JPMorgan Announces It Will Remove Former Exxon CEO As the Bank’s Lead Director

Photo: Mike Segar, Reuters

In its most recent public corporate filings, JPMorgan Chase stated that it would be appointing a new lead independent director by the end of the summer of 2020, replacing the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, Lee Raymond, after progressives and climate advocates publicly campaigned for his removal.  Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org wrote a high profile op/ed in the New York Times ten days ago arguing that the company was stuck in the past on climate change, and urging JP Morgan shareholders to vote Raymond out, as did New York City’s pension fund. Though Raymond will remain on the Board, he will no longer be one of its leaders.

Why This Matters:  Bill McKibben on Twitter called it “a milestone moment in the history of climate action.”  Raymond is indeed tied to the oil company’s climate denial and its huge growth, including a speech in 1997 which McKibben quoted press at the time summing up as follows: “’First, the world isn’t warming. Second, even if it were, oil and gas wouldn’t be the cause. Third, no one can predict the likely future temperature rise.’”  It is surely another glaring sign that big oil companies are on the wane.

The Bank and Big Oil

Raymond has been the lead outside director on the bank’s board since 2001, has been on the board for 33 years, and for nearly 10 years the bank waived the board’s retirement age of 72 for Mr. Raymond, who is 81 years old.  The close relationship between the bank and the oil and gas industry has the taint of conflict of interest, Scott Stringer, the custodian for the New York City pension systems stated as the reason they intended to vote against Raymond as lead director.  The three pension funds controlled by the city hold about 2.4 million JPMorgan Chase stock, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In his op/ed, McKibben cited the fact that “JP Morgan has become the world’s biggest lender to the oil and gas industry, providing over a quarter-trillion dollars in the years since the Paris climate accords were signed.”  He also points out that “JP Morgan has recently made limited moves in the right direction, saying it would end loans to some fossil-fuel companies and wouldn’t finance new oil and gas projects in the Arctic.” but McKibben dismisses those actions as “weak beer.”  (Yup)  Interestingly, McKibben also quotes JPMorgan’s CEO in a February speech in Florida in which he said that climate change is serious and that it creates the potential for “catastrophic outcomes” like Florida being “gone in 30 years.”  It remains to be seen who will take over as lead outside director, but the choice could be another sign of changes.  And Exxon stock has been on a downward trend all year — on Friday the company announced billions in write-downs of its assets because of low prices and will cuts 30% from capital expenditures for the year, Barrons reported.

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