems to be at war with the states. Only $150 billion of its nearly $3 trillion coronavirus relief package – a mere 5% – has been allocated to the 50 states; and they are not allowed to use it where they need it most, to plug the holes in their budgets caused by the mandatory shutdown. On April 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to additional federal aid to the states, and that his preference was to allow states to go bankrupt. No such threat looms over the banks, which have made out extremely well in this crisis. The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to 0.25%, eliminated reserve requirements, and relaxed capital requirements. Banks can now borrow effectively for free, without restrictions on the money’s use.
Banks have earned a quick $10 billion processing US government loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis, according to a new report. The $350 billion rescue program aims to funnel cash to small businesses distressed by the economic blows of the COVID-19 crisis. In two weeks, banks including JP Morgan, Bank of America, and PNC Bank vetted thousands of applications for federal loans of up to $10 million. Transaction charges start at 5% for loans under $350,000, reducing to 1% for loans between $2 and $10 million, according to NPR. The loans are guaranteed by the government, and the guidelines issued by the Treasury Department indicate that they require less vetting than regular loans. There is no risk to the banks which are merely the middlemen.
With allegations that major banks shuffled Paycheck Protection Program applications to prioritize larger loan amounts and bigger businesses, Main Street businesses are furious. This possibility points to a clear design flaw in the program that tried to use the private lending market, already rife with discrimination and putting profits over all, as the mechanism for small business relief. Small businesses are demanding that any new funding must come directly to them via subsidies, not loans, and it must prioritize those who were left out. Business owners of color are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in the lending system. A report from the Center for Responsible Lending shows that a large majority of minority owned businesses, including 95 percent of Black business owners...
In 2008 the Federal Reserve provided more than $4 trillion to bail out the banks. Now it is providing more than $6 trillion (thus far)—and this time the banks haven’t even failed yet! The Fed has opened a free money spigot to investors, bankers, and to big business of all types, and has simply declared ‘come on in and take it’. And if the $6 trillion to date isn’t enough, we’ll provide more. For the first time ever the Fed is now providing free money not only to bankers, but to credit card companies, mortgage companies, corporate bondholders, and even to investors in derivatives like Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs. Next, it will start buying stocks to prop up those markets. Its cousin central bank, the Bank of Japan, has been doing that for years now.