On March 21, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) denied a request from JPMorgan Chase to exclude a shareholder proposal that would shed light on its troubling track record of politicized debanking. This is a major win for transparency.
The nation’s largest bank had attempted to dodge a proposed shareholder inquiry into incidents that closed accounts or denied payments to groups associated with U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback, the Arkansas Family Council, and Defense of Liberty, among others.
Submitted by the Bahnsen Family Trust, the proposal calls upon Chase to investigate and issue a report on what it summarizes as “recent evidence of religious and political discrimination by companies in the financial services industry” which is captured in the Viewpoint Diversity Score 2022 Business Index and the “Statement on Debanking and Free Speech.”
When Chase asked the SEC permission 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. 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.
The SEC’s denial of Chase’s request sends a clear message to the financial giant, and to other publicly traded corporations: Shareholder transparency isn’t optional—especially when it comes to protecting the fundamental freedoms of millions of Americans who depend on major banks every day.
ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco welcomed the SEC’s decision:
Major banks like Chase shouldn’t be hiding from their shareholders, and the SEC’s decision is a much-needed step toward transparency. 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.
Chase shareholders are one of several constituencies seeking to hold the corporation accountable for its politicized debanking. In addition to the Statement on Debanking and Free Speech—which was signed by a group of nearly 60 financial professionals last November—Nebraska Treasurer John Murante recently 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.
David Bahnsen, founder, managing partner, and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group and a member of the Viewpoint Diversity Score advisory council, commended the SEC’s decision, adding that “we look forward to meaningful engagement with Chase leadership and our fellow shareholders around this crucial topic.”
Chase scored just 15% overall on the inaugural Business Index, signaling in the words of Bahnsen’s proposal, “an affront to public trust.” Of particular concern is the bank’s vague and subjective terms-of-use policies (including terms like “hate speech” and “intolerance”) that have set the table for its adverse actions against those who hold mainstream conservative and religious views.
Companies can correct course on this issue in particular by adopting our model language in “Preventing Viewpoint Based Discrimination in Product or Service Policies.”