Dissident shareholders want access to BofA meeting

Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:54pm EDT

(Reuters) - An activist group is urging Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) to allow all shareholders to enter next week's annual meeting, after Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) excluded attendees who disagreed with the bank's business practices.

The group, called 99% Power, sent a letter on Monday to Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan asking to meet with him by Friday May 4 to ensure the meeting room is large enough and that shareholders are allowed to designate a proxy to attend on their behalf. The activists said they will have legal and citizen rights observers on hand for the meeting, on May 9 in Charlotte, North Carolina, site of Bank of America's headquarters.

"It is vital that legitimate shareholder rights be respected," leaders of the group wrote in the letter to Moynihan.

Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri declined to comment.

Last week, more than 500 protesters marched to the site of Wells Fargo's annual meeting in San Francisco to express anger over foreclosures, executive compensation and corporate taxes. Wells gave preferential treatment to some shareholders, while excluding others who had waited hours to enter, 99% Power said in a news release on Monday.

Some protesters did make it inside the meeting, where they interrupted CEO John Stumpf's remarks multiple times. Stumpf called them out of order, and a total of 14 were removed from the meeting and arrested.

Wells Fargo spokesman Oscar Suris said the company did its best to accommodate as many shareholders as possible.

"For safety reasons, we could not overlook the fact that several groups had made it a very public objective to shut down (last week's) meeting," Suris said.

Looking to build on the Occupy Wall Street movement, 99% Power -- a reference to those not among the top 1 percent of earners -- has said it is targeting corporate shareholder meetings to express concerns about economic disparity in the United States. Last week, nearly 100 protesters disrupted General Electric Co's (GE.N) shareholder meeting, held a day after Wells Fargo's.

The group said protesters at the Bank of America meeting will urge the company, the second-largest U.S. bank, to do more to help struggling borrowers avoid foreclosure, pay more in taxes, stop supporting coal-based energy projects and pledge to keep corporate money out of elections.

Security will be tighter than at past meetings after Charlotte's city manager on Monday declared Bank of America's shareholder meeting an "extraordinary event" under an ordinance passed in January to help officials handle protests expected in the city during the Democratic National Convention in September. The ordinance allows the city to ban certain items, ranging from backpacks to crowbars, at large events.

A "significant number" of demonstrators are expected to attend the Bank of America meeting, the city said in a news release. The city manager also designated Duke Energy Corp's (DUK.N) shareholder meeting on Thursday May 3 in Charlotte as an extraordinary event.

(Reporting By Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, North Carolina; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Steve Orlofsky)

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