The Dutch bank said recent research revealed that its legal predecessors, Hope & Co. and Mees en Zoonen, were major players in the international slave economy of the 18th century.
“Not only were slavery-related operations a source of much of Hope & Co.’s profits, the firm was also actively involved in the day-to-day business of plantations,” the bank stated, adding that Mees en Zoonen “brokered insurance for slave ships and shipments of goods harvested by enslaved persons.”
ABN AMRO’s CEO Robert Swaak said the bank has “a proud history” going back three centuries but “must also recognize that it has a darker side as well.”
"ABN Amro apologizes for the past actions and activities of these predecessors and for the pain and suffering that they caused," he stated.
According to Reuters, many of the wealthiest Dutch families of that era had direct financial ties with slavery, which the Dutch engaged in from the 17th century until it was abolished in 1863. The Dutch West India Company oversaw the transport of an estimated 600,000 slaves.
In the aftermath of global protests over Minneapolis ex-cop Derek Chauvin’s 2020 murder of George Floyd, ABN Amro commissioned the International Institute of Social History to research the bank’s connection to slavery.
Swaak acknowledged that “past injustices have persisted” long after slavery was abolished.
ABN Amro said the research will reinforce its commitment to improving social inequality conditions and promoting diversity within the bank and society at large.
Racism is a problem across the Netherlands, which had a global network of colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and South America. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his government commissioned an independent advisory panel in the aftermath of Floyd’s death to come up with ideas on how to address discrimination in the country, as people of color immigrate from its former colonies, according to US News & World Reports.
One piece of advice from the panel was for the Netherlands to acknowledge that the slave trade amounted to “crimes against humanity” and to apologize, US News reported.