The CEO's of the largest banks in the U.S. were left speechless in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday when asked by Senator Tim Scott, R-SC to articulate their position on ‘woke capitalism’.
The virtual hearing took a dramatic tone when the two-term senator remarked that woke capitalism appears to be "running amok throughout the financial institutions of our country."
Scott zeroed in on Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Citibank CEO Jane Fraser, and Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon asking them about their recent decision to sign a letter opposing what they called "discriminatory legislation" in the midst of progressive outcry surrounding Georgia's HB 531 election reform law.
"It seems you are all very comfortable picking winners and losers - particularly those who signed the letter in opposition to Georgia - that would be Bank of America, Citibank and Goldman Sachs," said Scott.
|BAC||BANK OF AMERICA CORP.||46.37||+1.30||+2.88%|
|GS||THE GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP, INC.||406.07||+14.87||+3.80%|
|JPM||JPMORGAN CHASE & CO.||166.61||+3.14||+1.92%|
"Picking winners and losers in certain areas - especially in election law - I just want to understand your position on that very important law?," the South Carolina native added noting that he "as a Southerner and African American who has voted in the South all my life would hate any form of discrimination [or] anything that restricts voting rights."
Then, point-blank he asked, ‘"What part of the Georgia law restricted voting rights or was discriminatory?"
Only Moynihan was able to muster an explanation for his firm's signature after a brief period of awkward silence.
"Our company signed that letter based on input from our [Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance] committee and our teammates about how they felt when the law came in," Moynihan told Scott and his colleagues.
The head of the country’s second-largest bank said that his company wants to see voting "standards that we can all agree to," but added that the decision to sign the letter ultimately came through the company’s employees whom he called "teammates" who were "expressing grave concern" over the Georgia law.
The 61-year-old banker’s response though did not resonate with Scott.
"You're diving into which laws you want to uphold and which laws you find offensive but you can't articulate a position on why those things are offensive," admonished Scott, "It just seems confusing to me that one would say ‘I support capitalism’ but [you all] are doing these things that are inconsistent [with that statement] and [you] cannot articulate a single reason why [you] oppose the law in Georgia."
Fraser and Solomon remained quiet throughout Scott's questioning, choosing not to answer when asked again about their position.
"I find it to be disheartening as a former member of some of the institutions as an account holder and a member of others, why it is that you all have taken such a strong clear position but can't or won't articulate the reason for that position?" said the former financial advisor turned senator.
This was met with another long period of silence from all three CEO's before Scott thanked committee chair Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, for the time.