Shareholders of JPMorgan Chase & Co. rejected a proposed inquiry into “debanking” by the financial giant that may be targeting account holders based on politics or religion.
Among those saying they lost their accounts is a nonprofit group to advance religious freedom run by Sam Brownback, a former Republican governor and U.S. senator from Kansas.
The inquiry was suggested by David Bahnsen, managing partner and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group, which manages more than $4 billion in assets.
His proposal shined light on the issue despite its defeat, Bahnsen said in criticizing JP Morgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, at a Tuesday press conference held over Zoom.
“If they were indeed as focused against religious and political discrimination as they have claimed, and as CEO Jamie Dimon reaffirmed this morning—if they are so sure that this not only is corporate policy, but is not happening at all—then a rather routine and I think inexpensive investigation in the grand scheme of things, that inquiry would have been very helpful,” Bahnsen said.
“Only one of two things could have happened,” he said of JPMorgan Chase, adding:
Either they would have come back with rock-solid proof that has not yet been provided as to why accounts were closed and what really was going on. They could have validated one of the different stories they told [as] to why these accounts had been closed. Or they could have said, ‘You know what, there was a breakdown. It was at a local level, a regional level, or some other explanation, not necessarily coming from Park Avenue. Therefore, we can come up with some remedy.’
Bahnsen’s proposed resolution called for JPMorgan Chase to “respect civil rights by identifying potential factors that may contribute to discrimination in the provision of services based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or social, political, or religious views.”
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin joined 18 other Republican attorneys general in a letter to Dimon calling for JPMorgan Chase to oppose viewpoint discrimination.
“They talk a lot about openness and inclusivity. The reality is, when they are asked to define what their standard is for shutting some of these accounts, they are unable or unwilling to do so,” Griffin said during the press conference.
“The policies that they are pursuing are hostile to the views [of] a high percentage, maybe 70% or more, or Arkansans,” Griffin added of JPMorgan Chase. “It’s just ridiculous. Part of the reason we wrote this letter is to educate Mr. Dimon. The other reason is to just educate the public of this distinction being made, being demonstrated, between what they say is their policy and what is actually their policy.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, which takes cases to protect religious liberty, organized the press conference.
ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco announced the organization’s second annual Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, which found that eight companies increased their scores, showing they became more tolerant of different views.
However, of 75 major corporations ranked by the index, just two scored higher than 25% out of a possible 100%. JPMorgan Chase fell from 15% last year to 9% in this year’s index, Tedesco said.
A JPMorgan Chase spokesperson on Tuesday acknowledged receiving an inquiry from The Daily Signal about the issue of viewpoint discrimination, but didn’t provide a comment by publication time.
In February, a JPMorgan Chase spokesperson told The Daily Signal in a written statement that the bank did not discriminate.
“I can tell you confidently we have never [closed], and would never close, an account due to one’s political or religious affiliation. Full stop,” the spokesperson said. “I can’t discuss confidential client relationship information publicly, but I can tell you that we communicated with the former client many months ago, in writing, and they are aware of why we closed the account.”
Brownback, head of the National Committee for Religious Freedom, said that 24 days after his organization opened an account with JPMorgan Chase, a corporate representative said the bank was closing the account because Brownback’s organization failed to file paperwork within the required 60 days. The account had been opened less than half that time, however.
During the Trump administration, Brownback was ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
The bank offered to reopen the account on the condition that the National Committee for Religious Freedom disclose its largest donors and criteria for deciding which political candidates to support financially. At this, the organization decided to bank elsewhere.
“This behavior overall cannot be allowed to continue,” Brownback said during the press conference. “That’s why I support this proposal and the investigation, Chase’s internal investigation, to determine what actually happened and why in this manner.”
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