DAVID DOUGHERTY, TRNN: Around 1,000 people gathered in Times Square in New York City on Tuesday, May 17, to demonstrate against the Marshall & Ilsley Corporation, known as M&I Bank. Many firefighters and other public workers traveled from Wisconsin to New York City to protest the financial meeting which officially sold Wisconsin’s largest bank to Toronto-based BMO bank, which also runs Harris Bank in the Midwest. M&I shareholder meetings are usually held at the company’s headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but this morning it took place in New York, in a move that many opponents viewed as an attempt by executives to avoid mass protest. The bank has come under attack in recent months for supporting Governor Scott Walker’s agenda to attack public workers and services. M&I was the top contributor in Walker’s bid for governor in 2010, contributing $54,000 to his political campaign. M&I Bank was the recipient of $1.7 billion in TARP federal bailout funds. The company has yet to pay the bailout money back, though BMO has agreed to pay the debt as part of the takeover deal. Tuesday’s meeting was brief, reportedly lasting less than ten minutes, with no time allotted for statements or discussion. In spite of bonus limitations set in place due to the company’s nearly $2 billion taxpayer-dollar debt to the federal government, company executives are set to receive a $71 million bonus payout as part of the agreement. M&I CEO Mark Furlong will be paid an $18 million golden parachute severance payment, and will serve as president and CEO of the newly merged BMO-Harris Bank in Chicago. In addition to the numerous protests that have taken place at M&I locations across Wisconsin in recent months, a number of other large banks have also become targets of demonstrations. Earlier this month, hundreds of people gathered in San Francisco, California, to protest a Wells Fargo shareholder meeting, while this week, hundreds more held a demonstration at the annual JPMorgan Chase shareholder meeting in Columbus, Ohio. In Wisconsin, a movement has grown to boycott M&I banks by withdrawing accounts and moving them to different banks as a response to the bank’s role in Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining and public services. The Wisconsin state AFL-CIO union became the latest of many organizations to join the movement, when they announced the closure of their $105,000 account with M&I on May 5. In the face of ongoing budget cuts targeting public workers and education, people across the country continue to demand that large banks bailed out with taxpayer money pay for the financial crisis they themselves helped to create. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.
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