JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley shareholders modestly support Indigenous rights, climate proposals

JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley both held their annual board meetings this week, as shareholders weighed in on social and climate-related proposals before the financial institutions. While voters did not approve shareholder resolutions at either meeting, the results displayed similar, if not greater, support than shareholders showed on nearly identical proposals at other large U.S. financial institutions in recent weeks.

At its board meeting Tuesday, 30% of JPMorgan investors voted in support of a proposal for the bank to issue a report on its policies, practices and relevant performance indicators used to ensure it is respecting Indigenous People’s rights through its existing and proposed financing. Meanwhile, 23% of Morgan Stanley’s shareholders supported the New York City Comptroller’s request for the firm to disclose its clean energy financing ratios at its meeting Thursday.

Adele Shraiman, a senior strategist for Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign, said in a release the votes show a “decisive conclusion” to the banking industry’s annual meeting season, with the six largest banks’ meetings complete.

“This year, investors have consistently demanded more transparency from major US banks on key climate issues, from impacts of business activities on Indigenous communities to financing for clean energy and fossil fuels,” Shraiman said. 

JPMorgan’s shareholders displayed the highest level of support for an Indigenous Peoples’ rights report compared to Citigroup and Wells Fargo, whose shareholders were also asked to weigh in on similar proposals. The proposal, filed by investor United Church Funds, just crossed the threshold into “near-miss” territory at JPMorgan — or resolutions that received more than 30% support but less than the 40% needed to be considered a “key resolution.” Similar proposals received 26% support at Citi and 23% at Wells Fargo, according to a securities filing by the latter.

The proposal, included in the bank’s proxy materials, takes issue with JPMorgan’s finance of the Dakota Access pipeline and the Enbridge Line 3 and Line 5 tar sands pipelines, which were both opposed by Indigenous People’s rights activists. JPMorgan was also the top financier of fossil fuels last year and has been the second-largest funder of oil and gas expansion in the Amazon biome between 2016-23, according to the latest Banking on Climate Chaos report.

The proposal was presented at Tuesday’s meeting by Olivia Bisa, president of the Autonomous Territorial Government of Peru’s Chapra Nation, who also pointed to JPMorgan’s funding of Peru’s state-owned oil refining company Petroperú, according to a release The Sunrise Project sent ESG Dive.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to say no to oil in our territories,” Bisa said. “However, Chase makes this reality impossible. Instead of listening to us, it invests billions of dollars in companies that destroy our lives and our mother earth.”

JPMorgan was also asked to issue a report on its due diligence for conflict-affected and high-risk areas and to review its proxy voting record to check the bank’s policy and voting record alignment with the Paris Agreement, any initiatives the bank participates in and its own policies. The proposals were introduced by two different groups of investor nuns — the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Aberdeen, South Dakota and the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc., respectively — and received 7.28% and 7.79% support, across the 5% threshold needed to be able to resubmit the proposals.

JPMorgan — along with Citi and Royal Bank of Canada — agreed to disclose its green financing ratios in March after receiving NYC Comptroller Brad Lander’s request. However, Morgan Stanley was among a trio of financial institutions where the proposal went to a vote, with all three final counts falling between 20-30% support.

Morgan Stanley’s board recommended voting against the proposal in its proxy materials and said it believes it would be “imprudent to disclose this ratio.” The bank said it has already committed to achieving net-zero financed emissions by 2050, with 2030 interim targets as well. Additionally, the bank said it is concerned that making such disclosures could be perceived as an endorsement of the ratio “as a meaningful representation of our progress toward our climate goals.”

Shareholders at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America supported Lander’s proposals at higher rates last month, with 29% and 26% support, respectively.


Reporting by Lamar Johnson, ESG DIVE, 24th May 2024