JPMorgan Chase loses SEC challenge, must allow shareholders to consider viewpoint diversity proposal
Nation’s largest bank sought to avoid shareholder transparency on politicized debanking, called upon to participate in ADF Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled against JPMorgan Chase’s attempt to exclude a shareholder resolution on viewpoint diversity from its ballot for its annual shareholder meeting. Chase shareholders will now have an opportunity to review and vote on a proposal aimed at ensuring equal treatment of the financial giant’s customers regardless of their religious and political beliefs.
Submitted by the Bahnsen Family Trust, the proposal directs Chase’s board of directors to evaluate and issue a report on the bank’s disturbing trend of politicized debanking. After Chase requested permission from the SEC to exclude the resolution, attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom and Boyden Gray & Associates filed a response urging the SEC to deny Chase’s request and allow the resolution to go through to shareholders.
In the past two years, Chase has denied payments or canceled accounts associated with people and organizations who hold mainstream American values, such as former Ambassador Sam Brownback, the Arkansas Family Council, and Defense of Liberty. Now that the SEC has denied Chase’s request to exclude the proposal, it will be included in the company’s proxy materials for its upcoming shareholder meeting on May 16.
“Major banks like Chase shouldn’t be hiding from their shareholders, and the SEC’s decision is a much-needed step toward transparency,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco. “Chase needs to rebuild trust with its shareholders and clients, but that can’t happen unless it answers basic questions about treating everyone equally regardless of their political or religious views. Chase’s recent behavior suggests a pattern of politically motivated debanking. The company needs to change course and assure its shareholders and customers that it respects everyone’s freedom to participate in the marketplace without fear of political or anti-religious bias.”
The SEC ruling comes amid a rising wave of opposition to Chase’s engagement in cancel culture through politicized debanking. Chase was featured prominently in the “Statement on Debanking and Free Speech,” signed in November of last year by a group of nearly 60 financial professionals. Last week, Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante led a group of 14 colleagues in a letter to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon calling on him to address and correct the issue by adopting policies recommended by ADF’s Viewpoint Diversity Score 2022 Business Index and providing necessary shareholder transparency by participating in the survey portion of the 2023 Business Index.
Citing analysis from the 2022 Business Index, where Chase scored just 15% overall, the Bahnsen Family Trust proposal also calls on Chase to adopt those policies and participate in the survey. Along with criticizing Chase’s actions as “an affront to public trust,” the proposal highlights the vague and subjective terms-of-use policies (including terms like “hate speech” and “intolerance”) that allow companies like Chase unbridled discretion to discriminate against customers for their views.
“Chase’s fiduciary duty to shareholders and respect for civil liberties should cause it to eschew demands to debank certain industries, groups, and individuals for political reasons,” said David Bahnsen, founder, managing partner, and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group and a member of the Viewpoint Diversity Score advisory council. “That’s common sense, and that’s the aim of our proposal. The SEC did the right thing in allowing our proposal to reach the ballot, and we look forward to meaningful engagement with Chase leadership and our fellow shareholders around this crucial topic.”
Jonathan Berry of Boyden Gray & Associates assisted ADF in defending the proposal at the SEC. Find out more about Viewpoint Diversity Score and the Business Index at www.ViewpointDiversityScore.org.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
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