Earlier this year, it looked as if Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC)‘s plan to spruce up its tarnished public image was having some effect, but that momentum was short-lived. A recent survey once again saw Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) failing miserably in the reputation department, and the rumpus over the bank having directed employees to deliberately scuttle efforts by troubled homeowners to refinance their mortgages isn’t adding any polish, either.
When it comes to shooting itself in the figurative foot with the general public, Bank of America just can’t seem to help itself. This recent incident, while not as shocking as lying to desperate mortgage customers, showcases how little control Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) seems to have over its impulse to irk and annoy.
Chalk-based graffiti smears should have been ignored
A recent court case in California illustrates this point. The chalk graffiti incident involved a 40-year-old protester, Jeff Olson, who got himself arrested for chalking anti-bank slogans on the sidewalk outside of Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) branch locations in San Diego. Olson was brought up on 13 counts of vandalism, each of which carried a fine of $1,000 and a term of one year in jail. This case brought on a wave of support for Olson, whom a jury acquitted earlier this week.
This made Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) look bad, not because “Shame on Bank of America” was scrawled on the sidewalk outside its doors, but because the bank apparently contacted the office of the city attorney to push for prosecution. Putting aside the fact that the charge was a stretch — walkways in any large city certainly sustain contact with worse materials than chalk — it seemed quite petty. Even the mayor thought it was a ridiculous suit, and a waste of public money.
What was Bank of America thinking?
The case represented another scuffle between the city attorney’s office and the mayor, a battle from which Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) should have steered clear. By getting involved, the bank changed its part from ringside observer to participant, and not in a good way.
Bank of America isn’t the only big bank to engage in questionable behavior, or commit public relations gaffes. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) was recently forced to write off about $1.6 billion in a case in which it made pots of money off of greedy officials in Jefferson County, Alabama, while helping to push the county into bankruptcy.