Protesters concerned with the environmental effects of mountaintop removal coal mining descended on PNC Financial Services Group's annual shareholders meeting Downtown Tuesday morning, disrupting the event and forcing chairman and CEO James Rohr to abruptly shut it down.
As Mr. Rohr tried to deliver his presentation inside the August Wilson Center, he was repeatedly interrupted by members of the Earth Quaker Action Team and related groups, who took turns calling out the names of individual board members asking them to state their position on mountaintop mining.
Calling the protesters out of order, Mr. Rohr, presiding over his final shareholders meeting after 13 years at the helm, cut short his prepared remarks, played a brief video and adjourned the proceeding roughly 15 minutes after it began.
Earth Quaker, which has demonstrated at PNC's annual meetings for three straight years, wants Pittsburgh's biggest bank to stop lending money to companies that extract coal by shearing off the tops of mountains.
PNC last year said it no longer financed companies with a majority of their business tied to the practice.
But Earth Quaker executive director Amy Ward Brimmer said Tuesday no companies fit that description.
"None of them do a majority of their business in mountaintop mining," she said.
The group claims PNC remains one of the nation's two largest financiers of mountaintop coal mining.
Ms. Brimmer said members decided to step up pressure on PNC this year because executives have refused to meet with them.
"This is the only way we can think to get their attention," she said.
Inside the meeting, one man who said he was from West Virginia interrupted by shouting, "Houses get blasted and we're dying of cancer. You have to stop that, and invest in something meaningful."
Outside, roughly two dozen demonstrators rallied before and after the meeting, carrying signs with messages such as, "Destruction is a choice," and "PNC poisoning the water."
Some held up photocopies of the faces of various PNC board members, including incoming CEO William Demchak, with the description on the back, "Old fossils make bad business."
Mr. Demchak, who joined PNC in 2002, officially stepped in as chief executive after the annual meeting, succeeding Mr. Rohr, who plans to continue as chairman for another year.
Before the meeting ended, officials reported the voting results on four agenda items, including a proposal by an activist shareholder asking PNC to produce a report assessing the risks and impact on climate change from greenhouse gas emissions produced by companies in its lending portfolio.
PNC directors had unanimously opposed the resolution, saying that preparing such a report "would require considerable resources without conveying useful information."
The proposal, presented by Boston Common Asset Management, was voted down by a majority of shareholders, PNC said, without providing specific percentages.
The three other matters on the agenda were approved, including the election of all 16 directors to one-year terms and ratification of PriceWaterhouseCoopers as the bank's independent accountant.
Shareholders also gave the nod to the company's executive compensation plan in a "say on pay" advisory vote.
Patricia Sabatini: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3066. First Published April 23, 2013 4:30 AM