Wall Street opposed the anti-LGBT #HB2. Will they oppose bigotry in the White House?

Image via Canadian Pacific (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In the first year of my very first job on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley, I wasn’t out at work. I was uncertain about how my coworkers would react, especially since no one on my team really talked about family — or even about our weekends; everything, on my team of workaholics, was focused on the task at hand. But after settling in a bit, I soon realized my hesitancy was totally unwarranted. I also learned that the firm had a strong LGBTQ network, and regretted not getting involved sooner. But the real shift happened after the changeover in leadership from Phil Purcell to John Mack in 2005. The bank started spending big money purchasing multiple tables at fundraising galas for LGBT organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and GLSEN. Employees attributed the amplified commitment to LGBTQ equality to the fact that Mack has a gay son, but regardless of the reasons, I felt a real commitment by my firm to my rights as a gay person.

A float from Bank of America at a gay pride parade. Image via eclipse_etc (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (cropped)

My next job was at Merrill Lynch, whose LGBTQ network was even larger and more active than Morgan Stanley’s. The group had a dedicated newsletter, documenting the monthly events of the group, and the achievements of its members. It will surprise no one to hear that Wall Street workers are mostly white and male, and that was reflected in its LGBTQ group as well. But that was less true at my next job, Bank of America, with its hundreds of thousands of employees, including frontline bank workers (Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank America during the financial crisis, and I became a Bank of America employee). In 2009, Brian Moynihan, who is now the bank’s CEO, attended a round table of the organization’s diversity and inclusion groups. Bank of America had a Black Association, an Asian Pacific Islander association, a disability association, a Hispanic and Latino association, and many more. I was there as a member of the bank’s LGBTQ association. Moynihan didn’t just attend the meeting; he stayed for the reception afterward, and made it a point to talk to all of the association members, including me. Moynihan told me that he was very happy to make time for this roundtable, since diversity and inclusion was a real priority for the bank, and they wanted all of us to know how important it was to senior leadership.

I quit Wall Street in 2010, but I was impressed this year to see the stand several of my former firms took against North Carolina’s repressive, anti-trans law HB2. Moynihan went on CNBC and talk about how the bank’s employees were worried how HB2 might affect them, and said that the law “ought to be repealed.” Deutsche Bank (my last job on Wall Street) took an even more strident stand against HB2: They announced they would freeze plans to create 250 new jobs at its Cary, North Carolina location.

But this bravery, this standing up for their LGBTQ employees, hasn’t extended to federal politics. Since the election, I haven’t seen Moynihan denounce Trump’s tapping of Steve Bannon, a man who called feminists “a bunch of dykes” and had an entire section on the website he ran devoted to “black crime.” Nor have I seen Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman speak up for the Muslim employees at the firm by rejecting Michael Flynn, a man who has repeatedly peddled anti-Muslim bigotry, and referred to Islam as a “cancer.” And I’ve seen no statements by big banks airing concern for the fact that Trump nominated for Attorney General an anti-civil rights Senator who voted for a constitutional ban on marriage equality, and has consistently scored zeroes on the HRC’s Congressional Scorecard.

Recent reporting has shown that the banks are absolutely thrilled with the prospect of a Trump administration because of its potential for financial deregulation. The silence so far from financial leaders makes it appear they’re willing to co-sign the widespread violation of constitutional civil liberties, simply so they can make a bit more money.

As someone who used to work there, I can tell you that there are employees on Wall Street that are outraged at Trump’s actions since the elections, and who are looking to their firms’ leaders to say something. But if they choose not to — I hope the people who make up the vast number of staff associations at these banks will write open letters to their CEOs, calling out their cowardice and hypocrisy.

Last week, the Ranking Members of the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees, Rep. Maxine Waters and Senator Sherod Brown were joined by Rep. Keith Ellison and Senator Elizabeth Warren in a letter to financial services leaders, demanding that they condemn the appointment of Stephen Bannon to Donald Trump’s administration.

Let’s join them.

Sign this petition to demand that the nation’s largest banks renounce the appointment of Steve Bannon. Wall Street must not be silent in the face of bigotry.

And if you are a customer of any of the following banks, click the links below to send them a tweet, demanding they renounce the Bannon appointment:


Alexis Goldstein spent seven years on Wall Street. She now works to advocate for a safer and fairer financial system. Find more at Twitter, her podcast Humorless Queers, or subscribe to her newsletter.