During his recent hour-long interview on financial advisor David Bahnsen’s weekly Capital Record podcast, Viewpoint Diversity Score chief Jeremy Tedesco celebrated an important step forward in the effort to ensure equal treatment of every American by the nation’s largest commercial bank.
After calling attention to a social risk policy held by JPMorgan Chase’s payment processor that relied on highly subjective language such as “hate” and “intolerance,” Tedesco and the Viewpoint Diversity Score team found that Chase had quietly dropped the policy by late 2023.
“It is off the books,” Tedesco said. “As far as we can tell, there is no longer a social risk policy associated with Chase’s payment processing, and they also don’t use ‘hate’ or ‘intolerance’ or those kinds of terms included either. That’s a big win… Lots of times, these corporations try to quietly change policies and move in a different direction, and I think we can pretty credibly claim this as a victory from our efforts.”
Chase has been responsible for multiple incidents that smacked of politicized de-banking over the past several years. Along with canceling the accounts for conservatives like the Arkansas Family Council and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the bank denied payment processing for an event hosted by GOP-affiliated Defense of Liberty. But its 2022 decision to de-bank former U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback’s National Committee for Religious Freedom proved to be a watershed moment.
In response to this and similar instances of de-banking, 20 state treasurers and other financial officers, 24 attorneys general, and financial professionals with over $250 billion in assets under management have called upon Chase and other major financial institutions like Glass Lewis, and Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc. (ISS) to investigate claims of religious and politically motivated de-banking, take concrete steps to protect against future instances, and increase transparency around these troubling practices.
At the 2023 annual meeting for Chase, Bahnsen, who serves on the Viewpoint Diversity Score advisory council, filed a shareholder resolution calling on the megabank to provide transparency into the cancelation, which the bank maintained had not been closed for political or ideological reasons.
Chase then asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude the proposal, but Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys—including Tedesco, senior counsel and senior vice president of Corporate Engagement—successfully called upon the SEC to deny Chase’s request and allow the proposal to reach the ballot.
As Bahnsen points out in the podcast, Chase’s resistance to the proposal likely resulted in an increased media splash, including from the Wall Street Journal, which ran a front-page story ahead of the annual meeting and also ran a follow-up opinion piece from Bahnsen.
Banks should never discriminate against people because of their religious or political views. In the end, Chase’s amended policies benefit every American, protecting those of every political and religious stripe from facing unjust financial punishment for their views.
“We are very concerned that this concentration of power in [the tech and financial] sectors has a real ability to hamper free discourse, the exchange of ideas, and the willingness of people to exercise their rights,” Tedesco said. “When big banks and big tech companies are canceling your accounts or deplatforming you, it actually chills free speech and religious exercise. It impacts the public debate and dialogue because people aren’t going to be as willing to express their ideas if they think they’re going to lose their bank account as a consequence of doing so.”
Listen to the entire podcast here.