I got a date with Citi! (or, Inside the Citi AGM)

posted by Josh Ran

I’m about to hop on a plane to Charlotte, but I wanted to capture some of the excitement from Citi’s Annual Shareholder Meeting. It was an amazing day – there were over 50 activists outside on the streets making sure that every shareholder that entered the meeting had absolutely NO doubt that Citi is funding coal and why it should stop. The New York crew were amazing – as always, creative and kick-ass every last one.

Appalachia’s own Maria Gunnoe and I went inside the meeting on proxies and spoke in support of shareholder resolution #9, calling on Citi to cease financing of coal-fired power plants and mountaintop removal coal mining. Inside, the scene was just about as raucous as on the streets! There must have been 500 shareholders at the meeting – most of whom were NOT happy. Obviously, Citi’s recent financial woes due to the credit crisis have shareholders antsy, and almost every question revolved around why Citi didn’t recognize the risk inherent in subprime loans. Why indeed? We want to know why Citi is heading directly from the credit crisis to the climate crisis, which is rife with financial risk, human risk, cultural risk and environmental risk.

Maria stood up and spoke movingly about the hypocrisy of releasing ‘Carbon Principles’ while continuing to fund the biggest proponents of mountaintop removal. Speaking directly to Citi CEO Vikram Pandit and Chairman Sir Win Bischoff, she asked: “Where is the principle in that?” No one had an answer for her. When it was my turn to speak, I reiterated our request to Citi to cease financing coal and climate change, and pointed out that it is the people and lands like those of Appalachia that are most impacted by our continued reliance on coal. These are the real victims of climate change.

Then I asked a simple question: Would Vikram Pandit please commit to accompanying me on a flight over Appalachia to witness the effects of mountaintop removal, financed by his bank?

He laughed and looked a little uncomfortable. I assured him that I would be a wonderful flying companion. What followed was a slightly awkward silence. Then, to my surprise, Sir Win Bischoff interjected and said: “I can commit that one of us will accompany you on that flight.”

And with that, I got a date with Citi.

As I left the meeting, several shareholders approached me to say they hoped I would be back next year to report on the flight.

My response? You bet I will.