Hundreds of major companies — including Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), and BlackRock (BLK) — signed a statement this week opposing "any discriminatory legislation" that would make it more difficult for people to vote.
The move escalated an ongoing confrontation between corporate America and political officials in the aftermath of a restrictive voting law enacted by Georgia last month, as more than 350 such bills stand before legislatures across 47 states, according to a report from the Brennan Center on April 1. Critics of these laws say they would have a disproportionate impact on Black voters.
In a new interview, BNY Mellon Wealth Management CEO Catherine Keating affirmed the bank's support for inclusive democracy, describing broad access to the polls as "good for the economy."
BNY Mellon — founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1784, making it one of the nation's oldest banks — considers itself representative of the overall economy and supports an inclusive political process that in turn strengthens the economic system, Keating said.
"We think we represent the economy, and so we want to have a an open and working and successful economy," says Keating, who worked for nearly two decades at JPMorgan. "That's really the way that we think about it."
"We think that democracy is important," she adds. "We think it's one of our greatest strengths."
"We want as many people to be included in it as possible because we think it's going to be good for the economy and good for everybody," she says.
On March 31, 72 Black business leaders signed a public letter that criticized the voting law enacted in Georgia six days prior. The missive set off an uproar in corporate America, prompting Georgia-based companies Delta (DAL) and Coca-Cola (KO) to condemn the law amid intense public pressure.
The Georgia law includes a slew of measures that could make it harder to vote, including reduced access to ballot drop boxes, a ban on mobile voting centers, and making it a misdemeanor to offer food and water to voters in line.
Meanwhile two restrictive voting bills under consideration in Texas — House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7 — would outlaw 24-hour voting and prohibit local election officials from pro-actively sending mail-in ballot applications to voters, even if they qualify.
Most of the top companies in Texas — with the exception of American Airlines (AAL) and Dell (DELL) — passed up the opportunity to criticize the restrictive voting bills in response to an inquiry from Yahoo Finance earlier this week.
Keating spoke to Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
She spent nearly two decades climbing the ranks at JPMorgan, helping the bank weather the Great Recession. In 2014, she jumped to the nonprofit Common Fund, a leading asset manager for endowments and foundations, which she ran until joining BNY Mellon three years ago.
Formerly the chair of the board at her alma mater, Villanova University, she belongs to the Council on Foreign Relations and the Economic Club of New York.
In comments that aligned with her affirmation of the country's democratic system, Keating praised the role that the federal government has played in supporting the economy amid the COVID-19 downturn.
"We think that our policymakers — whether it's the Federal Reserve, or Congress, the Treasury — have really done a great job for us as a country," she says.
In response to a question about potential threats to an anticipated economic recovery this year, Keating noted the ongoing COVID-19 risks. But she praised the economic stimulus provided by the federal government.
"Obviously, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and so we worry very much about about health and financial health," she adds. "But also, there is more stimulus than we've ever seen before."