Finance

'Appalled'— Here's what Wall Street CEOs are saying about the killing of George Floyd and protests rocking US cities

Key Points
  • The May 25 death of Floyd, who had been handcuffed when a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparked introspection and calls to fight racism by the biggest American financial firms.
  • CEOs of the biggest U.S. banks and the world’s largest asset manager weighed in during the last few tumultuous days, including leaders at JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs.
  • The chief financial officer of Citigroup said that black Americans are too often denied “fundamental human and civil rights and the dignity and respect that comes with them.”
  • Wells Fargo CEO: "As a white man, as much as I can try to understand what others are feeling, I know that I cannot really appreciate and understand what people of color experience and the impacts of discriminatory behavior others must live with."
VIDEO7:4707:47
Five African-American CEOs on how to address inequities on a corporate level in the U.S.

Wall Street CEOs expressed horror, anger and empathy in staff emails and messages posted to social media as protests continued to roil U.S. cities in the week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The May 25 death of Floyd, who had been handcuffed when a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparked introspection and calls to fight racism by the biggest American financial firms. Floyd's death followed the recent deaths of other black citizens including Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

Here's what they said:

 Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase

This week's terrible events in Minneapolis, together with too many others occurring around our country, are tragic and heartbreaking. Let us be clear — we are watching, listening and want every single one of you to know we are committed to fighting against racism and discrimination wherever and however it exists.

This reality, coupled with the COVID crisis, highlights the inequities black and other diverse communities have and continue to face every day and it strengthens our resolve to do more as individuals, as a firm, and in our communities.

Now, more than ever, each of us must be inclusive in our work and in the neighborhoods where we operate. And above all else, we are here for all of you.

Mark Mason, CEO of Citi Private Bank, speaks during the Global Wealth Management Summit in New York June 17, 2014.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Mark Mason, CFO of Citigroup

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

I can't breathe.

Those words were George Floyd's last. In a video recorded by a bystander, he can be heard saying them, pleading for his life, 10 times. Maybe more. While a police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. While three other officers stood by and WATCHED.

Like many of you, I have watched that video of his death with a combination of horror, disgust and anger. And over subsequent nights, I have watched that anger spill out onto the streets of Minneapolis and many other American cities with devastating consequences. I have debated whether I should speak out. But after some emotional conversations with my family earlier this week, I realized I had to.

In fact, we all need to.

Even though I'm the CFO of a global bank, the killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky are reminders of the dangers Black Americans like me face in living our daily lives. Despite the progress the United States has made, Black Americans are too often denied basic privileges that others take for granted. I am not talking about the privileges of wealth, education or job opportunities. I'm talking about fundamental human and civil rights and the dignity and respect that comes with them. I'm talking about something as mundane as going for a jog.

Racism continues to be at the root of so much pain and ugliness in our society – from the streets of Minneapolis to the disparities inflicted by COVID-19. As long as that's true, America's twin ideals of freedom and equality will remain out of reach.

I'm proud to work at Citi, an organization that cherishes diversity and inclusion and is willing to stand up for those values when they are threatened, whether it's working to close the gender pay gap in our industry or calling out the violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville.

These systemic problems will not go away until we confront them head on. So we must continue to speak up and speak out whenever we witness hatred, racism or injustice. I know I will – and I hope you will too.

In addition to speaking out and in an effort to aid in the fight to address these issues, my wife and I have decided to make donations to three organizations fighting injustice and inequality -- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Advancement Project, and Color of Change.

I hope you will join us.

Larry Fink
Anjali Sundaram | CNBC

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock

The past few weeks have been deeply painful for the black community. I am appalled – as is anyone who cares about diversity, fairness and justice – by the events of the last few weeks involving racial injustice in the U.S. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and the incident in Central Park, show how much work we have to do to build a stronger, more equal, and safer society.

Many of us are struggling with these events. For our employees suffering pain from these tragedies, I want you to know that that the firm's leadership stands with you, and we are listening. We will do everything we can to support you and give you the space to express your feelings and concerns.

In recent days, BlackRock's Black Professionals Network has led a series of powerful sharing sessions where employees have discussed these incidents. Now we must broaden the discussion. I ask that all of us across the firm reflect on and engage in dialogue on these issues.

We have watched for months as the tragedy of COVID-19 has disproportionately hurt communities of color, as they have suffered more COVID cases and endured a greater share of the economic hardship than the rest of the population. Now, that pain has been compounded by these new incidents of racial injustice.

No organization is immune from the challenges posed by racial bias. As a firm committed to racial equality, we must also consider where racial disparity exists in our own organizations and not tolerate our shortcomings. We can only heal these wounds – building a more diverse and inclusive firm and contributing to a more just society – if we talk to each other and cultivate honest, open relationships and friendships. Going forward, we will continue to develop resources to help you engage in productive conversation and to take meaningful action, and you'll be hearing more this coming week. I recognize this process isn't easy – I know it's not easy for me. But it's essential.

Importantly, we have to make this a sustained effort. I am writing to you today because recent events have forced us to reflect on the severity of these issues, but these events are symptoms of a deep and longstanding problem in our society and must be addressed on both a personal and systemic level. This situation also underscores the critical importance of diversity and inclusion within BlackRock and society at large. We will continue to push forward in our efforts as a leadership team to build a more inclusive and diverse firm.

I often talk about taking emotional ownership – taking responsibility for the success of BlackRock and its clients. It also means that we are responsible for each other. Now is the time to embrace that responsibility. Please take an active role in that effort. We all must work together to build a more fair and just society – that is part of BlackRock's purpose.

David Solomon, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group
Tiffany Hagler-Geard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs

I continue to grieve for the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless other victims of racism. I understand the outrage that followed these senseless acts and fully support the right and need to peacefully protest. However, the violence we've seen in some cities over the past two nights has no place in our society and threatens to undermine the message of harmony and reconciliation that we need today more than ever. Here is a transcription of a voice message I sent to our Goldman Sachs people Thursday night:

I continue to hope that you and your families are faring well during these extraordinary times. I remain so grateful for what you're all doing to collectively help Goldman Sachs navigate through this global pandemic.

Without question, living in various states of quarantine takes a toll on all of us in different ways and I know it's not easy for any of us.

We have – appropriately – been highly focused on how we manage work, how we take care of family and our responsibilities at home; how we juggle new ways to interact in this complicated setting, and how we operate our lives within the necessary government and health guidelines.

As we all have our heads down, focusing on the immediate needs surrounding us, I encourage you to "look up," to take into account what's happening around us.

My concern arises from what I am seeing and reading about in terms of the many who are struggling to manage their daily lives during the strain of the pandemic.

But, it also stems from my concern about the recent deeply disturbing acts of hatred, racism and discrimination, and the broader implications of that.

I am disturbed by the increasing anti-Asian sentiment around the world as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.

And I am horrified by continued attacks against the black community, highlighted most recently in the U.S. with the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and with what Christian Cooper experienced in Central Park in New York City this past Monday.

I want to remind each of you that as a community – there is no place at Goldman Sachs for racism or discrimination against any group in any form.

I know that acts of inhumanity – against any person or group – have a profound impact on our people; how that manifests in each person is unique and personal to them.

I also know that this is not a time to be silent. I know it in my gut – and I know it from many of you who have reached out – the many of you for whom these types of words and deeds are particularly and personally painful.

So I am asking all of you – even with everything you are going through and everything you are doing – to "look up" and acknowledge what is happening around us. I want you to check in with each other, and be willing to have conversations that may take us outside of our comfort zone.

We will not let this pandemic erode our culture of openness and respect. To guard against that, we must continue to be aware of what is happening, speak out against injustices and be willing to talk candidly in an environment of honest dialogue.

Importantly, our ability to excel as a globally interconnected work force must be buttressed by a collective sense of purpose and our shared values as a community.

For my part, I continue to stand with all of you in supporting our broad COVID-19 relief efforts which are helping to improve the lives of so many around the world.

Brian Moynihan, Bank of America, speaking at the WEF at Davos, January 21, 2020
Adam Galica | CNBC

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America

I am always struck at how committed we are to our fellow teammates, to helping one another and to living our values. Core to this is how we ensure our teammates can bring our whole selves to work and be successful. In doing that, we all benefit and our company is stronger. This is how we deliver our purpose and drive responsible growth.

We share a deep sense of pain and loss from what we are seeing and experiencing right now in many of our local communities. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other fellow citizens have died in deeply tragic circumstances. Many of you have shared with me your own expressions of anguish and anger about what has happened and how it is playing out across the country. I have listened and learned from all of you, from our communities and, for the last ten years, from my colleagues on the board of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. All of these engagements have helped me better understand how these tragedies affect communities of color, and the historical roots of those feelings.

Of course, all of this is happening during, and being exacerbated by, a global health crisis that is affecting us all in very personal ways. The data also shows the greater impact it is having for our communities of color. The sense of isolation and perhaps even helplessness as we live through this pandemic are contributing to the tragedy we are seeing unfold before us in so many cities.

Many of us are asking what we can do now?

First, I join our teammates in praying for those who have been taken from us too soon, and for their families and loved ones.

Second, we can and will build on what our company is already doing. We have already stepped up to do even more during this crisis to serve our clients and support our communities and teammates. This includes our ongoing work to help drive diversity and inclusion, racial equality, economic opportunity and upward mobility, and to deliver on our purpose. One vital activity has been the thousands of courageous conversations we have held with civil rights, social justice and inclusion leaders – in dialogue with our employees, Board of Directors, clients and community partners. Another vital activity is the investments we make in communities for education, housing, healthcare and food security. It is clear we need to substantially increase these efforts, and we will soon share our plans to do so.

Third, we will continue to focus on your safety and wellbeing. Please use the company's resources to support you and your family, as shown below. These include our Employee Networks and broad-based Diversity & Inclusion efforts, which continue to be a strong source of support for employees.

Finally, as the backdrop for all of this, we reaffirm our values. We will not tolerate racism in any form. The racial injustice we see today, which many of you and your families experience all too often, is unacceptable to all of us.

I thank teammates for the thoughtful notes shared with me and with my team, and for your leadership. We will take care of each other and we will work to make a difference.

Charles Scharf
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Charlie Scharf, CEO of Wells Fargo

Across the U.S. in recent weeks, there have been a number of deeply disturbing events that have shaken us. Videos of unspeakable behavior have brought home in shocking fashion the inequality and fear some in our communities deal with on a daily basis. In Minneapolis, the tragic death of George Floyd and the subsequent protest activity reflect the anger, anxiety, and grief the community and our nation feels. In Georgia, we saw the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery as he was out for a jog. In addition, the pandemic has brought a wave of bias against many in the Asian American community, and we know that communities of color are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

This is a painful time for our nation. As a white man, as much as I can try to understand what others are feeling, I know that I cannot really appreciate and understand what people of color experience and the impacts of discriminatory behavior others must live with.

But, as the CEO of Wells Fargo, I can commit that our company will do all we can to support our diverse communities and foster a company culture that deeply values and respects diversity and inclusion.

My thoughts are with our employees in Minneapolis and across the nation as they mourn and deal with the anger and anxiety they are feeling. Laurie Nordquist, Upper Midwest lead region president, has joined with leaders from other Minneapolis companies in making a joint statement to express their outrage about Mr. Floyd's death and their commitment to investing in substantive change to address racial inequities and social justice. I wholeheartedly support Laurie and the sentiments expressed in that statement.

When I joined Wells Fargo, I signed Business Roundtable's Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation (PDF). Many of the tenets of that document reflect the inclusive environment we continue to create at Wells Fargo. In particular, the statement calls for an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. It stresses the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion, dignity, and respect among our employees and supporting and respecting the communities in which we work. I firmly believe a diversity of insights and perspectives will drive Wells Fargo to the best ideas and outcomes possible.

Part of our journey is about being able to listen to the experiences of others and having honest, open dialogue across differences. I plan to do so as part of my diversity work, and I hope you do so as well.

I encourage you all to visit our Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion homepage on Teamworks for tools and resources on how you can have these conversations and help create a more inclusive Wells Fargo.

Thank you for all you are doing to support our customers, our communities, and each other.

Thasunda Duckett, chief executive officer of consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Bank

To understand where we are in this moment ... we must all truly understand where we have been and the depth of our sadness. As my heart continues to remain heavy ... my purpose and passion to inspire and impact has strengthened. I encourage us all to get proximate - not a hashtag or a like is required. Simply click and watch this documentary. Watch it with your friends and family of different backgrounds and various opinions related to racism. Have your journal and write down your thoughts, emotions, questions and ideas. It's 2020 and Enough Is Enough. We can no longer be silent. ... Let's go back so we can truly understand the true jobs that are needed to be done to heal this original sin. To heal the heaviness that I can't escape. Let's do it with one goal- forward progress towards equality and a more perfect union. We can't heal without truly understanding the depth of the disease. Yes it's painful and my tears are real. But in order to ensure our future is brighter ... that real sustainable progress can be made ... we have to go on this journey as a human race. Will you watch Part 1, Hour 1 today? www.pbs.org Reconstruction: America After The Civil War @henrylouisgates @pbs