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The problem with BNY Mellon: It wears blinders

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Thursday, April 10, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Bank of New York Mellon, the merged banking giant that abandoned Pittsburgh as its headquarters nearly a decade ago for the bright lights of being where the action is in New York City, need not feign surprise that it is under increasing fire from some shareholders for what they consider to be questionable governance and performance. After all, it was foretold in BNY Mellon's behavior toward its customers.

The fusillade went quite public on Tuesday at the trust and custody behemoth's annual meeting in the Big Apple. Not only is there discontent that nothing less than a corporate autocracy — top dog Gerald Hassell is both chairman and CEO — is damaging BNY Mellon's brand, there's growing concern that, as the Trib's John Oravecz reported Wednesday, it is “lagging behind competitors attracting retail investors to investment products.”

The phrase “wearing blinders” comes to mind. And it has been a long time in development. Think of how the company abandoned the kind of retail banking once so vital to the fabric of communities. Think, too, of how BNY Mellon (by the way, now under federal order to beef up its capital assets) even has shuttered many of its wealth management offices that clients can physically visit. The impression that the few benefit at the expense of the many — and the greater good — looms large.

BNY Mellon, the world's eighth-largest asset manager, will defend its management by citing its profits and noting that more than 78 percent of shareholders this week rejected splitting the chairman-CEO jobs. But while it might have won this battle, the prospects of losing the wider war loom equally large.

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