January 26, 2006 -- BB&T, a major bank with branches through the Southeast, has taken a stand for private property and individual rights, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision on eminent domain last June. The corporation announced that “it will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain.”
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison explained the policy as a matter of principle:
"The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it’s just plain wrong. One of the most basic
rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."
A principled public stand for individual rights is social responsibility of the highest order.
W. Kendall Chalk, Senior Executive Vice President, told reporters that the issue arose when the bank recently rejected a loan request for a project relying on eminent domain, but that such cases are unusual; the new policy would have only an "insignificant" effect on BB&T’s loan business. “Still, he said, BB&T is sympathetic to concerns about eminent domain expressed by some clients. The bank wants to show government officials its "opposition to the encroachment on private property rights." (Reuters)
The financial press speculated about the bank’s motives. Was it a practical judgment that a small loss of business would be outweighed by taking a popular stand (and avoiding the legal risks of eminent domain)? Or was it a matter of principles and values?
Those familiar with Ayn Rand
’s philosophy of Objectivism
will recognize this as a false dichotomy—and so does BB&T. According to an online statement,
"Since we build on the facts of reality and our ability to reason, we are capable of achieving both success and happiness….
"Because we have developed our principles logically, based on reality, we will always act consistently with our principles. Regardless of the short-term benefits, acting inconsistently with our principles is to our long-term detriment. We do not, therefore, believe in compromising our principles in any situation.
"Principles provide carefully thought-out concepts which will lead to our long-term success and happiness. Violating our principles will always lead to failure. BB&T is an organization of the highest integrity."
Allison has often spoken publicly about his admiration for Ayn Rand
and the influence of Objectivism
on the principles by which the business operates. The impact is clear in BB&T’s of statement of corporate philosophy, which is unusually thoughtful, integrated, and clearly explained.
We salute Allison and his colleagues. If the term “corporate social responsibility” can be given a legitimate, non-collectivism meaning, a principled public stand for individual rights is social responsibility of the highest order.