The London Whale could cost Jamie Dimon at least one of his jobs.
A group of JPMorgan Chase investors, including the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds and the NYC Pension Funds, said on Wednesday that it wants to strip Dimon of his chairmanship of the bank's board. Investors will vote on the proposal at the bank's annual shareholder meeting this spring.
The group said in a press release that it was moved to act by the bank's nearly $6 billion losses last year on bad credit derivatives bets by a trader known as the "London Whale." It worries about the bank's ability to "manage the size and complexity of its balance sheet." And it thinks Dimon, who is also CEO, is too conflicted to lead the board's oversight of the company's risks and behaviors.
"It is impossible to imagine how board oversight of the company’s affairs will be strengthened while CEO Jamie Dimon leads the very board that is charged with overseeing his own shortcomings," Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier said in the statement.
JPMorgan declined to comment.
This proposal, in various forms, has been raised again and again in the past several years, always unsuccessfully. The proposal did get 40 percent last year, shortly after the London Whale story broke. At that point, the bank's losses were estimated at $2 billion. The size of the losses has since tripled, and the bank has been forced to defend itself before Congress -- something it might have to do again, in what could be a contentious hearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Then again, a similar proposal also got 40 percent support way back in 2005, when the London Whale was just a calf, CBS MoneyWatch's Jill Schlesinger noted last year.
Dimon is in good company, at least: Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein faces his own job-title challenge for the second year in a row. Last year Goldman took the proposal seriously enough that it reached a compromise with AFSCME that let Blankfein keep his chairmanship but named an independent "lead" director. JPMorgan already has an independent "presiding" director, former Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond.
Corporate-governance watchdogs say splitting the roles of CEO and chairman helps keep management accountable and avoids conflicts of interest on the board. The investor group pushing for a split at JPMorgan cited a study by corporate-governance research firm GMI Ratings suggesting companies with split CEO and chairman roles had better stock performance.
The London Whale scandal has already cost Dimon half of his pay and some of the moral authority he earned as a result of surviving the financial crisis with his reputation intact. That has only barely slowed his pace of complaints about bank regulations, of course -- although at least one of the proposed new regulations, the Volcker Rule, could theoretically have prevented the London Whale losses in the first place.
Even if Dimon gets to keep all of his jobs, this year's shareholder meeting should be interesting, at least: Investors will also consider a separate proposal to break up the bank into smaller pieces.