ST. LOUIS - "As citizens of the city of St. Louis, we think these corporate criminals should go to jail," said Cathy de la Aguilera, an organizer for Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), as dozens of community activists stormed into St. Louis University's (SLU) School of Business here March 18.
The activists were protesting the St. Louis Business Journal's annual 'Most Influential St. Lousians' breakfast where St. Louis' most influential corporate leaders and politicians, including Pat Mercurio, the MO market president for Bank of America and MO Governor Jay Nixon, among many others came to mingle.
"If we are talking about the most influential people in St. Louis," de la Aguilera continued, "then we are talking about a bad influence."
For Mary Boehm, the protest was personal. Boehm almost lost her house of 21 years when her husband was without work for 8 months. "We've been through the nightmare," she said.
According to Boehm, Bank of America is "driving people into default, into foreclosure, with their lies."
She added, "When the banks made poor decisions our tax dollars bailed them out, the least they can do is help families in need."
Bank of America received $45 billion in TARP bailout loans in 2009 - loans that are still being paid back to tax payers. However, its CEO Brian Moynihan, is expected to get a $9 million all-stock bonus this year. Additionally, Tom Montag, the head of the bank's trading and markets business, is expected to get $14.3 million in stock bonus, while Chuck Noski, the bank's CFO, is expected to get $4.8 million in stock bonuses.
As of February 7, Bank of America has agreed to pay $410 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the bank of Manipulating debit transactions to maximize overdraft fees.
According to Jonathan McFarland, "The big banks and CEO's are the ones who wrecked our economy. They are destroying our economy," he said.
McFarland continued, "Every fix they've made to the economy has fixed it for them, has benefited them - the big banks. They are callous. They don't care about us, about ordinary people. They don't even know any real working class people."
Jennifer Beadle agreed with McFarland, and added, "When we have huge masses of people who are impoverished, we have to assume there is something wrong with the system."
Beadle notes, "We need a plan - a plan for them, and a plan for us - something that works for everybody, because this quest for mega-profits isn't working. It isn't right."
Summing up the spirit of the action de la Aguilera said, "We need to hold these corporate criminals accountable for their crimes. They are accountable to the people. And we are going to disrupt their 'business as usual' until we get justice."
Photo: Activists in the SLU School of Business chant, "Bank of America is bad for America!" Tony Pecinovsky/PW.