18 of 18: Marathon Petroleum Terminates Balch & Bingham Showing that Black Lives Do Matter

Marathon Petroleum confirmed tonight that they have terminated Balch & Bingham as their lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and their bold action affirms that Black Lives Matter.

Yesterday, we, the CDLU, had written to Marathon Petroleum’s new Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Hennigan asking him to terminate the firm.

We wrote:

The law firm has been involved in alleged racist misconduct, targeting poor African-American children, and using intimidation tactics reminiscent of the segregationists from the 1960s. A Balch partner was convicted of six federal crimes including money laundering and bribery in a scheme to suppress African-Americans from having their toxic property tested by the EPA.

17 of 18 major lobbying clients in D.C. have dumped the firm, except Marathon. 

Black lives matter and now is the time to do the right thing.  Your corporate Code of Conduct affirms the need to terminate Balch & Bingham, which now has a “history of violating the law.”

In 24 hours, Marathon Petroleum responded. We applaud their decision to terminate Balch.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Marathon has paid Balch & Bingham $810,000 from 2016 through April of 2020. $50,000 had been paid so far this year.

This was the last big D.C. lobbying client of Balch that was paying the embattled firm six-figures a year. The CDLU had reached out to 18 major Balch D.C. lobbying clients of which 17 had terminated Balch by January of 2019, costing the firm millions. Marathon Petroleum was the last hold-out.

We applaud Marathon Petroleum for standing up to alleged racist misconduct and unsavory behavior. We provided Marathon with a 14-page report that outlined numerous matters involving Balch including:

  • The North Birmingham Bribery Scandal: The bribery effort against African-Americans, the invoicing, the bribery checks, and ghost-written letters were born at and dispatched from the offices of Balch & Bingham.
  • The Targeting of Black Children: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Archibald of AL.com wrote about the horrific targeting of poor, African-American children of North Birmingham in a scurrilous “coat drive” allegedly devised by a Balch partner. North Birmingham is 92.5 percent African-American, according to U.S. Census figures.
  • Alleged Racist Land Grab: Balch & Bingham was also advising and providing legal services to a limestone quarry company that allegedly engaged in a “whites-only” land grab in a historically African-American area of Vincent, Alabama. The company was also allegedly considering moving historic slave graves according to local news reports.
  • Balch & Bingham’s convicted partner dispatched an unconscionable letter to a health advocacy group and public charity in 2014 demanding a list of their financial supporters. Using tactics reminiscent of the 1960’s when segregationists and other racists demanded lists of supporters from the NAACP and other Civil Rights organizations to intimidate and instill fear in those supporters, Balch & Bingham should have known better: public charities have no obligation to provide lists of their supporters.
  • Last year, Balch & Bingham let go of Kimberly Bell, their only African-American female attorney in Birmingham, who headed diversity efforts at the firm. With over 200 attorneys, partners, and top staff throughout their footprint, only five Balch & Bingham attorneys at the firm are African-American, each one assigned to a different Balch office, reflecting alleged tokenism.
  • Less than 2.5 percent of Balch & Bingham’s attorneys, partners, and top staff are African-American while six of the cities that Balch has offices in have majority African-American populations, one in which African-Americans represent 79 percent of the population.