Ill-Gotten Gains?

Mike Drak

FOUR OF CANADA’S five biggest banks recently announced they’re going to raise service charges, even though they continue to rake in billions in profits. Taking advantage of people, when they’re struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, is beyond comprehension—and it’s in direct conflict with my values.

In their defense, the banks stated that the increases were made after careful consideration and that other options were available to customers. This is classic bank-speak. Roughly translated: It means we’ve thought about this carefully and concluded that we can get away with it. We’re confident that, while our customers will whine some, in the end they’ll take it on the chin and not move their business. After all, with our competitors doing it as well, where are they going to go?

The banks aren’t the only companies not walking the talk. Another company I’m invested in likes to tout its strong support for mental health. It even hosts its own annual mental health awareness day. I bought into the good work the company was doing. But less than a week after its special day, it terminated hundreds of people. I’ve experienced termination, along with the depression, embarrassment, and fear of being unable to pay the mortgage and take care of the kids. I can’t see how terminating employees during a pandemic supports mental health.

But if you thought that was bad, the way the company gave notice was brutal. Because of the pandemic and in the name of efficiency, most firings were done either over the phone or via Zoom. The conversations were usually short and to the point. “Your services are no longer needed. Thank you for your contribution and please clean out your workstation by the end of the week.” Corporations need to show some compassion—simply because it’s the right thing to do.

The decision I now struggle with: Should I sell shares of these companies that I own? Or is it worth sacrificing my personal values to earn good investment returns?

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