“This crisis must serve as a wake-up call and a call to action for business and government to think, act and invest for the common good and confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years”. This is not a statement from an NGO, nor from an economist reflecting on the future; it comes from one of the most powerful players in global finance: Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase.
In an internal document consulted by AFP, Dimon explains that the future economy must provide "widespread access to opportunity" for all. This was not the first time this major voice in global finance echoed such sentiments, as he has previously called for capitalism reform. In Dimon’s 2019 letter to shareholders, he wrote that "in many ways and without ill intent, many companies were able to avoid - almost literally drive by - many of society’s problems."
Now, as the world faces a global pandemic and impending economic crisis, the CEO reaffirms: "the last few months have laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge of the poverty line." Dimon has promised to share ideas on this fair economy “soon” because "by doing the right thing during times of crisis, we can emerge stronger".
Dimon has already begun highlighting the company's actions. So far, JP Morgan has helped 1.5 million account holders, eliminated overdraft fees, pushed back car, consumer and home loan repayment deadlines, and removed late payment penalties.
Recent action by the global finance player, who has not hesitated to address societal issues ranging from health coverage to education or discrimination and diversity, has revived speculation as to his political aspirations. According to close sources of the AFP, democratic-leaning Dimon refused President Trump's offer to become Secretary of the Treasury.
Dimon's position is more ambiguous concerning climate. During the bank's May 19th General Meeting, a resolution presented by NGO As You Sow asked how JP Morgan would align its funding with the Paris Agreement.
While other American banks (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, etc.) faced with the same resolution had dialogue with the NGO, JPMorgan was confrontational and asked regulators to withdraw the resolution. Their request was unsuccessful. The vote went before shareholders, an affront to JP Morgan management, but was eventually rejected by a small majority.
JP Morgan has also been criticized for favoring large companies in their federal loan plan for small and medium-sized American businesses devastated by the coronavirus crisis, such as restaurant chains like Shake Shack and Ruth's Chris Steak House. According to Dimon, they “have provided more than $30 billion in loans to over 250,000 businesses, which has helped support more than three million employees. The average loan given out was $122,000, and half of those loans went to companies employing less than five people”.