Activists protest JP Morgan Chase CEO at shareholder meeting in Tampa
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05/15/12 Janelle Irwin
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Shareholders approved JP-Morgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon’s $23 million pay package and his chairmanship at their annual meeting in Tampa today. His admission that the company was at fault for losing billions on a bad investment prompted calls from several shareholders to install a new chair. When that didn’t happen, it added fuel to the already burning fire outside where dozens of protesters gathered to speak out against what they say is the company’s flawed business practices.

“The man that just lost them minimum $2 billion that’s probably over time going to end up over time losing $4 billion gets a pay raise basically – or keeps a pay raise.”

David Wasman, an Occupy Orlando activist, just can’t understand why shareholders aren’t holding him accountable .

"How? Why? What is wrong with people? Why wasn’t any body in that meeting standing up, fighting back? Why wasn’t any body standing up screaming? Because that’s ridiculous. The man makes more than an entire family home would make in probably days. That’s ridiculous. Nobody should…it’s an exorbitant amount of money.”

But Father Shamus Finn, a priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, did speak up. The group holds stock in JP Morgan. Finn said the decision to approve the multimillion dollar pay package was pretty much a done deal even before the meeting started.

“Now the revelations of a $2 billion loss in trading does not send the right message in terms of offering that type of compensation. I mean, what is compensation tied to in terms of offering that kind of compensation tied to in terms of evaluation of performance and protecting the reputation of the company and managing the risk.”

And based on JP-Morgan Chase’s general counsel’s announcement of preliminary voting results inside the meeting, there wouldn’t have been any way for critics to have tipped the scale.

“The vote for the approval of the advisory resolution to approve executive compensation was 91.5%.”

Finn didn’t say whether he was one of the few who voted against the hefty pay package. But he and his church can still vote with their money by divesting from the bank. Finn said that’s not been considered yet, but it’s not out of the question.

“We like to invest according to our faith principles. So, we’re faith-consistent investors. We joined the shareholder SRI community. One of the responsibilities we take is companies we invest in, we vote our proxies, we review their policies and practices, we exclude a lot of companies that we don’t invest in. So, if we do invest in these companies then we want to be actively engaging the companies on some of the practices and policies that we think they could change or improve.”

Concerns over CEO Jamie Dimon’s $2 billion blunder are drawing national media attention. Last week protesters led a massive demonstration outside the Bank of American Shareholder meeting. Even though this event wasn’t as large as that one, their message is likely to resonate because of increased media exposure. But it’s not just the controversy surrounding JP-Morgan's embattled leader that’s fueling protests. Denise Diaz, an organizer with Central Florida Jobs with Justice, said the company, and the entire industry, is not doing its part to help their most struggling customers.

“He needs to do what’s right and needs to, again, sit down with homeowners and lower their principles and help them stay in their homes.”

“While he’s lost $2 billion which is a dime in the bucket for him, for homeowners it’s their whole life savings.”

As a former vice president in the company’s credit card division, Linda Almonte has insider knowledge about how foreclosures were processed. After becoming a whistle blower against the company, she claims to have coined the term “robo signer”.

“Not one account was ever looked up. There was no validation in there. And if they had been looking up, you really need to reconcile each account; especially after it’s been in litigation because it’s on different systems. So, without matching those systems together, you’ll never have the right balances.”

Almonte was fired after she refused to sign off on a quarter of a million dollar deal she said was fraudulent. She took the issue up the chain of command, got fired and then found out the management involved in the deal were given promotions. It was that rewarded bunch…

“Which would sell 23,000 accounts, of consumer credit card accounts to debt buyers and sell them as judgments so that the debt buyer could immediately start performing post-judgment activities such as garnishing people’s wages, levying their bank accounts and putting leans on their homes without having to go to court again.”

The problem, Almonte said, was that at least 60% of those accounts weren’t accurate.

“That was really just a sample size of what the credit card is as a whole from what I was able to see. And they have really a lot of system issues – some things intentional, some things unintentional.”

Protesters want bankers to clean up their act and shareholders to demand it. But the banks, including JP-Morgan Chase, are vehemently opposed to any federal regulations that put limits on how they do business. Michael Long, an organizer with the Florida Consumer Action Network said he’ll let the details be sorted out by the pros, but something needs to be done – especially after the $2 billion loss.

“We saw JP Morgan Chase was one of the banks that stood up strong and said, ‘we don’t need this; it’s going to hurt our business’ and we just saw them lose billions of their investors’ money for the practices that many people are saying need to be regulated.”

Organizers of the shareholder meeting provided water coolers and Porto-o-potties for protesters. The group laughed at that gesture because police officers and security guards out numbered demonstrators two to one. Shareholders came in and out of the building located east of Tampa to an array of protest signs. One banner accused the company’s CEO of being a Vegas banker. Other posters with his picture on them were covered in smashed eggs. Organizers said that was in reference to a comment Dimon made recently where he said he had egg on his face.







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