Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase chief executive, issued a warning to employees of the biggest US bank that racist behaviour was unacceptable following a report that staff discriminated against African-American clients at one of its Arizona branches.
“I am disgusted by racism and hate in any form,” Mr Dimon said in memo sent to all US staff and posted on the bank’s global intranet. “Any such behaviour — explicit or veiled, deliberate or unconscious — is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as a company and how we serve our clients and communities every day.”
Mr Dimon, who has dedicated $500m of investments to revitalise impoverished cities, issued the message after a New York Times report on Wednesday that cited audio recordings made by a client and a financial adviser of the bank who said they had faced racial discrimination at the Arizona branch.
In one recording a Chase manager told a colleague not to help a black woman invest a $400,000 wrongful debt payout because the prospective client “never had a nickel to spend” and would burn through the money since “this is not money she respects . . . she didn’t earn it”.
In another incident, Jimmy Kennedy, who earned $13m during his career in the National Football League and was seeking to become a “private client” of the bank, was told by a banker that his colleagues “don’t see [black] people like you a lot”.
While not explicitly referencing the Arizona issues, Mr Dimon said JPMorgan had “done some great work on diversity and inclusion, but it’s not enough.”
“We must be absolutely relentless on doing more,” he added, vowing to use “this moment” as “an opportunity to do better — as leaders, as employees and as human beings”.
JPMorgan co-president Gordon Smith and consumer bank head Thasunda Brown Duckett addressed the Arizona issues on a conference call with employees on Wednesday evening. Mr Smith said he was “absolutely sickened not about the article but about what happened at one of our branches in Arizona”.
Mr Smith and Ms Brown invited employees to send suggestions on how to do better, as well as their experiences of racism, to a special email hotline that executives would mine for ideas. Dozen of employees responded in the first few hours.
A Chase spokeswoman told the FT the claims made in the Times article were “very serious” and reflected “extraordinarily bad judgment all around”. The banker who was recorded refusing to invest the $400,000 wrongful debt settlement “no longer” works at the bank.