Calpers Backs Splitting of JP Morgan CEO, Chairman Role

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California’s public pension system Calpers plans to vote in favor of a non-binding proposal separating the chief executive and chairman roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM).

Calpers Backs Splitting of JP Morgan CEO, Chairman Role

Calpers joins other firms in its call

The separation proposal came in the wake of the London Whale scandal. Jamie Dimon is the current CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM).

The support from massive California pension plan Calpers comes on the heels of the two largest U.S. proxy advisory firms throwing their weight behind a bid to separate the CEO and chairman titles at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM).

The pension plan’s director for corporate governance Ms Simpson feels the move is rooted in the belief that systematically important institutions need plenty of oversight. According to her, the board’s single most important job is to oversee its chief executive. She feels if one person is vested with both roles, it would weaken the board’s mission.

Earlier Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Company, the country’s two biggest proxy advisory firms, recommended that shareholders vote in favor of a split. The proxy advisory firms also recommended withholding votes for or voting against several of J.P. Morgan’s directors, particularly those on the bank’s risk committee.

The non-binding vote on the split is scheduled for May 21 at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM)’s annual meeting at Tampa.

Calpers just hold 6.88 million shares representing about 0.02 percent stake in J.P. Morgan and hence its support is unlikely to tip the scales.

At last year’s shareholders meeting, Calpers voted to split the J.P. Morgan roles. This proposal attracted 40 percent of the vote. However this meeting took place even before the disclosure of the multibillion-dollar trading loss at the bank’s chief investment office. The pension plan feels the London Whale debacle cost $6 billion losses, reinforcing tighter supervisory oversight at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM).

Since the London Whale incident involving credit derivatives, regulators and members of Congress have attacked the bank’s management for failures of oversight and systemic breaches of rules.

In the meanwhile, J.P. Morgan executives are continuing efforts to persuade shareholders to stick with the current structure.

The Wall Street Journal reported three major investors, BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK), Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments, which control more than 12 percent of J.P. Morgan’s shares, have yet to be persuaded to vote against the split proposal.

Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) rallied 1.73 percent to $49.99 Wednesday afternoon, leaving them up almost 14 percent on the year.

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