Wall Street spent hundreds of thousands backing anti-abortion lawmakers

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The words "we won't go back" are printed in blue on a bright-pink poster as protesters gather under a blue sky with clouds.
Abortion-rights advocates protest outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston on May 8.Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images
  • Major financial firms have backed lawmakers responsible for so-called abortion trigger laws.

  • Eleven corporate donors and a banking trade group have given some $1.6 million to these lawmakers.

  • The donations are out of step with the industry's recent efforts to promote gender equity.

Last September, about eight months into her tenure as the CEO of Citi, Jane Fraser addressed an organization for women in finance with words of encouragement about gender equality in the male-dominated financial-services industry.

"As I look forward, I really am very optimistic. But I also recognize we still need real systemic change in order to achieve gender equality," Fraser said. "We need companies, nonprofits, governments, bosses, and mentors — we all need to play a role, and we certainly need men to be our partners and champions in this effort."

She touted Citi's efforts within the firm and in the industry. She pointed out it was a lead bookrunner on the women-focused dating app Bumble's initial public offering, working alongside its CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the youngest woman to take a company public.

Full coverage of Insider's investigation into abortion-ban "trigger laws":

The 13 states with abortion-ban 'trigger laws' are completely unprepared to enforce them

A likely wave of state abortion bans was bankrolled by corporations such as AT&T, Walmart, and Citi

Healthcare corporations are among the biggest financial backers of lawmakers behind state abortion bans

AT&T has bankrolled politicians behind anti-abortion 'trigger' laws in 13 states. Other telecom and media giants aren't far behind.

Behind a looming wave of state abortion bans, there are a lot of men

But Citi and its peers have played a part in advancing forces that have undermined the company's work to promote gender equality. As part of an investigation into major corporate sponsors of so-called abortion trigger laws, Insider found that financial-services companies from the biggest US banks to powerful consulting firms have been among the most significant donors.

The laws, which will automatically criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, have come into focus in recent weeks as the Supreme Court appears set to strike down the landmark ruling. Thirteen states have put them in place since 2005.

Insider analyzed state election filings compiled by FollowTheMoney.org to examine political donations to the 380 state lawmakers who sponsored the bills and the 13 governors who signed them. The analysis covered donations for the election cycle immediately prior to the passage of each law as well as subsequent cycles.

Insider's analysis found that the military financial-services firm USAA, Citi, Deloitte, and JPMorgan have all given more than $100,000, while Wells Fargo, General Electric, Liberty Mutual, The Travelers Companies, Bank of America, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Capital One, and the American Bankers Association, a large financial trade group, have each donated more than $70,000 in total to sponsors of these bills and to the governors who signed them into law. In total, these firms have contributed some $1.6 million to these lawmakers.

Companies contribute to lawmakers for a range of business-related reasons. But the likely erosion of abortion rights has dangerous implications for people across the US and for the financial sector's workforce, and the financial backers of anti-abortion politicians have played a significant role in making it happen.

"The possible overturning of Roe will put a spotlight on corporate funders of regressive politicians who enact laws that limit, curtail, or even criminalize women's reproductive freedoms," Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law and the author of "Political Brands," told Insider.

Most of the firms in this story either declined to comment or did not respond to Insider's requests for comment. A spokesperson for General Electric said its political action committee, GEPAC, stopped donating to lawmakers at the state and local levels at the end of 2018. General Electric's financial-services business, too, is no longer a reporting unit within GE.

Wall Street has funded trigger-law champions while touting commitments to workplace equity

Financial-services firms have strained to position themselves to employees, clients, and shareholders as workplaces where women and people from marginalized backgrounds can thrive.

The industry, long dominated by white men, has been trying to appeal to new generations by installing inclusive policies and diverse leaders. In recent years companies have taken overdue steps to try to shape diverse, equitable internal cultures. Companies in most corners of the disparate sector say they embrace the push.

Following the passage of the Texas abortion law known as Senate Bill 8, Citi said it would cover travel costs, such as airfare and lodging, for US employees who must travel out of state to receive abortion care. It is the only such commitment on Wall Street to date.

Citi has also featured celebrities with progressive bona fides on gender issues in its ads, such as Rashida Jones and Dan Levy. Jones was an early supporter of the Time's Up movement, and Levy received an award from the Human Rights Campaign in 2020 for promoting LGBTQ representation.

But Insider found that Citi has also donated some $285,000 to state legislators who sponsored trigger bills and to governors who signed them into law across six states. The recipients include Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, who collected $11,200 between 2008 and 2016, and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who received $215,500 between 2018 and this year. Abbott signed Texas' restrictive abortion law last June; as governor, Hoeven signed North Dakota's in 2007.

A Citi spokesperson declined to comment.

JPMorgan, the largest US bank, has in recent years expanded its Women on the Move network, formed in 2013 as a series of events for women employees. Women also occupy some of its top leadership positions, including its coheads of consumer and community banking, its chief information officer, its head of wealth and asset management, and its general counsel.

But between 2007 and this year it donated $102,000 to trigger-law backers including Hoeven of North Dakota and Gov. Brad Little of Idaho, along with state legislators in Louisiana and Texas.

A JPMorgan spokesperson did not provide a comment for this story.

Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court John Roberts wears a black robe and a black face mask.
Chief Justice John Roberts, pictured here in April 2021, said this month that a leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was authentic.Michael Reynolds - POOL/Getty Images

USAA, the Texas-based bank that caters to members of the military, appointed its first vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion last year. On its website, the firm promotes its DEI council, led by CEO Wayne Peacock. A blog post about Women's History Month described its corporate commitment to women.

Still, it has donated more than $403,000 to trigger-law backers such as Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, Texas state Rep. Greg Bonnen, and US Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who sponsored a trigger bill while he was a state legislator.

USAA did not respond to requests for comment.

Consultants' web of influence

The enormous professional-services firms known as the Big Four — Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC — are also powerful players in the financial sector and hold tremendous sway over corporate life. They can be deeply intertwined with their clients' efforts to create inclusive workplaces for underrepresented employees, working with teams at client companies and publishing extensive market research.

Deloitte and PwC advertise their diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting services on their websites. And Deloitte's research has urged business leaders to recognize and address women's unique healthcare needs.

"Now is the time to make women+ health a strategic priority of our communities," the firm said in a report published last year, referring to the needs of cisgender women, transgender women, and nonbinary people. "Leaders can go beyond their current initiatives and use the Covid-19 pandemic as a catalyst to accelerate change in women+ health, furthering education, research, and investment efforts in this space."

The company's donations tell another story.

Deloitte has donated some $153,000 to state legislators and governors responsible for passing trigger laws, including Scalise and the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi, who sponsored a trigger bill while he was a state legislator. Deloitte did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, PwC, whose US chairman and senior partner, Tim Ryan, has been a vocal advocate of promoting equity and inclusion, has donated $75,000 to trigger-law backers including Scalise, Hoeven, and Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

A person with direct knowledge of the matter said PwC has no plans to continue contributing to any of the trigger-law legislators or governors that it has previously supported. It is unclear whether that policy would extend to other anti-abortion lawmakers, and PwC did not return Insider's requests to spell out its strategy.

Still, PwC's decision is significant not only for the firm's largesse in corporate America and manifold relationships in the world of consulting and accounting, but because most big companies have largely stayed mum on the issue of abortion in recent days.

The silence stands in contrast with companies' rush to make statements and commitments in the wake of other recent crises — the insurrection at the US Capitol in January 2021 and the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

Investors will be watching what comes next. Shareholders have been demanding greater transparency from corporations on their political spending for more than a decade, Torres-Spelliscy said.

"Some investors have also called out the contradictions between corporations who say one thing, like that they support women's autonomy," she said, "and then do another thing — financially supporting lawmakers who tout laws criminalizing abortion and curbing reproductive freedoms."

Read the original article on Business Insider