TAMPA, Fla. – Jamie Dimon, the CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, easily survived a vote Tuesday that would have called on him to give up his role as chairman of the nation’s largest bank. But shareholders sent a message that the bank needed better oversight, giving only narrow approval to three of the bank’s board members.
It was a mixed verdict in a closely watched test of corporate governance at U.S. companies. Dimon emerged in a stronger position after the proposal to split his roles won just 32 percent of the shareholder vote, less than the 40 percent a similar proposal got last year.
But the tepid support for the three directors came as a rebuke of the bank after a surprise $6 billion trading loss that JPMorgan suffered last year.
Prominent shareholder advisory firms had urged JPMorgan shareholders to withhold their support for those directors, who served on the bank’s risk policy committee at the time of the loss.
JPMorgan was an unusually strong company to be targeted by shareholder activists.
It has been turning in record profits and its stock price is at a 12-year high. Dimon has been widely praised for his astute stewardship of the bank through the 2008 financial crisis, though his reputation has been tarnished since the trading loss, which seems to have caught him flat-footed, came to light.
Dimon, speaking after the vote, said the bank was taking the feedback from the bank’s shareholders very seriously.
The outcome was a disappointment to the shareholder groups that had lobbied to split the chairman and CEO roles.
A yes vote would have served as a request to the bank to strip Dimon of his role as chairman of the board and have someone from outside the company do the job. Since corporate CEOs answer to their boards of directors, headed by the chairman, the thinking goes that having the roles split would result in greater accountability for the CEO.
While the chairman-CEO measure didn’t succeed, shareholders expressed their discontent in other ways. Three JPMorgan board members were re-elected by only slim margins. David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell; James Crown, who runs a privately owned investment company; and Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, were re-elected with less than 60 percent approval.
The other eight directors, including Dimon, were re-elected with support of more than 90 percent.