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Friday, Apr 18, 2014
Business News

JPMorgan Chase meeting in Tampa brings more CEO drama


At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the world’s financial universe will focus on the unlikely – albeit temporary - epicenter of the financial world: an East Tampa corporate office park.

The latest chapter of the big banking drama that has touched Americans of nearly all income status will play out at the JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Highland Oaks Banking Center Branch.

The Tampa site that’s similar to sophisticated processing and client facilities in New York, Massachusetts, England, Singapore and Hong Kong will host the firm’s annual shareholder meeting for the second consecutive year.

What’s drawing Super Bowl-like attention from the financial world is a shareholder vote that could shape the future of Jamie Dimon, among Wall Street’s top celebrities.

At issue is whether Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s chairman and chief executive officer, will retain both positions or if company bylaws will be changed and force him to relinquish the board’s chairmanship.

It’s the same challenge he faced and overcame a year ago in Tampa, although 40 percent of the vote went against his desire to retain both roles.

Some news accounts indicate the charismatic 57-year-old New York City native, whose parents and grandparents were stockbrokers, is likely to survive this year’s challenge.

In part, that could be because Dimon has been quoted in a Wall Street Journal report as saying he might leave JPMorgan Chase if shareholders split his duties, a defection a Forbes account said could cost the company 10 percent of its shareholder value, or $20 billion.

But a resolution by the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, which represents more than 1.6 million active and retired public service employees and is a JPMorgan shareholder, along with officials of pension funds for New York City and Connecticut among others, introduced a proxy resolution to require the chair be an independent member of the board.

“Is a company a sandbox for the CEO, or is the CEO an employee,” the resolution states. “If he’s an employee, he needs a boss and that boss is the board. The chairman runs the board. How can the CEO be his own boss?”

Dimon largely retained his iconic image through much of the nation’s recent economic demise, weathering criticism from some observers such as Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in April 2011, who opined that JPMorgan played a prominent role “in the banking world recklessness that hobbled the rest of the world.”

“It’s no secret that bankers have been feeling the wrath of an angry public – although nowhere near as much wrath or anger as the situation demands,” Carter wrote. “They kept a low profile for a while, garaging their Lamborghinis and keeping the big watches in the sock drawer.

Carter wrote that Dimon tried to elevate himself above his fellow bankers to frame himself as a thinker and a statesman. But Dimon drew the wrath of Carter and others after complaining that the public and elected officials were vilifying “his people,” a lament that followed JPMorgan’s announcement of a $10 billion pay pool in 2011.

That was before the 2012 London Whale revelations that a top executive in Great Britain whose nickname referred to the size of his deals had caused a company loss of about $6 billion.

The company also has faced federal investigations involving alleged manipulations of energy markets, possible facilitation of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and the dismal impacts of corporate practices on homeowners faced with foreclosures.

In January, the board announced it had approved 2012 compensation of $11.5 million for Dimon, a decline of 50 percent from the previous year. His $1.5 million salary remained the same, but incentive compensation was down 53.5 percent from the previous year, the 2013 proxy statement indicated.

But the corporate governance committee of the board on May 10 recommended shareholders not support the proposal to amend the company’s bylaws to separate the chairman and CEO positions.

“During Mr. Dimon’s tenure, and largely with the current board in place, our stock has outperformed the industry averages and most other financial services companies, and we have a top-two leadership position in each of our lines of business,” the statement said.

If last year’s shareholder’s meeting attended by about 200 people in Tampa is any indication of what to expect this year, security will be tight and media will outnumber protestors.

Protestors, though, are likely to be the more creative group, with one a year ago holding a sign: “Dear Chase. You aren't the problem. It's us. Just kidding, it is you.”

Yet JPMorgan Chase selected Tampa for the shareholder’s meeting again, citing a strong and growing retail branch presence in Florida.

“We’re very proud of our employees and the work they do in Tampa and across the state,” said Maribel Ferrer, a spokesperson representing the firm.

“JPMorgan Chase has over 17,000 employees in Florida, including over 5,500 in the Tampa area. They represent the best our company has to offer, so this is a great opportunity for us to put a spotlight on their great work.”