Economic Justice: Bank of America and the 99% Spring

In April the Maine People’s Alliance, in conjunction with groups across the country, educated and trained thousands of people on direct action and the roots of the economic crisis.  The trainings, dubbed the “99% Spring,” sought to train 100,000 people in the span of a week. 

MPA staff and volunteers trained over 100 people in Portland in preparation for actions throughout the spring.  One of these actions is the “Shareholder Spring,” which have already begun, where scores of 99%-ers will come face to face with big bank executives at their shareholder meetings to pressure them to commit to pay their fair share of taxes, to stop buying our democracy, and to embrace a business model that doesn't profit on the backs of the 99%. 

As part of the “Shareholder Spring,” Maine People’s Alliance members flew down to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend the annual Bank of America shareholder meeting and ask pointed questions to the CEO and board.  MPA members were joined by hundreds of other activists from across the country and other banks and corporations can expect activists at their shareholder meetings as well, including: Wal-Mart, GE, Wells-Fargo and dozens of other banks and corporations who aren’t paying their fair share of taxes, are polluting the environment, or are abusing their workers.  

As part of the 99% training, participants also prepared for local actions. On Tax Day, Maine People’s Alliance members delivered a tax bill to Bank of America branches in Portland, Augusta and Bangor, demanding that they pay their fair share of taxes, stop unfairly foreclosing on families and stop engaging in predatory lending. Between 2009 and 2011, Bank of America paid no net taxes and instead received $5 billion back from the federal government. They gave out $35 million in executive bonuses in 2011.  

One of the ways Bank of America is able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes is by using offshore subsidiaries that are registered in tax havens, like the Cayman Islands.  As of 2008, Bank of America had over 100 subsidiaries in known tax havens.  

Last fall, Bank of America moved its risky derivatives from its investment bank into its FDIC-insured depository bank.  This means that taxpayers are now on the hook for the risky bets that the bank placed with derivatives like credit default swaps. 

Bank of America also made taxpayer-backed student loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.  These loans were especially profitable because they were risk-free to the bank—if borrowers defaulted, American taxpayers were on the hook for the losses.  Bank of America securitized these loans and sold them to investors for a profit. Then, when the economy crashed, the U.S. Department of Education bailed the bank out buying up its soured student loans. Between 2008 and 2010, Bank of America received $4.8 billion in taxpayer money for these loans, in addition to the $230.1 billion they received in taxpayer bailouts and other government sponsored backstops. These are just some of many reminders as to why Mainers and citizens nationwide must call out and confront Bank of America practices and abuses.