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‘Patriot’ Dimon dodges calls to disavow Trump policies

Jamie Dimon endured a rough ride at the annual meeting of America’s biggest bank on Tuesday morning, as shareholders repeatedly attacked the JPMorgan Chase chief over his ties to the administration of Donald Trump.

In December Mr Dimon was named chairman of the Business Roundtable, a group of almost 200 CEOs which is among the most prominent lobbying groups in Washington. Mr Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan for the past 11 years and chairman for 10, is also a member of Mr Trump’s strategic and policy forum, which meets regularly to shape the economic agenda.

At the meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, a succession of shareholders challenged Mr Dimon to publicly disavow some of Mr Trump’s policies, such as his curbs on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries and his building a wall on the border with Mexico. One shareholder noted that users had sent more than 4000 messages to a website, backersofhate.org, urging Mr Dimon to “distance himself from hateful policies of human suffering”.

After staying silent throughout several speeches from the floor, Mr Dimon defended the bank’s record on Mexico, its support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and its funding of private prisons.

Finally, he said of Mr Trump: “He is the president of the United States, he is the pilot flying the aeroplane. I’d try to help any president of the US because I’m a patriot. That does not mean I agree with every policy he is trying to implement.”

Mr Dimon has long been the most outspoken of the big-bank chiefs in the US, often using his shareholder letter as a platform for taking positions on matters of public policy, and for challenging the regulatory framework put in place since the 2008 crisis.

In the weeks after the presidential election, the 61 year old was approached by members of Mr Trump’s transition team to serve as Treasury secretary but declined, saying he was unsuited to the role, according to people familiar with the discussions.

As hostile questioning resumed after his remarks at the Tuesday meeting, Mr Dimon tried to lighten the mood, saying “you’re starting to hurt my feelings”. The shareholder admonished him by saying that just by hearing him out, the chief executive would earn more than $100.

“I hope it’s worth it!” said Mr Dimon, who was paid $28m last year.

“This is not a laughing matter,” the shareholder replied.

The meeting stood in contrast to the peaceful gathering at the Goldman Sachs building in Jersey City at the end of last month, when chief executive Lloyd Blankfein faced just two questions from the floor, both of them friendly. Mr Blankfein, who is also chairman of the board, closed the meeting within just 24 minutes.

Mr Dimon wrapped up Tuesday’s proceedings by saying the entire board “takes this feedback seriously”.

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, said after the meeting that until Mr Dimon takes a stronger stand her organisation would continue to associate JPMorgan Chase with Mr Trump’s “anti-immigration” agenda.

Ms Archila arrived in the US 20 years ago to reunite with her father, who had fled political violence in Colombia.

“I don’t think we have a plan to really inflict economic damages on the bank just yet,” she said. “But what we do have a plan for, is to force them to clarify whose side they’re on.”

Via FT