Shareholder Activists Push for Genocide Vote

At tomorrow’s annual meeting, JPMorgan Chase shareholders are being asked to vote on a genocide-free investing proposal, put forth by the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Investors Against Genocide (IAG).

The group is using the proposal in the proxy to call attention to JPMorgan Chase’s investment in PetroChina, a company that IAG claims provides Sudan’s government with revenue that has been helping fund genocide in Darfur. IAG claims that JPMorgan Chase owns a billion-dollar stake in PetroChina. The proposal states, “Reasonable people may disagree about what constitutes socially responsible investing, but few people want their savings connected to genocide.”

JPMorgan Chase said the firm’s existing policies and procedures, including its Human Rights Statement, appropriately address these issues. JPMorgan Chase asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow the firm to exclude the genocide-free investing proposal from the proxy ballot, but the SEC denied the request.

IAG apparently has no delusions about winning the vote, noting that its similar proposals submitted in previous years to a variety of mutual fund companies have earned as much as 31 percent of the votes. But they’re going ahead nonetheless, and the long-term strategy seems to be to force companies to act, even if the vast majority of shareholders do not support the specifics of the proposals.

And IAG isn’t stopping with investors. IAG’s communications campaign also includes Facebook ads asking JPMorgan Chase credit card and banking customers, “Genocide in your wallet?” The ads link to an online petition which generates an email message to JPMorgan Chase’s CEO urging him to avoid investments in companies tied to genocide.

Shareholder activists are already mobilized. What might consumers and consumer activists do?

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