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Wall Street must speak earlier to defend democracy

By Sam Kerr
07 Jan 2021

Leading US financial institutions were quick to condemn the shocking attacks on the US Capitol on Wednesday — a sign that they are willing to take positions on important social issues, in line with the industry’s eagerness to align with good environmental, social and governance standards.

Goldman Sachs’s David Solomon, Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, Citigroup’s Michael Corbat and JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon expressed dismay and disgust at rioters storming the Capitol to impede Congress from confirming president-elect Joe Biden as winner of November’s election.

BlackRock’s Larry Fink and Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, a friend and backer of Trump, also decried the disorder.

For many, Wednesday was the day when president Donald Trump completed the transition from political rabble rouser to dangerous threat to democracy. But Wall Street has been aware of his intent to falsely undermine the election — and hence, confidence in US democracy — for months. Well before November he was already making unsubstantiated predictions of electoral fraud.

Financiers have also backed him through four years of climate change denial, lying and socially divisive politics.

Schwarzman, hedge fund magnate John Paulson, tech venture capitalist Peter Thiel and Nelson Peltz, founder of activist investor Trian, all donated to Trump’s 2020 campaign. 

Thiel is enthusiastic about green energy, while Blackstone and Trian tout their ESG credentials.

No leader of a firm that professes to care about ESG can back Trump again.

ESG cannot just be a box to tick or an opportunity for virtue signalling when horrendous news compels financiers to speak. It must become part of the fabric for banks and investors. 

Bold words are welcome. But Big Finance must go further, defending good governance and weeding out the bad at all times.

By Sam Kerr
07 Jan 2021