By Colin Kellaher

 

New York City's pension system is joining the call for the ouster of Lee Raymond from the board of JPMorgan Chase & Co., saying the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief "lacks the impartiality and climate competency" needed to fulfill his duties when it comes to climate-change risks.

Three city pension funds that hold about 2.4 million JPMorgan shares plan to vote against Mr. Raymond at next month's annual meeting, according to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the custodian for the city's pension systems, which had about $211 billion in assets under management as of February.

Mr. Stringer, who has been working on a plan for the funds to shed their holdings in companies that own fossil-fuel reserves, said Mr. Raymond's background conflicts with his responsibilities as lead independent director for JPMorgan, the world's biggest lender and underwriter to the fossil-fuel sector.

A JPMorgan spokesman said the bank had no comment beyond its proxy statement for the May 19 annual meeting. Mr. Raymond also declined to comment.

In its proxy material, JPMorgan said it declined an offer by Mr. Raymond not to stand for re-election, saying he possesses the capability, judgment, and other skills and attributes the board looks for in a director, and that his continued service is in the best interests of shareholders.

The bank also noted that Mr. Raymond, who has been lead independent director since 2001, has asked the board to start a formal process to identify his successor.

Majority Action, an investor advocacy group, last week also called on JPMorgan shareholders to vote against Mr. Raymond, saying he lacks the judgment needed to oversee climate reforms at the bank.

Mr. Raymond, who engineered the $82 billion merger of Exxon Corp. and Mobil Corp. in 1999 and helped build the combined company into America's biggest oil producer before leaving at the end of 2005, has spent 33 years on the board of JPMorgan Chase and it predecessor, J.P. Morgan & Co.

Both Mr. Stringer and Climate Action referred to Mr. Raymond as a climate-change denier and pointed out that he and his three sons have financial relationships with the fossil-fuel industry, including with entities financed by JPMorgan.

They also raised concerns that JPMorgan has for years waived the board's retirement age of 72 for the 81-year-old Mr. Raymond.

Climate Action also decried JPMorgan's resistance to separating its chairman and CEO posts and urged investors to support a shareholder proposal on this year's ballot to split the roles, with an allowance for the policy to be phased in with the next CEO transition. James Dimon has been chairman since 2006 and CEO since 2005.

JPMorgan has recommended that shareholders reject the measure, saying it would limit its flexibility in determining the right leadership structure for any particular set of circumstances.

 

Write to Colin Kellaher at colin.kellaher@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 22, 2020 15:18 ET (19:18 GMT)

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