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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

JPMorgan Chase Slavery Apology Criticized

Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli, acting on behalf of the National Legal and Policy Center, will present a shareholder proposal (pdf) at the company's annual meeting Tuesday that is critical of JPMorgan Chase’s apology for slavery.

A National Legal and Policy Center press release explains:
A shareholder proposal critical of the JPMorgan Chase's slavery apology will be considered at the company's annual meeting on Tuesday, May 15, 2007. The event will take place at 10 a.m. at the company's offices at One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York City.

The company unsuccessfully sought to exclude the resolution by appealing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ruled in favor of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), the proponent.

The resolution will be presented by Deneen Borelli, a Fellow of Project 21, on behalf of NLPC.

Deneen Borelli said today, "It's absurd for someone to apologize for the transgressions of others committed hundreds of years ago. Slavery was an abomination and blemish on our Nation's history. JPMorgan Chase's apology for slavery, along with a $5 million donation for a scholarship fund, are the fruits of a shakedown. It is the looting of shareholder assets and sets a terrible precedent."

Peter Flaherty, NLPC President, said today, "If JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon were alive 200 years ago and owned slaves, the apology would be appropriate. Otherwise it is about as cynical and as hollow as you can get."

In a 2005 letter, then-Chairman & CEO William B. Harrison Jr. and then-President & COO Jamie Dimon stated, "We apologize to the African-American community, particularly those who are descendants of slaves, and to the rest of the American public..." This apology was accompanied by a Company pledge to establish a $5 million scholarship fund for African-Americans. Dimon now serves as Executive Chairman and CEO.

The apology and monetary pledge were apparently prompted by a Company-commissioned report produced in response to a municipal ordinance in Chicago, requiring firms doing business with the city to disclose their links to slavery. The report found only the most tenuous connections to slavery over 200 years ago by two banks whose successor banks had been acquired by the Company.

The supporting statement for the resolution points out that JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is currently being sued by plaintiffs seeking damages that they characterize as "slave reparations." The statement argues that the bank may be opening itself to lawsuits by the descendents of Irish, Chinese and Native Americans, whose ancestors also suffered injustice. For the complete proposal, supporting statement, and company response, go to www.nlpc.org.

Slavery "apologies" or other expressions of regret have been recently adopted or are being considered by Congress, a number of state legislatures and several cities. Banks that have apologized for alleged links to slavery also include the Bank of America, Wachovia and Lehman Brothers.

NLPC promotes ethics in public life, and sponsors the Corporate Integrity Project. The group has published a monograph titled The Case Against Slave Reparations that may be downloaded as a pdf file at http://www.nlpc.org/pdfs/Final_NLPC_Reparations.pdf.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

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