By Candace Milner, J.D.
In 2020 during a national movement for racial equity following the murder of George Floyd, organizations and companies around the nation began making pledges to commit their organizations to become more equitable and anti-racist. The five largest banks in the nation made pledges to invest in racial equity in amounts ranging from multimillions to billions of dollars. While commitments are a great start, promises that are not realized are all too common when it comes to anti-racism and equity work. Knowing this, Representative Ayanna Pressley recently sent a letter to financial institutions who made these pledges calling them to provide an update on their promises.
Rep. Pressley’s letter requests a comprehensive financial audit of the banks’ pledges for the sake of transparency. She asks for the reports to include amounts disbursed by function, demographic and geographic data of recipients, institutional policy changes to financial services, and future plans. The banks made the following commitments, and their respective websites claim some progress:
- Bank of America pledged $1 billion to economic and racial equity. On their website, you can find a landing page dedicated to chronicling their work advancing racial and economic opportunity.
- Citi Bank pledged $1 billion. The bank has a website with yearly updates on their investments. Citi Bank reported that their pledged investments were made by 2022. However, the website does not have any specific data or reports on people impacted by those investments.
- JP Morgan Chase made the largest pledge of $30 billion in investments, the highest commitment of the bunch. As of November 2022, an audit reported that $18.2 billion towards its $30 billion commitment has been spent.
- U.S. Bank pledged $116 million. Their website does not have a dedicated page for updates on this specific pledge but there is a page dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Wells Fargo pledged $450 million. Their website does not have a dedicated page for updates on this specific pledge however, there is a D&I page on the site and reports of smaller investments.
We support Rep. Pressley’s recent inquiry into the progress of these investment promises and look forward to hearing about the progress these financial institutions have made. If that progress is unsatisfactory, their clients and consumers across the nation should know.
Corporations and banks have been active drivers of inequity in this country, and it is their responsibility to stick to their pledges and ensure their business practices actively attempt to disrupt the ongoing consequences of centuries of discrimination in the financial sector.