From the President: Woodstock addresses Chase CEO at Shareholder Meeting in NYC

Written by Dory Rand on May 20, 2010 - 12:00am

Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has refused requests of Woodstock Institute and colleagues for a meeting to discuss the deleterious effects of its consumer lending and mortgage loan modification practices on our communities, but I finally got a chance to speak to him directly at the Chase shareholder meeting in New York on May 18.

Since I do not own stock in Chase, I used a shareholder proxy kindly provided by colleague Adam Rust of the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina (CRA-NC) to gain entry (through tight security) to the shareholder meeting. When I got my turn at the microphone, I explained that, as a customer of Chase and its predecessor banks in Chicago for nearly 28 years, I want to be proud of the bank where I do business. I thanked Chase for getting out of the income tax refund anticipation loan business (announced April 28), but told Mr. Dimon that I am troubled by the redlining that is occurring in our communities of color. As Woodstock and colleague organizations reported recently in Paying More for the American Dream IV, the Big Four banks who received massive federal bailouts (Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America) have decreased lending in communities of color while increasing lending in predominantly white communities across the country. In Chicago, Chase decreased prime mortgage refinance lending to communities of color by 31 percent while increasing such lending to white areas by 99 percent.

I asked Mr. Dimon how he explains these disparities and what he intends to do about it. He replied that “Chase does color-blind lending” and that the disparities may have had something to do with the many mergers in the Chicago area. I responded that the disparities appear across the country in seven major cities, so mergers in Chicago don’t account for it. Mr. Dimon then said Chase would be happy to sit down with us to discuss the matter at a later date, and I agreed to take him up on that. Chicago’s Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. followed me at the microphone and encouraged Chase to go beyond “color blind” lending and form a commission to actively address the disparities in lending that I had cited.

Colleagues from the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP) and California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) also raised concerns at the meeting, including concerns about Chase’s exorbitant overdraft protection loan charges and Chase’s poor performance in turning trial mortgage modifications into permanent loan modifications under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Homeowners from New York, California, and across the country testified about the serious problems they have encountered in trying to save their homes through loan modifications with Chase.

Prior to the shareholder meeting, Woodstock joined NEDAP, CRA-NC, CRC, faith-based groups and other advocates at a spirited protest outside (in the rain) including choir songs and chants, giant civil rights leader puppets, inflatable “loan” sharks, and colorful signs and T-shirts about how Chase is “Chasing families into foreclosure.” The event received a lot of coverage in the New York media and helped to make the voices of consumers who are negatively affected by Chase practices heard. I appreciated the unique opportunity to raise public awareness and advocate directly with Chase through participation in the shareholder meeting and rally.