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TheStreet Open House

Bank of America Meeting Dominated by Anti-Coal Activists

NEW YORK ( TheStreet)-- Bank of America (BAC)'s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday was dominated by speeches from anti-coal activists, prompting CEO Brian Moynihan on at least one occasion to ask whether anyone had anything else to discuss.

"Anyone have a comment other than climate change?" Moynihan said as the meeting approached the two-hour mark. "Let's diversify a bit."

Anti-coal activists led by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the Sierra Club sent 30 activists to the meeting in Charlotte, N.C. Wednesday, according to Kerul Dyer of RAN, who herself attended.

"Bank of America has been a top funder of the coal industry while they've also really pushed an image as a green bank," Dyer said in a phone interview.

Bank of America shares were dropping 0.5% to $12.95 in mid-morning trading to pare its 2013 advance to 11.3%.

Moynihan said during the meeting that he had met with RAN, and that Catherine Bessant, one of the bank's top executives and chair of its Environmental Council, had met with the group within the past week. He also referred to a $50 billion environmental business initiative the bank announced in 2012.

RAN's Ben Collins, author of a report entitled " Extreme Investments: U.S. Banks and the Coal Industry," said the organization did not target Citigroup (C) at its recent meeting, and will not target JPMorgan Chase (JPM) when it holds its meeting later this month.

The RAN report gives all three companies a "D" grade, though it argues Bank of America provided the most financing to companies that engage coal fired power production and a type of coal mining known as mountain top removal (MTR) that environmentalists find particularly problematic. According to the report, which cites Bloomberg data, Bank of America provided $3.03 billion worth of financing in 2012 to companies RAN considers the worst offenders, versus $2.75 billion for Citigroup (C) and $2.17 billion for JPMorgan Chase (JPM).

"Our principal focus is on Bank of America because if you look at the numbers, the other two banks are nipping at their heels but Bank of America is the top lender and we see an opportunity for them to strengthen their policies and strengthen their practices to really address their coal problem," Collins says. Wells Fargo (WFC), he said, has improved its policies, earning it a "C" grade.

Coal companies RAN found engaged in "significant MTR production in 2012" included ArcelorMittal (MT), CONSOL Energy (CNX) and TECO Energy (TE).

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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