James Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) CEO and Chairman, said he may consider leaving the bank where he has held the top post since 2005, if shareholders vote to split his duties, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
Shareholders of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) will vote on this issue at their annual meeting on May 21, 2013. While the vote is nonbinding, it is seen as a referendum on whether shareholders believe Jamie Dimon has the ability to manage such a large and complex institution. A vote to leave Jamie Dimon’s roles intact could be seen as a sign that investors believe lead director Lee R. Raymond is strong enough to stand up to the bank’s chief executive.
Last week, California’s public pension system Calpers announced it plans to vote in favor of a non-binding proposal separating the chief executive and chairman roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM). The separation proposal came in the wake of the London Whale scandal that cost the bank $6.2 billion last year.
The support from Calpers came on the heels of an earlier recommendation from the two largest U.S. proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Company, that shareholders vote in favor of a split.
Last Friday, in a letter signed by presiding director Lee Raymond and corporate governance and nominating committee chairman, William Weldon said the advisory firms focused too narrowly on the trading losses and that the changes would be disruptive and not in the best interests of shareholders.
James Dimon On Proxy Votes
Jamie Dimon has been mostly quiet on the subject of the upcoming proxy vote at next week’s annual meeting. As the debate heats up, however, Dimon commented that one possible outcome of a vote to split the positions could be that he might leave.
A similar proposal to split the roles garnered the approval of 40 percent of shareholders last year.
BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK) and two other equity funds, Vanguard and Fidelity, voted in support of Dimon last year, but they haven’t yet made their current positions clear. Blackrock, for its part, will rely on outside contractor Governance for Owners to take care of the proxy vote issue on its behalf.
With Jamie Dimon having made his thoughts on the matter more clear, investors might consider the question of whether the colorful CEO is an integral part of the megabank’s overall success. If so, some analysts feel voting in favor of the proposal may very well cause Dimon’s departure, which might cause more problems at the bank than keeping the status quo intact.
With only a little more than a week before the shareholders’ meeting, it appears investors have a lot of thinking to do.