Jamie Dimon has dismissed claims that stakeholder capitalism is “woke”, pushing back against conservative criticism of the environmental and social agenda that much of corporate America has embraced in recent years.
In a freewheeling interview at a conference on Wednesday, the JPMorgan Chase chief executive described himself as “a red-blooded free-market capitalist” and said people had misinterpreted his push for stakeholder capitalism as chair of the Business Roundtable.
“I’m not woke. And I think people are mistaking the stakeholder capitalism thing for being woke,” Dimon told a conference organised by Autonomous Research.
“All we’re saying is when we wake up in the morning, what we give a shit about is serving customers, earning their respect, earning their repeat business,” he added.
Dimon’s comments came as large US banks such as JPMorgan have faced criticism from Republican politicians over supposed discrimination against industries including the energy sector and gun manufacturers.
Pat Toomey, the top Republican on the Senate banking committee, said during a hearing last year, at which Dimon testified, that he was “concerned about increasing pressure on banks to embrace ‘wokeism’”. JPMorgan was also one of 19 financial companies that received a letter in March from the Texas comptroller asking to clarify whether they were boycotting fossil fuel companies.
This is despite JPMorgan being the biggest financier by far of fossil fuel companies in the six years since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016, according to a report produced by a coalition of campaign groups organised by the Rainforest Action Network. The bank, however, pledged in 2020 that it would no longer finance new drilling projects in the Arctic.
Dimon said on Wednesday the bank was “quite serious about climate” but said the US was not “getting climate right”.
He also argued that JPMorgan wanted to treat its employees with respect regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation, but said some companies were going too far in some of their social positions. He did not elaborate.
“Any senator or congressman who says that’s woke, they’re not thinking clearly because I want to win in the marketplace. I want the best employees, I want happy employees,” Dimon said.
“I don’t think people should get involved in some of these issues where it’s far more detailed than you think and people [are] just getting jazzed up about, you got to do this. No, you don’t.”
Dimon’s comments echoed remarks this year by BlackRock’s chief executive Larry Fink, who said investors who focused on the interests of wider society rather than pure profits were not “woke”.
Dimon, who was speaking to a crowd of investors and analysts, also lambasted public company shareholders who follow the advice of proxy advisers Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services.
“If that’s how you vote, shame on you. I mean seriously, you should be embarrassed, OK? And do your own homework,” Dimon said.
Just weeks earlier, JPMorgan shareholders voted against the bank’s executive pay plan, in part because Glass Lewis had advised investors to vote no.
“This shit I hear from people about, well, you know there’s too many [shareholder proposals] — no there’s not. If you own 100 companies, the average proxy has got six [proposals], that’s 600, there may be 10 that matter,” Dimon said.
ISS declined to comment; Glass Lewis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York and Emiliya Mychasuk in London