Big Oil takes a Back Seat at JP Morgan Chase

After 33 years (19 as Lead Independent Director) Lee Raymond’s tenure on the Board of JP Morgan Chase has been seriously challenged. A group of shareholder activists and environmentalists in the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition mounted a strong campaign to remove Lee Raymond from Chase’s Board by calling for votes against his re-election at the May 19 Chase Annual General Meeting (AGM). After today’s vote, Raymond remains on the Board, but he is no longer Lead Independent Director.

In the run-up to the AGM, JP Morgan Chase promised to appoint a new Lead Independent Director after strong concern from shareholders regarding the re-election of Raymond, a former CEO of ExxonMobil and noted climate science denier, to that post. The fact that Raymond will remain on the Board as a Director is of continued concern to investors. Recently the State Treasurers of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin joined the Pennsylvania Treasurer, the Comptrollers of New York City and New York State, CalPERS, and other shareowners in opposing his re-election. Fiona Ma, State Treasurer of California, sided with the CalPERS staff recommendation against Raymond, and CalSTRS also voted against returning Lee Raymond to the Board.

PERS and STRS are the 3rd and 4th largest pension fund shareowners of Chase, just behind NYS and TIAA. PERS holds $820,225 (861.44 shares) and STRS holds $676,562 (855.34 shares). Small percentages, but highly influential in the market.

JP Morgan Chase is the largest funder of the fossil fuel industry, pouring more than $269 billion into fossil fuels since the 2015 Paris agreement. Given this, it’s no surprise to learn that Lee Raymond was Lead “Independent” Director of JP Morgan Chase from 2001 until May 19, 2020.

In a recent column in the New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben discussed the challenges to Big Oil at the Chase AGM as another sign that the fortunes of the fossil fuel industry are clearly in decline. McKibben predicted that Raymond would hang on to this Board seat, but “as a sad and powerless reminder of the glory that was once Big Oil’s.” We thank PERS and STRS for using their “seat at the table” to make a real difference for the planet, and we look forward to seeing the last of Lee Raymond at next year’s Chase AGM.

See also: Analysis by Majority Action.