JPMorgan (JPM) Shareholders Disappoint Dimon Critics

A lot of people hoped Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), would lose one or both of those titles last week. Most of those people, however, were not JPMorgan shareholders.

Last Tuesday, those shareholders overwhelmingly voted to keep Dimon’s dual roles united in his hands, rather than to split them. Dimon had previously suggested he might resign entirely if the measure to split his duties passed. Only 32 percent of shareholders voted for the split, down from 40 percent a year ago.

Dimon’s win prompted a chorus of responses from those who disapprove, which ranged from the incredulous to the angry. Richard Eskow blogged at the Huffington Post: “What’s Wrong With Jamie Dimon is What’s Wrong With America.” Steve Denning at Forbes asked, “Jamie Dimon: Dr Jekyll Or Mr Hyde?” The Daily Beast’s Daniel Gross wrote a column that carried the succinct, if glib, headline, “Jamie Dimon to Shareholders: Suck It.”

Yet the majority of JPMorgan shareholders evidently don’t feel that Dimon has let them down. So Dimon’s detractors are furious at the company’s owners for keeping him in charge. The nerve of those shareholders, acting like they own the place!

Those shareholders know how to express displeasure with JPMorgan’s governance when they feel it. At the same meeting, three members of the board’s risk committee received less than 60 percent support, prompting the board’s presiding director, Lee Raymond, to tell shareholders to “stay tuned” for future changes in the committee’s composition.

So the shareholders want, and will probably will get change – but they don’t want to change Dimon’s responsibilities. This is probably because over the past five years – which is to say, since the early days of the financial crisis – JPMorgan stock has appreciated more than 20 percent. Wells Fargo, up more than 40 percent, has done better, but Wells Fargo has only a minor presence outside the U.S. A more accurate comparison would be against Citibank, which has fallen around 80 percent, or Germany’s Deutsche Bank, down nearly 60 percent.

The $6-billion “London Whale” loss last year was an embarrassment for Dimon and JPMorgan. But good businesspeople keep individual events in their greater context. In this instance, the context is that, despite the loss, JPMorgan continues to post solid profits in a challenging regulatory environment. According to Bloomberg, the bank has posted record results for three straight years. And at the same annual meeting where shareholders voted not to split Dimon’s duties, JPMorgan announced that its second-quarter dividend will be 27 percent higher than that of the previous quarter.

Dimon deserves to be held accountable for JPMorgan’s failures, but he also deserves credit for its successes.

JPMorgan is not a paragon of excellent corporate governance, nor is it an example of outstanding citizenship for a financial institution. On the other hand, it is not an egregious outlier, either. If Dimon has managed, in a terrible environment for global banks, to run a global bank that performs more or less like a large national bank, it demonstrates the kind of talent you want at the head of a big company.

Which is exactly why his shareholders kept him there.

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About Larry M. Elkin 564 Articles

Affiliation: Palisades Hudson Financial Group

Larry M. Elkin, CPA, CFP®, has provided personal financial and tax counseling to a sophisticated client base since 1986. After six years with Arthur Andersen, where he was a senior manager for personal financial planning and family wealth planning, he founded his own firm in Hastings on Hudson, New York in 1992. That firm grew steadily and became the Palisades Hudson organization, which moved to Scarsdale, New York in 2002. The firm expanded to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2005, and to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2008.

Larry received his B.A. in journalism from the University of Montana in 1978, and his M.B.A. in accounting from New York University in 1986. Larry was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press from 1978 to 1986. He covered government, business and legal affairs for the wire service, with assignments in Helena, Montana; Albany, New York; Washington, D.C.; and New York City’s federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Larry established the organization’s investment advisory business, which now manages more than $800 million, in 1997. As president of Palisades Hudson, Larry maintains individual professional relationships with many of the firm’s clients, who reside in more than 25 states from Maine to California as well as in several foreign countries. He is the author of Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples (Currency Doubleday, 1995), which was the first comprehensive financial planning guide for unmarried couples. He also is the editor and publisher of Sentinel, a quarterly newsletter on personal financial planning.

Larry has written many Sentinel articles, including several that anticipated future events. In “The Economic Case Against Tobacco Stocks” (February 1995), he forecast that litigation losses would eventually undermine cigarette manufacturers’ financial position. He concluded in “Is This the Beginning Of The End?” (May 1998) that there was a better-than-even chance that estate taxes would be repealed by 2010, three years before Congress enacted legislation to repeal the tax in 2010. In “IRS Takes A Shot At Split-Dollar Life” (June 1996), Larry predicted that the IRS would be able to treat split dollar arrangements as below-market loans, which came to pass with new rules issued by the Service in 2001 and 2002.

More recently, Larry has addressed the causes and consequences of the “Panic of 2008″ in his Sentinel articles. In “Have We Learned Our Lending Lesson At Last” (October 2007) and “Mortgage Lending Lessons Remain Unlearned” (October 2008), Larry questioned whether or not America has learned any lessons from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. In addition, he offered some practical changes that should have been made to amend the situation. In “Take Advantage Of The Panic Of 2008” (January 2009), Larry offered ways to capitalize on the wealth of opportunity that the panic presented.

Larry served as president of the Estate Planning Council of New York City, Inc., in 2005-2006. In 2009 the Council presented Larry with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his service to the organization and “his tireless efforts in promoting our industry by word and by personal example as a consummate estate planning professional.” He is regularly interviewed by national and regional publications, and has made nearly 100 radio and television appearances.

Visit: Palisades Hudson

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