There's no denying Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is one of the most despised banks on Wall Street. But the megabank has done right by one group of important people: its employees. In the most recent Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, the bank was among the top companies offering equality-based corporate policies and benefits to its employees.
Surveying the field
Each year since 2002, the Human Rights Campaign has surveyed hundreds of companies across the nation to see where corporate policies stand in terms of equality for the LGBT community. This year, 734 companies answered the survey, including some from both the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000, along with the AmLaw200, a survey of the nation's top law firms.
The HRC uses self-reporting surveys as well as SEC filings to confirm information on the company's investors, investments, and charitable givings to weed out those companies that do business with known anti-LGBT organizations. Each of the various criteria awards the respective company with a number of points, which add up to 100. Here are the 2014 criteria:
- Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation (15 points)
- Prohibits Discrimination Based on Gender Identity or Expression (15 points)
- Offers Partner Health/Medical Insurance (15 points)
- Has Parity Across Other "Soft" Benefits for Partners (10 points)
- Half credit for parity across some, but not all benefits
- Offers Transgender-Inclusive Health Insurance Coverage (10 points)
- Firmwide Organizational Competency Programs (10 points)
- Has Employer-Supported Employee Resource Group OR Firm-Wide Diversity Council (10 points)
- Half credit if firm would support ERG, if employees express interest
- Positively Engages the External LGBT Community (15 points)
- Partial credit of 5 points given for less than 3 efforts
Any company that has a "large scale" or public/official statement with anti-LGBT sentiments is docked 25 points.
In good company
Bank of America was one of the 304 companies that received a perfect score in the 2014 index. Banking and financial services firms represented the second largest sector for top scoring companies with 36 hitting the 100 point mark. Law firms took the top rank with 81 firms receiving top marks; retail and consumer goods companies rounded out the top three with 20 companies.
Also receiving 100 points were Bank of America rivals Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup (NYSE:C), Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and PNC Financial (among others). And though the industry only ranked sixth in terms of top-rated companies, the insurance sector had some popular overachievers -- American International Group (NYSE:AIG), Hartford Financial Group (NYSE:HIG), MetLife, and Progressive. One notable company missing from the top ranks was Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B). The Oracle of Omaha's firm received a big fat zero in the rankings, and was noted to be one of the key firms contacted by the HRC annually that has never responded to the survey invitations.
The results of the CE Index isn't new for Bank of America, or most of its rivals. The bank has been among those receiving top marks for the past six years, though the criteria continues to become tougher with each permutation of the survey. The longevity of Bank of America's positive attitude toward equality for its employees should give investors a sense that the company does have good intentions. So when news comes out that the bank has treated customers unfairly, and CEO Brian Moynihan states that the company will begin treating everyone fairly -- it's a bit more believable.
Though the results of the HRC index may not help the bank boost its share price, the news is a great start to help customers and investors gain some more confidence in the bank and its values.
Fool contributor Jessica Alling has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American International Group, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Goldman Sachs, Progressive, and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of American International Group, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial Services, and Wells Fargo and has the following options: long January 2016 $30 calls on American International Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.