Bank of America, Populist Fervor, and Occupy Charlotte


It's hard to know how all this is going to shake out, but as a great philosopher once crooned, "There's something happening here..."

We're all aware that Bank of America has become a punching bag, political and otherwise. Last week in what Bloomberg called a "global town hall meeting," BofA CEO Brian Moynihan fought back (side note: interesting that Bloomberg reported the Charlotte meeting, and that it just came out yesterday). The first two paragraphs of the article:

Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said he's "incensed" by public criticism of his company and is pushing back by reminding local leaders of its contributions to their economies.

Moynihan, 52, told employees in a global town hall meeting last week from the firm's Charlotte headquarters that the "place to win the battle" over the bank's battered public image is at the state and municipal level.

I get the fact that Moynihan was trying to motivate his employees. It can't be easy coming to work every day with the guillotine looming overhead (BofA has said it plans to cut 30,000 jobs) at a company deemed the second-worst in America by website Consumerist (it was edged out by BP). Moynihan went on to point out all the good deeds BofAers do and the charitable giving that the bank does, both of which are valid points, as the voice of Kiefer Sutherland reminds us all in the bank's television ads. But still, it's fairly remarkable that the CEO of a company that made a profit of $6.2 billion last quarter feels compelled to defend itself against the media and Congress, two institutions who probably would have lower approval ratings than Bank of America. And judging by the comments (I know, I know) on the Observer version of the article, he doesn't seem to have much support for his position, even in this company town

Then I read this:

To pander to the swing state of North Carolina, the Democrats in their wisdom chose to hold their convention in a city best known as the headquarters of Bank of America, whose recent financial innovations include illegal robo-foreclosures and the $5 monthly fee on debit cards. Occupy Charlotte could be a far more telegenic show than the one happening inside the hall.

That's interesting, I thought. It came from a piece by Frank Rich, who is as glib as he is liberal, on New York magazine's website. As of now, Occupy Charlotte is pretty mundane, and local leaders are trying to figure out how to keep it that way. But the combination of BofA, DNC, and OC, as Rich notes, could prove to be combustible. Media coverage feeds protests. If actual national-outlet reporters decide to take a look at little ol' Occupy Charlotte, look out.

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About Richard

Richard Thurmond is publisher of Charlotte magazine and its sister publications. He's been on staff since 1995 and served as editor from 1999 through 2012. He thinks he is funnier than he is, which is helpful information for reading this blog. Got something to say but too chicken to comment? E-mail him.


About Michael

Michael Graff became the executive editor of Charlotte magazine in April 2013, after four years as an editor and writer at Our State magazine. Before that, he was the Sunday enterprise reporter for The Fayetteville Observer. Before that, he was a sports writer in Winchester, Virginia, and Rocky Mount, N.C. Before that, he was the first mate on his father's charter fishing boat in Maryland. His freelance work appears in online and print publications around the country. Email him here, or find him on twitter @michaelngraff.

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