A JPMorgan Chase shareholder proposal to split the bank’s chairman and chief executive roles — now both held by Jamie Dimon — failed to win a majority’s support Tuesday.
The proposal to split Dimon’s jobs at the nation’s largest bank won only 32.2 percent of the votes, according to a preliminary tally announced at JPMorgan’s annual shareholder meeting in Tampa, Fla.
The marquee vote was seen as a referendum on Dimon’s leadership and as a potential harbinger of growing shareholder power in corporate decision-making. A similar measure last year won 40 percent of shareholders’ support.
The proposal wasn’t binding, but Dimon nonetheless dodged what would have been a potential rebuke for one of the most influential leaders in corporate America and who has in recent years served as Wall Street’s unofficial ambassador in Washington.
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Some analysts have speculated the proposal’s victory would have hastened Dimon’s departure from the bank, which under his leadership has reported record profits.
Even though the proposal was defeated, it was unclear what steps JPMorgan would take to assuage shareholder concerns.
JPMorgan’s board also faced pressure from shareholders. All of the board’s members were re-elected, according to preliminary results, but three members who oversee risk-management won only slim majorities.
Final results were to be filed later with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Dimon has taken fire ever since JPMorgan disclosed an embarrassing episode last year involving losing bets by a trader nicknamed the London Whale.
The losses, which totaled more than $6 billion, barely dented JPMorgan’s profit, but they nonetheless sparked a firestorm on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill.
The episode rekindled fears of the financial crisis and renewed calls for tougher regulation on the country’s largest banks. They also highlighted how even the strongest of institutions, led by one of corporate America’s most venerated chieftains, could succumb to management blunders.
Dimon has repeatedly apologized to shareholders, regulators and lawmakers. On Tuesday, he expressed humility.
“This episode not only cost us money but was extremely embarrassing, opened us up to … criticism, damaged our reputation, and resulted in litigation and investigations that are still ongoing,” Dimon said.
The proposal to separate the chairman and chief executive roles was sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the public-employee union.
It was joined by large institutional investors, including the agencies overseeing New York City’s and Connecticut’s public-employee pension funds.
The vote on last year’s proposal, which 40 percent supported, took place just as the London Whale scandal was unfolding.
Many large institutional investors support the independent chairman measure on principle, though not as a vote on Dimon’s leadership.
Large institutional investors such as the country’s two largest public-pension funds — the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — voted to split the CEO and chairman jobs.
CalPERS, for instance, said it voted its shares to split the jobs because it believes an independent chairman “may be able to exercise stronger oversight of management.”
CalPERS took a stronger stand against three JPMorgan directors. The pension fund said it withheld votes for board members David Cote, James Crown and Ellen Futter “due to failures in risk oversight” resulting in the Whale losses.
According to preliminary results Tuesday, Cote won 59.3 percent of the shareholder vote, while Crown won 57.4 percent and Futter only 53.1 percent. Other board members won more than 90 percent support.