Why bank CEOs are speaking out on guns, DACA and global warming
Bank CEOs have historically not seen much upside in commenting on such polarizing topics as gun control, global warming and immigration. No matter what side of the debate they came down on, they were bound to anger at least some customers, employees and investors, so why take the risk and speak out?
But times are changing. CEOs such as JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Citigroup’s Michael Corbat and Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein are now taking stands on big, public-policy issues in part because key stakeholders expect them to.
Many employees — especially millennials — prioritize working for firms that are committed to workplace diversity and are seen as caring about the environment. And many of today’s socially conscious investors are demanding that banks limit their exposure to industries that they believe are causing societal harm, no matter how profitable the relationships with, say, gun manufacturers and coal-mining firms might be.
The election of Donald Trump as president has only raised the level of CEO activism. While these captains of industry have supported much of Trump’s economic agenda — tax cuts and regulatory relief, in particular — they have been deeply troubled by the president’s refusal to denounce white supremacists, his equivocation on gun violence, his rejection of climate science and his stance on immigration.
To be sure, there are economic arguments to be made for some of the positions bank CEOs have staked out. For example, shortly after Trump took office and issued an executive order to ban immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries, Blankfein said in an email to Goldman Sachs employees that, for the firm to be successful, “our men and women must reflect the communities and cultures in which we operate."
Still, no matter what is driving them, bank CEOs of today are seemingly more willing than their predecessors to take principled stands on controversial topics. Here are some examples from the past 24 months.