Brian Moynihan

Bank of America meeting: Will investors even be allowed in?

May 8, 2012: 5:40 PM ET

Shareholders were kept out of Wells Fargo and Peabody Energy's annual meetings, in what has been a concerning trend this proxy season. Will we see a repeat at Bank of America?

FORTUNE -- This is turning into a very different kind of shareholder season, one that is every bit as much about civic concerns as it is about the price of any stock, as investors have been denied admission to their own annual meetings amid concerns over surrounding protests.

Bank of America (BAC) will be stepping into the batter's box at its annual meeting tomorrow. Anticipating protesters, Curt Walton, city manager for Charlotte, declared BofA's annual meeting an extraordinary event, giving police enhanced rights of arrest.

The event may indeed be extraordinary if it resembles the April 24 Wells Fargo (WFC) and May 1 Peabody Energy's (BTU) meetings. At those meetings, some shareholders were kept outside because of troubling admissions procedures. But annual meetings are an important shareholder right. "The only element that legitimizes the power of large corporations is their accountability to their owners. Any dilution in the effectiveness of this accountability has the effect of removing a legitimate role for business in American society," says Bob Monks, founder of LENS Investments.

MORE: WellPoint faces shareholder ire over political spending

On April 30, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan received notice from a coalition of 10 groups, including corporate watchdog Common Cause, wanting to ensure that the bank's meeting tomorrow will welcome all shareholders. The coalition requested a meeting by May 4 to discuss Moynihan's plans to prevent a repeat of what happened at Wells Fargo. As of yesterday, Moynihan had not responded to the coalition's letter. A Bank of America spokesperson told me he had not seen the letter, although press reports indicate he knew of it.

Delays and denials at Wells Fargo

At Wells Fargo's meeting, SEIU executive board member Stephen Lerner arrived two hours early, but he was not allowed to cross police barricades the whole time and never gained entry, he told me. He kept traveling to different entrances and asking how he could gain admission, he says. When he saw people entering without stock credentials, the police told him they were service people assisting with the meeting. Others who gained entry flashed ID badges and appeared to be employees, he says. Lerner went to an entrance where police had told him to go, but they never let him line up to attend the meeting, he says. Lerner works with the coalition that sent the letter to Bank of America, which calls itself "99% Power." He will be in Charlotte tomorrow.

Lerner wasn't the only one kept at the gates. Marguerite Young, western states director for capital stewardship at SEIU, says she arrived at around 9:30 in the morning for the 1 p.m. Wells Fargo meeting. She was told to go to an alley entrance and she stood in line there. The processing of individuals moved slowly. At around 10:30, officials allowed people waiting behind her to cut in front of the line. They were flashing badges -- as opposed to stock ownership credentials -- suggesting that these individuals were employees. At a little after noon, she says she was the next person in line to enter when she was told the room was full and that she could not go in. More

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