By The Stop Banking the Bomb Campaign
(Photo Caption: PNC shareholders protest nuclear investments on April 24th. (Photo: Bette McDevitt)
On Thursday, April 24th at 10 AM, the Stop Banking the Bomb campaign held an action outside PNC tower in downtown Pittsburgh during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. On the street were the Raging Grannies, who sang songs about the evils of war and the wrong that is nuclear weapons. Joining the Grannies were about 20 other protestors who held signs and yelled chants urging PNC to divest from companies that PNC provides loans for, and that manufacture and maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. A few passersby also joined in with the regulars to help Stop Banking the Bomb let shareholders, and the public know that PNC is financing nuclear war.
On the inside, several members of the campaign took part in the meeting as shareholders who by law are entitled to attend such events. The meeting was chaired by William Demchak, the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of PNC Bank, who is also regarded by some as an architect of the credit-derivatives industry. The use of credit-derivatives, some may remember, played an important role in the 2008 housing crisis, which was partly caused by the bank (J.P. Morgan) that Demchak used to work for prior to PNC. Like most shareholder meetings, the first 45 minutes were uneventful. The meeting, which is open to the thousands of shareholders who own stock in PNC, was attended by maybe 40 people (many were PNC security or members of the board), and almost none of them said anything throughout the meeting.
It wasn’t until the general comment period that Stop Banking the Bomb was given a chance to ask Demchak why PNC was invested in companies who service the nuclear weapons arsenal.
The first commenter was a priest who noted that Pope Francis, along with other members of the Catholic Church, were pushing for world disarmament, and he asked Demchak why PNC continued to invest in nuclear weaponry. Demchak responded by claiming that PNC’s investment was only a couple hundred million dollars (not true) and then tried to paint the companies as nuclear energy producers. The second commenter disagreed with Demchak on both fronts, noting that this year the Nobel Peace Prize winning group ICAN (International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons) put PNC’s involvement at over 600 million dollars, and that the companies PNC provided loans to were producers of intercontinental ballistic missiles and trident missiles, both euphemistically referred to by the arms industry as “delivery systems” for nuclear weapons. The third commenter, a former professor with a Ph.D. in physics, asked Demchak and the board if they were concerned that PNC was making it easier for Trump to use nuclear weapons by financing companies involved in various “modernization” projects. Demchak again tried to make PNC investments seem smaller than they were, and then attempted to shift the blame onto the U.S. government by saying nuclear weapons were a policy question outside of PNC’s responsibility. Demchak then attempted to cut further questions on nuclear weapons, which did not deter one of the commenters who asked Demchak if PNC bank ever lobbied government for better regulation, or if it just regarded such questions as matters of policy. Demchak then contradicted himself by saying that the bank does lobby government, but that it only does so on financial related matters. This response also shows his lack of knowledge on which politicians PNC gives money to (many of whom have pro-war positions), but that is another matter.
Like any CEO or politician or principal or boss, Demchak is unable to see the connection between what his company does and the effect it has on everyone else. It’s a common problem with a simple solution: direct action. The campaign, and likewise the activist community in Pittsburgh, must act to show the world that financing nuclear weapons is no longer acceptable. It will take a lot of time, sacrifice, and perseverance to make this happen, but this work must be done. And if that means we must sit through more bad meetings, then so be it!
(Photo: Bette McDevitt)
To find out more about the Stop Banking the Bomb Campaign and to get involved, go to www. stopbankingthebomb.org or email the campaign at stopbankingthebomb@ gmail.com