JP Morgan Chase Deflects Criticism with New Environmental Policies

JP Morgan Chase Deflects Criticism with New Environmental Policies

In the latest in a series of 2004 shareholder proxy successes, JPMorgan Chase has agreed to take steps to increase its emphasis on environmental risk management. As a result of this positive response from JPMorgan Chase, CBIS and other concerned shareholders are withdrawing a related shareholder proposal.

The shareholder proposal was submitted by Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc., Trillium Asset Management and Domini Social Investments. The resolution urged the JPMorgan Chase board of directors to review the role of the company as an underwriter, lender and financial adviser for transactions in environmentally and socially sensitive sectors. The firm was asked to consider and report on incorporating criteria related to a deal's likely impact on the environment, human rights and JPMorgan Chase's reputation.

Prior to the withdrawal, JPMorgan Chase met several times in the last year with the resolution proponents and other interested shareholders and further meetings are planned. The firm's Office of the Chairman approved a proposal to establish an Office of Environmental Affairs and to have environmental matters come under the oversight of the board of director's Public Policy Committee, which agreed to assume such oversight role. The company also agreed to issue a press release to let the public know about the withdrawal of the resolution and its commitments to environmental issues.

CBIS director for socially responsible investing John Wilson said: "It is an important step for a leading financial institution like JPMorgan Chase to join its peers and competitors and begin to establish systems to identify, assess and manage environmental risks in its financing decisions. Creating and implementing guidelines and policies for managing these risks can reduce the environmental impacts of the underlying projects it finances, diminish the bank's exposure to severe criticism, improve the bottom-line and, ultimately, shareholder value."

The members of the group working with JPMorgan Chase are Friends of the Earth and members and associates of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility: Christian Brothers Investment Services, Trillium Asset Management, Domini Social Investments, ISIS Asset Management, Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey, United Methodist Church Global Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, Ethical Funds, Missionary Oblates and Real Assets.

The success at JPMorgan Chase is only the latest in a series of successes by CBIS in its shareholder advocacy efforts. Just last month, Tyco International's management recommended that shareholders support a CBIS-sponsored resolution calling for a company-wide environmental reporting system to reduce emissions of such major toxins as lead and dioxin. The resolution received 85 percent support, the highest vote ever for a CBIS shareholder proposal. CBIS and other concerned investors, including the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, also recently came to an agreement with American Electric Power after several independent board members at the company agreed to oversee a report to shareholders on the financial risks due to climate change and its plans to address the issue. The report will help to fill the information void that investors currently face while raising the benchmark for disclosure of and action on climate change risks for other companies. Although the resolution was withdrawn, the company agreed to include in the proxy statement a summary of the proposal along with AEP's commitment to accept and comply with it.

CBIS noted that such management support for socially responsible shareholder resolutions is still a rare development that has occurred in only a few instances so far in the 2004 proxy season. Wilson said: "Christian Brothers Investment Services applauds Tyco, American Electric Power, and now JPMorgan Chase, for their willingness to signal agreement with shareholders in this public manner."

The new changes at JPMorgan Chase already are being put in place. "We recognize the importance of the issues reflected in the shareholder proposal and have steps underway to address them," said Amy Hayes Davidsen, director of JPMorgan Chase's newly established Office of Environmental Affairs.

Davidsen is now responsible for focusing on environmental matters as they relate to JPMorgan Chase, and will lead a firm-wide committee to establish global policies and procedures regarding environmental issues. In addition, she will work with governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to help JPMorgan Chase meet its responsibilities as an environmentally sensitive corporate citizen.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $771 billion and operations in more than 50 countries. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and businesses, financial transaction processing, investment management, private banking and private equity.