Meeting America’s “Most Respected Bankers”

Loyola University Chicago, REC, and allies take on JPMorgan on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

At 10:15 AM on Tuesday, May 18th, I entered One Chase Plaza, JP Morgan Chase’s world headquarters with representatives from Loyola University Chicago, Swarthmore College, Rainforest Action Network, and Waterkeeper Alliance, for the annual shareholder meeting.

Outside, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir marched in green robes, calling on the bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining.  Inside, people waited to hear from Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, and one of the most “respected” bankers in the US, and to say their piece about what JPMorgan is and should be doing.

For the last few years, JPMorgan Chase has been one of the largest financers of mountaintop removal coal mining in America. Mountaintop removal mining is a horrible practice that levels mountains, pollutes water supplies, and tears apart the fabric and resources of communities in central Appalachia in West Virginia and Kentucky. Even the coal mining companies have said that it can’t be done without violating the regulations and permitting of the EPA and other government agencies.

So how did we get here, to the center of corporate America?

Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit university, set up a shareholder advocacy committee three years ago to engage with the companies that their endowment has stock in around issues of sustainability and social responsibility.

Last fall, Loyola filed a resolution with support from the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and other allies asking for JPMorgan to report on their financing of mountaintop removal and to implement a policy stopping it. Though omitted by the SEC Loyola continued the dialogue, engaging JPMorgan’s senior management and encouraging them to change.  In our dialogue, the company agreed to publish a statement, but then backed away. It seemed like they were thinking, “Why should the most profitable bank in the country listen to these people?”

But on the Monday before the meeting, JPMorgan published its first statement on mountaintop removal, both a big victory for Loyola, REC, and our allies, and a step forward for JPMorgan. In the policy, the company said that they no longer financed the practice, but didn’t commit to a verifiable practice.

JPMorgan Chase needs a transparent and verifiable way to completely stop financing companies that are engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.

At the shareholder meeting,, we confronted Jamie Dimon, demanding a stronger policy in front of fellow shareholders of JPMorgan, and received cheers from the audience for our comments and questions. Even at a meeting of many loyal shareholders, attendees knew which way the wind was blowing.

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