BofA, Wells Fargo, BNY Mellon shareholders reject proposals to narrow pay gap

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Shareholders at Bank of America on Wednesday joined other bank investors in rejecting proposals to provide more compensation data in the interest of closing the gender pay gap.

Similar shareholder proposals were filed this year with Bank of New York Mellon, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. BNY Mellon and Wells shareholders rejected the proposals this month. JPMorgan’s annual meeting is set for May 15 in Plano, Texas.

Of the three banks that have held votes this month, only BNY Mellon has reported a verified vote count — only 24.5% voted in favor.

All four proposals were offered by Arjuna Capital, a Boston investment firm that advocates for equal pay. Arjuna said in February that it had filed a dozen shareholder proposals urging large financial services and tech companies to disclose more raw data on the gender pay gaps at their firms.

Last year Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo bent to public pressure and disclosed their adjusted gender pay gap figures. Sometimes also known as equal pay for equal work, that figure adjusts for factors like job title and geographic location. Using that metric, all three banks said that women in their organizations made 99% of what men made.

But the median pay gap measures the pay difference between men and women across the organization, regardless of employees’ particular roles. Activists say this figure is critical to telling the whole story because it can indicate whether women are more concentrated in lower-paying jobs in that field.

Responding to a shareholder proposal from Arjuna, Citigroup voluntarily disclosed its own median gender pay gap in January, revealing that women are paid 29% less than men across the organization.

Under the proposal voted on at BofA, the bank would have had to issue a report on the global median of its gender pay gap and provide details on its compensation policies and operational risks on retaining women employees.

BofA management and directors said the measure was unnecessary and recommended shareholders vote against it. In a lengthy section in its proxy statement, the company noted its gender equality initiatives and their results, as well as citations for its efforts in the area, such as its inclusion As a leader in gender equality in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index.

The company also said in its proxy that it already reports extensive details on its “progress in compensating all of our employees fairly and equitably.”

“In our 2018 proxy statement, we reported that among U.S. and U.K. employees, total compensation received by women was equal to on average 99% of that received by men,” BofA said in the proxy statement.

The preliminary vote results were counted at the company’s annual meeting. Verified results, including a final vote count, will be filed in the coming days with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In other votes held by BofA on Wednesday, shareholders approved all 16 board nominees, an investor “say on pay” advisory proposal on executive compensation, the ratification of PricewaterhouseCoopers as BofA’s auditor and an amendment to the employee equity plan.

Laura Alix contributed to this article.

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