Investors’ Support Remains Strong On Indigenous Rights Resolution at Citi, undisclosed at Wells Fargo

April 30, 2024

NEW YORK CITY – Today, 26% of Citi’s shareholders voted for a resolution on Indigenous rights filed by an order of New Jersey nuns, while the results of a similar resolution at Wells Fargo were not disclosed.

Questions about the banks’ climate, sustainability, and Indigenous Rights records dominated Citi’s meeting, and Wells Fargo faced similar questions. Shareholders asked about Citi’s support for LNG including marine gas, Amazon oil and gas, emissions from agriculture, and its recent move to quit the Equator Principles, a set of bare minimum social and environmental standards.

Citi refused to answer questions on the Indigenous resolution, despite stating there were several questions tabled by shareholders. CEO Jane Fraser gave scripted answers to questions and even stated the presenter of the Indigenous rights resolution, Tribal Chair Juan Mancias, referred to the Amazon rainforest, which he did not. When asked to meet with Mancias, Fraser refused.

The vote at Citi means the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace can refile the resolution next year, which has become a source of embarrassment for the bank and has seen Citi hastily release a report in recent weeks in an attempt to blunt investor support.

The last two years, the Citi resolution has attracted over 30% investor support. The Wells Fargo resolution was not filed last year because of a technical issue but attracted 26% support in 2022.

The resolutions come in the wake of new information filed at the SEC about the risks related to the banks’ financing deals and stark opposition by Indigenous communities. 

The resolutions cite Citi’s and Wells Fargo’s funding for Enbridge, which has built controversial pipelines such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and Lines 3 and 5. Citi is also being criticized as one of the biggest funders of oil and gas in the Amazon rainforest, where it funds Petroperú, PetroAmazonas and Frontera Energy, companies linked to oil spills and Indigenous rights violations.

The Citi resolution was presented by Juan Mancias, tribal chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of South Texas, which is opposing Enbridge’s plans to build the Rio Bravo pipeline. The pipeline is meant to feed into the Rio Grande LNG facility but has been delayed for years due to litigation, reiterating the financial risks involved in the project. Banks BNP and Société Générale have already withdrawn support for the project.

The Wells Fargo resolution was presented by Tara Houska, tribal attorney and founder of the Giniw Collective, which opposed Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota. The project was embroiled in controversy given the legacy of the existing pipeline in the area which caused the biggest inland oil spill in the US and the financing of extensive law enforcement intervention by Enbridge. 

The AGMs were preceded by a week of protests across the world calling on Citi and Wells Fargo to step up their climate action and address its record of environmental racism and Indigenous Rights violations (click here for photos). Hundreds of Citi employees were prevented from entering the bank’s headquarters in the morning two days in a row. Today, parents and children gathered outside Citi headquarters in New York demanding the bank meet its climate commitments.

Last week, communities affected by polluting projects that Citi funds hosted a hearing in New York City titled The People vs. Citi: Confronting Citi Group’s Environmental Racism, calling on the bank to end its fossil fuel financing and invest in communities. This first-of-its kind hearing on Citi’s environmental racism was chaired by Roishetta Ozane, a Black leader and environmental activist from Sulphur, Louisiana, and founder of the Vessel Project along with environmental leaders from the Amazon, the Gulf South, and other communities. Petrochemical facilities and oil and gas refineries funded by Citigroup have polluted the air, land, and water in Roishetta’s community. 

Quotes

Sister Susan Francois of Sisters of St Joseph of Peace said:

“For three years in a row support from investors for our resolution has remained steady at Citi. This is a clear message to the bank that human rights violations are bad for business. Today’s vote allows us to resubmit the resolution and the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace will continue to voice concerns over present and future generations impacted by oil, gas and coal projects. We are guided by Pope Francis who has set out clearly the Church’s role in addressing projects in communities which result in a decline in their quality of life, the clearing of their land and the robbing of joy and hope for the future. We urge Citi to heed this call too.”

Juan Mancias tribal chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, who presented the Indigenous rights resolution at Citi said:

“Citi has provided Enbridge with over $5 billion in financing enabling the Rio Bravo pipeline which Enbridge is trying to build on Carrizo Comecrudo land. Citi clients like Enbridge will destroy acres of wetlands and the habitats of threatened and endangered plant and animal species. These projects affect us as a tribe. Société Générale and BNP Paribas have withdrawn funding from the Rio Bravo project because they see this risk in financing indigenous rights violations. We urge the city to stop investing in companies that steal Indigenous land and exploit our environment.”

Tara Houska tribal attorney and founder of Giniw Collective said: 

“Human beings are now in the era of ‘climate boiling’. Globally, Indigenous peoples are defending what remains of earth’s biodiversity and drinkable water with our bodies, our freedom, sometimes our lives. We have cost Wells Fargo clients billions in lost profits. Clients like Enbridge, mired in lawsuits, environmental degradation, and reputational disaster. We are not going to stop — we are standing up for our children, for all children. Wells Fargo can make history. A first step would be telling its shareholders the truth of violations of human rights by its clients.”

Hannah Saggau, Senior Climate Finance Campaigner at Stand.earth said:

“Citi’s shareholders continue to send a clear message that the bank needs to do more on climate action and justice for frontline and Indigenous communities. Given the level of support for the Indigenous Peoples rights’ resolution, we expect Citi to step up and end financing for projects harming Indigenous communities at home and abroad.” 

Mary Mijares Fossil Finance Campaigner at Amazon Watch said:

“Indigenous peoples face continuous threats for standing against the destruction of their ancestral lands in the Amazon rainforest, yet Citi supports companies like Petroperú, known for severe oil contamination and undermining rights. A substantial number of Citi investors see this as a material risk and have requested the bank to disclose more information about it. When will Citi commit to more robust and effective Indigenous rights safeguards that truly respect free, prior, and informed consent, and prohibit financing for controversial clients such as Petroperú?”

Press Contacts:

Judith Crosbie, Sunrise Project, [email protected]

Emily Pomilio, Stand.earth, [email protected]

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Black and Indigenous Environmental Leaders Slam Citigroup for  Funding Fossil Fuels and Driving Environmental Racism

April 22, 2024

NEW YORK CITY – On Monday, April 22, 2024, environmental leaders from communities on the frontlines of climate change convened the first-of-its kind Earth Day hearing on Citigroup’s environmental racism. Actor and activist Jane Fonda kicked off the hearing and introduced the hearing chair, Roishetta Ozane, a Black leader and environmental activist from Sulphur, Louisiana, and founder of the Vessel Project. The hearing culminated in a set of demands on Citigroup aimed at fixing the harms the bank has caused to impacted communities, including immediately ending funding for fossil fuels, publicly acknowledging harm the bank has caused communities of color, respect Indigenous rights, and investing in a just transition to sustainable energy

Photos and videos of the hearing can be found here. Members of the media have full permission to all photos and videos. 

As the world’s second-largest funder of coal, oil, and gas, Citi has poured over $332 billion into climate-ravaging fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2016 – making billionaires even richer while everyday people are choking on wildfire smoke, losing their homes to floods, and trying to survive sweltering heat waves. 

Speakers at the hearing included Sharon Lavigne, of RISE St. James, among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2024; Olivia Bisa, President of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra nationality, who has faced death threats for her opposition to fossil fuel projects in Peru; and Sister Susan Francois of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in New Jersey which for three years has filed a shareholder resolution at Citi on Indigenous rights and fossil fuel funding. 

The hearing took place at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery and was organized by Climate Defenders, New York Communities for Change, STAND.earth, Stop the Money Pipeline, and Texas Campaign for the Environment. Panel topics included the health impacts of fossil fuel build-out on the Gulf South, defending indigenous peoples’ rights, and solutions to climate change. 

Black and Indigenous environmental activists are building a movement to stop big banks from destroying the planet and say that this hearing was just the beginning of a wave of actions.

Olivia Bisa, President of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra Nation in Perú said, “Citi talks about respecting the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities as set down by the UN, but it has clients like Petroperú which refuse to recognize the right to say no of seven Indigenous nations in the Peruvian Amazon. Petroperu’s disregard for Indigenous rights should mean something to the banks that lend them money; but in reality their mutual business continues. If they are serious about Indigenous rights, Citi must hold its clients accountable to ensure that their due diligence adheres to international standards of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” 

Roishetta Ozane, founder of the Vessel Project of Louisiana, said, “The petrochemical facilities Citigroup funds are not bringing economic development in our communities. They’re polluting the air and water and making us sick, including  my own children, three of whom suffer from asthma and one from eczema. Citigroup is hurting our communities, and it’s especially hurting Black community in the Gulf South. We want Citigroup to stop funding fossil fuels and to stop hurting our communities and our families.”

“I want Citigroup’s CEO Jane Fraser to look me in the eye and tell me who is supposed to take care of our community members who are sick from pollution — because we have a lot of illness from pollution in our community. And who is going to bury them.” said Manning Rollerson, founder of the Freeport Haven Project for Environmental Justice. “Who is going to pay for the ongoing harm to our community? First, Black residents of Freeport were ordered that we could only live in the East End, then we were denied services for years while paying taxes, and now our whole community has been displaced so that Port Freeport can build warehouses and parking lots to continue shipping petrochemicals.”

Sharon Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James, named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2024, said, “Where I live in St. James Parish is part of the notorious Cancer Alley – an 85-mile stretch in the Gulf South with high pollution and high rates of asthma and cancer. We have a funeral at least every week, sometimes two or three times a week. The cause is pollution from the 12 petrochemical plants and oil refineries within a 10-mile radius of St. James Parish. Citigroup could be part of the solution, but right now they are part of the problem since Citigroup has invested hundreds of millions into Formosa Plastics, which wants to open another plant in our Parish. That would be a death sentence for us.”

Sister Susan Francois, of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, said, “I am supporting the hearing to show the true interest of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in present and future generations impacted by the oil, gas and coal projects. Pope Francis has set out clearly the Church’s role in addressing projects in communities which result in a decline in their quality of life, the clearing of their land and the robbing of joy and hope for the future. Because of this, today’s hearing is of critical importance. For three years in a row, we have filed shareholder proposals with Citi asking for a report on the effectiveness of their policies to respect Indigenous rights. More than 30% of investors support this request because they know human rights violations are bad for business.”

Russell Armstrong, Senior Director, Campaigns & Advocacy for the Hip Hop Caucus, said, “I am participating in this hearing because financial institutions must prioritize climate justice and racial justice in all of their business decisions today for the possibility of a healthier and safer tomorrow. Repairing our communities will require the financial industry to agree that financing the fossil fuel industry is more than an ineligible use of funds, but is also harmful. Hip Hop Caucus is committed to strengthening the power of frontline communities of color.”

Armstrong continued, “In Citi’s Corporate Social Responsibility statements they say they “feel responsible for the community in which it operates” and we couldn’t agree more. That is why we are calling on Citibank to come meet with the frontline communities in the Gulf South and bear witness to how the additional billions in financing for fossil fuels since the 2016 Paris Agreements is not helping “build more sustainable, diverse and equitable communities” that they proudly stay they are “playing a leading role to drive the banking industry into a more sustainable future.

“We charge Citi with environmental racism: the bank’s record of harming communities of color has gone on too long,” Hannah Saggau, Fossil Free Citi Campaign Organizer at Stand.earth said. “We demand that Citi stop financing fossil fuel companies and start investing in frontline communities’ health and a climate-safe future.” 

Gabriel Alexandre, student at Leaders High School in Brooklyn, said, “Every year, during winter break, it seems as if my sister says the same, disappointing words to me: “How come there’s no snow this year? I miss making snow angels and having snowball fights!” And every year, we have to explain the same thing to her: The earth is getting warmer. This is why we’re demanding that Citigroup halt all investments into new oil and gas projects and instead invest money into green energy alternatives.”

Naomi Yoder,  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Data Manager at the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University, said, “The evidence is clear: fossil fuels extraction and petrochemical production in the United States is an environmental injustice. We have the opportunity to change course, and we the people ask the banks and the corporations and the insurers to join us in enacting anti-racist, anti-oppressive policies, now.”

Below is a full list of demands that came out of the hearing. 

To begin addressing the harm caused by the $332 billion in financing for fossil fuels that Citi has provided since the Paris Agreement in 2016, Citi must commit to dramatically increasing financing of climate solutions and a just transition for and led by communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. This commitment must be overseen by an advisory committee made up of majority Black, Indigenous, low-income, and Global South climate leaders.

Citi executive leadership will publicly acknowledge and apologize for the harm they have inflicted by financing the fossil fuel industry, including the human and ecological mass deaths as a result of the climate crisis. The Executive leadership will meet with community leaders on the frontlines of the climate crisis. They will travel to regions that have been harmed to understand firsthand how the projects and companies that Citi finances have affected everyday people.

  1. Immediately stop financing new and expanding coal, oil, and gas projects and any companies expanding fossil fuels.
  2. Rapidly phase out all fossil fuel financing and demonstrate year-on-year reductions in fossil financing in line with minimizing climate harms and limiting global warming to well below 1.5°C.
  3. Ensure that clients fully respect all rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) as articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  4. End financing for any projects or companies that demonstrate a pattern of violating human rights and self-determination, especially for Indigenous, Black, low-income and communities of color.
  5. Adopt or strengthen sectoral and regional exclusion policies, including for coal, LNG, Arctic, Gulf South and offshore/ultra-deep drilling.
  6. Scale up investments in renewables and proven climate energy solutions in line with a just transition and the needs outlined by the International Energy Agency, beyond the inadequate goals currently set by the bank.

Press Contacts:

Jonathan Westin, Climate Defenders, 917 637 9501

Emily Pomilio, Stand.earth, [email protected]

Alicé Nascimento, New York Communities for Change, [email protected]

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Investor nuns reject Citi Indigenous report as ‘wholly unresponsive’ in SEC filing

April 10, 2024

Investor nuns from New Jersey are warning Citi shareholders in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission that a new report by the bank on Indigenous issues does not meet the demands of their resolution which is due to go before shareholders in a vote.

Citi refused to agree to the nuns’ demands for a disclosure on the effectiveness of its Indigenous rights policies in relation to its funding of projects and companies. Instead the bank published a report, without consulting Indigenous communities, that is “wholly unresponsive” and reveals that “Citi continues to finance clients and projects with track records of egregious violations of Indigenous rights and expose the company to significant risk”, the nuns’ exempt solicitation to the SEC states.

The public row between the global bank and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace is a warning to other US banks, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, which also face Indigenous rights and environmental justice resolutions at this year’s annual shareholders meetings. In contrast, Indigenous investors at Royal Bank of Canada withdrew a resolution at the bank following an agreement on progress.

Three years on, Citi is scrambling to blunt investor support for the nuns’ resolution which in 2022 and 2023 attracted over 30% of shareholder vote and has become a source of embarrassment for the bank.

The Citi report on Indigenous issues admits that despite flagging 16 clients over risks to Indigenous rights, none have been refused funding or services by the bank. Out of the 37 projects which the bank identified as posing a risk to Indigenous rights, Citi refused funding for just seven.

Indigenous groups have also rejected Citi’s Indigenous report. An alliance of seven Indigenous nations from the Peruvian Amazon, impacted by oil spills and rights violations by Citi client Petroperú, have denounced Citi’s report saying they have “serious concerns” about it. Citi has refused to meet the groups when they travel from Perú to New York in two weeks.

Indigenous groups affected by Citi’s $5.8 billion funding of controversial pipeline company Enbridge are also angry at the publication of the report. This includes communities which are fighting Line 3 and Line 5 construction in Minnesota and the Rio Bravo LNG pipeline in south Texas.

The nuns’ resolution will be voted on by shareholders at the annual shareholders meeting on April 30. In contrast, Citi in recent weeks agreed with the New York City Comptroller’s demands to disclose information on ratios of energy funding and with another investor on information on its clients transition plans. Both resolutions were withdrawn.

Quotes

Sister Susan Francois of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, said:

“More than 30% of shareholders supported our proposal last year and the year before, asking Citi to report concrete performance indicators on how they are respecting Indigenous People’s rights in existing and proposed general corporate and project financing.   This report is very light on this critical information and does not provide shareholders with confidence that Indigenous rights are being protected. In fact, new projects are being developed now with funding from Citi that place these rights and Citi’s reputation at risk. We look forward to presenting our proposal to shareholders again and encourage Citi to respond with more robust reporting to shareholders.”

Olivia Bisa, President of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra Nation in Peru:

“Citi talks about respecting the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities as set down by the UN, but it has clients like Petroperú which refuse to recognize the right to say no of seven Indigenous nations in the Peruvian Amazon. Petroperu’s disregard for Indigenous rights should mean something to the banks that lend them money; but in reality their mutual business continues. If they are serious about Indigenous rights, Citi must hold its clients accountable for ensuring that their due diligence adheres to international standards of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” 

Tara Houska (Anishinaabe), founder of Indigenous women’s and two spirit led environmental protection group, Giniw Collective, which has opposed the Enbridge pipelines in Minnesota, said:

“Clearly Citi feels the pressure of Indigenous peoples’ voices finally being heard, yet they continue to avoid truth. Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities does not mean consultation, it means consent. Many of Citi’s clients lack our consent, costing them billions in delays, legal fights, and reputational damage. In response to hard-won protections in project-level finance for our people and ecosystems, industry largely shifted to corporate lending to maintain the status quo. Citi’s clients are obscuring the truth from Citi, as Citi is now obscuring the truth from its shareholders: Indigenous peoples pay the direct price of violence on our communities and lands, we all pay as a species reliant on a habitable planet. We deserve better.”

Juan Mancias, Chair of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, whose ancestral land will be impacted by the Rio Bravo gas pipeline which Enbridge wants to build, said:

“The title of this report is ‘Respecting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ but respect is a learned value, it’s not a corporate ideal. Citi can’t decide on its own who to respect because they don’t have the standards in place to do that. You can say ‘respect’ but it’s really about action. Citi’s funding of Enbridge shows it is not interested in taking the action needed to show respect.”

Gisela Hurtado, Advocacy Manager and Peruvian Attorney, Amazon Watch:  

“The Indigenous Peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, represented by organizations such as FENAP, GTANW, and GTANCH, strongly condemn Citi’s recent report, ‘Respecting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,’ for failing to adhere to international standards regarding Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the right to self-determination. While the report acknowledges Citi’s commitment to Indigenous collective rights, it falls short by neglecting clear Interamerican standards on Indigenous rights and self-determination”. 

Courtney Wicks Executive Director of Investor Advocates for Social Justice, which supports the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace on their shareholder filings said:

“Citi’s history of perpetuating racism and human rights violations as a result of the bank’s policies and practices has repeatedly undermined its reputation and exposed the bank to material risk. It is unclear why the company would continue to engage in such bad faith with investors and fail to consult impacted stakeholders before publishing such an egregiously inadequate report. This, coupled with the bank’s withdrawal from the Equator Principles, indicates that Citi no longer cares about its reputation or the harm its business commits against BIPOC and other marginalized peoples, or the planet itself.”

Hannah Saggau, Senior Climate Finance Campaigner, Stand.earth:

“If Citi is so eager to get investors and communities off its back then it needs to go beyond a report like this. We want to see actual policy changes where the bank agrees to end funding of egregious projects and companies which harm Indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest to North America and places us further away from dealing with catastrophic climate chaos.”

Ryan Brightwell, campaign lead, banks and human rights, said:

“This flimsy paper tells us nothing about how effective Citi’s policies have been in protecting Indigenous Rights. It’s as if they haven’t understood the question. We know the bank has a track record of funding damaging extractive projects and companies, from the Cerrejon coal mine to DAPL and Line 3. But rather than dwelling on how this has been allowed to happen and what needs to improve, the bank has simply rehashed its policies and published a few numbers of transactions approved and declined.

“It’s not enough to tell shareholders there were 7 deals last year that were sufficiently outside the pale for the bank to say “no”, and this won’t reassure shareholders that the bank is managing risks effectively. Shareholders should call the bank’s bluff and insist the bank really examines its failings and improves.”

Background Info

Citi published a climate report two weeks ago which showed 71% of the oil, gas and coal companies it funds do not have sufficient climate plans to transition away from fossil fuels and address their massive emissions. Last month the bank exited the Equator Principles, which set minimum standards on risks to the environment and local communities in countries where they finance oil, gas, coal, infrastructure and mining projects. The day before its proxy book was released, Citi capitulated to New York City’s Comptroller and agreed to issue a report on the bank’s ratio of financing dirty fossil fuels vs low-carbon energy. NYC withdrew its resolution. 

Citi is the second biggest funder of fossil fuels in the world, pumping in $322 billion between  2016-2022 according to the annual Banking on Climate Chaos report. Citi is one of the biggest funders of oil and gas in the Amazon and is the biggest foreign funder of fossil fuel expansion in Africa.

Press Contact:

Judith Crosbie, Sunrise Project, [email protected]

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Stand.earth Commends NYC Comptroller Climate Resolutions at Big Fossil Banks

New York, NY – Today, the New York City Comptroller, representing $255 billion in assets under management, announced filing of climate shareholder resolutions at big fossil banks, including Citibank and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

The resolutions specifically challenge six major banks on skewed financing ratios of dirty energy to clean energy, which are currently dangerously out of sync with all legitimate energy modeling projections, including from the International Energy Association (IEA).

“Big fossil banks like RBC and Citi are dragging us all backwards by over-financing dirty energy of the past, and under-financing solutions for a climate-safe economy. On the heels of the hottest year on-record, this reckless imbalance has deadly impacts for our communities and climate,” said Richard Brooks, Stand.earth Climate Finance Director. “We commend New York City’s leadership, as the home of Wall Street, to push big banks to be part of the solution and stop exacerbating the problem. This is a clear signal for pensions and institutional investors everywhere to step up and support these resolutions.”

Today’s resolutions come on the heels of a recent first-of-its-kind report and scorecard – the Hidden Risk in Pensions – which graded 24 U.S. public pension funds (including NYC) on proxy voting and guidelines.

Both Citi and RBC’s ratio of financing renewables to fossil fuels are abysmally low, according to Bloomberg NEF. RBC’s ratio was 0.4:1 in 2022, while Citi’s ratio actually decreased from 0.7:1 in 2021 to 0.6:1 in 2022.

Citi was warned by the United Nations, along with other banks, that their financing of Saudi Aramco may contribute to global human rights violations because of the oil giant’s role in driving climate chaos. Meanwhile, RBC is currently under investigation by the Competition Bureau of Canada for allegedly misleading consumers with climate-related advertising while continuing to increase financing for coal, oil and gas, including in extreme energy like fracking and tar sands.

RBC and Citi’s proxy statements are expected in early March ahead of annual general meetings (AGMs): RBC’s in Toronto on April 11, 2024, and Citi’s at the end of April.

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Press Contact:

Lindsay Meiman, Stand.earth —

+1 (917) 970-2281
[email protected]

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Financial Times: Nuns urge Citigroup to rethink financing of fossil fuel projects

Ahead of Citi’s AGM on April 25, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, which owns a small stake in the bank as part of its wider investment portfolio, filed a resolution calling on the board to report on what it was doing to protect indigenous rights affected by its project and corporate financing decisions.

 

 

Read the full article in the Financial Times

Check it out

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