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Anti-Wall Street Protesters Upstage Morgan Stanley

Activists hit mega-bank's annual meeting to demand answers

Common Dreams staff

Anti-Wall Street protesters -- who purchased the company stock so they could attend as official suit-wearing shareholders -- upstaged Morgan Stanley's annual meeting on Tuesday.

Dozens of protesters took turns stepping up to the microphone and blasting the company’s business practices during the question-and-answer session. At one point, they all stood up for a “mic check,” and shouted, “We will not be quiet until we create a system that prevents the 1% from ripping off the 99%!”

Protesters were surprised they made it through the entire annual meeting without getting kicked out. The meeting was held at Morgan Stanley's corporate headquarters in Purchase, New York.

* * *

Reuters reports:

Anti-Wall Street protesters upstaged Morgan Stanley's annual meeting on Tuesday, lobbing tough questions at Chairman and Chief Executive James Gorman and shouting negative comments over a bank official who was attempting to read a tally of shareholder votes.

The 53-year-old CEO kept his cool through the meeting, but took protesters to task after one accused him and the board of directors of "immoral" and "unethical" practices. Among protesters' complaints were the bank's high pay packages, job cuts and financial reform lobbying efforts.

"We will not be quiet until we create a system that prevents the 1 percent from ripping off the 99 percent""I take umbrage at the suggestion that our board did anything unethical and I can't just let that sit out there," said Gorman.

He went on to say that although some of Morgan Stanley's business practices, including mortgage servicing, had been poor in the past, "I don't regard those as immoral or unethical."

After engaging in debate with some members of the protester group, which identified itself as "The 99% Spring" and was similar in tone to the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, Gorman instructed Corporate Secretary Martin Cohen to announce the preliminary shareholder vote tally.

But protesters quickly drowned out Cohen by yelling negative comments about Morgan Stanley and Wall Street.

"We will not be quiet until we create a system that prevents the 1 percent from ripping off the 99 percent," they chanted in a call-and-response fashion.

Once the protesters had finished their chant, Cohen announced that 93.6 percent of shareholders voted for the election of directors, 94.8 percent of investors approved proposed compensation for top executives and 81.4 percent approved a plan to add clawback provisions to bonuses stemming back to 2007.

There followed a second, lengthier question-and-answer session between Gorman and shareholders - who were mostly protesters - that pushed the meeting to over an hour.

Gorman, who opened the annual meeting by saying he hoped it would be "respectful and orderly," had been prepared for the protesters. All considered, he said, "I thought it was pretty smooth."

A shareholder who shook hands with Gorman said he was upset that the event was dominated by protesters' political statements rather than more traditional shareholder concerns. "I want the stock to go back to where it was - that's all I want," he said.

* * *

The New York Times reports:

Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, James P. Gorman, never visited the Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park. But on Tuesday morning, Zuccotti Park visited him.

A woman in a wheelchair, said: “I”ll introduce myself as ‘the future.’ ” She added, “I am usually invisible to most of the people here.”The firm’s annual meeting, held at its corporate campus in Purchase, N.Y., was dominated by questions — and assertions — from individuals about financial regulation, the makeup of Morgan Stanley’s directors’ and bankers’ pay.

“When finance is deregulated, the 1 percent wins and the 99 percent loses every time,” the chanters said.

About Morgan Stanley, they added: “Between 2008 and 2010, its top five executives made $130 million, but they still want more, even if it comes at the expense of working Americans.” [...]

Morgan Stanley’s directors sat at the front of the auditorium, seldom turning around to look at the protesters as they asked questions and made speeches. One of them, a woman in a wheelchair, said: “I”ll introduce myself as ‘the future.’ ” She added, “I am usually invisible to most of the people here.”

# # #

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