One of the nation's largest union organizations is gearing up to push several companies, including some of the nation's biggest banks, to split the roles of chairman and chief executive this year.
The pension fund for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or Afscme, said Tuesday it had submitted shareholder proposals to split the roles at nine companies it invests in.
Among the chairmen and chief executives it hopes will have only one title next year are Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
American Express Co., Janus Capital Group Inc. and Northern Trust Corp. are the other financial firms the union is targeting. Energy explorer Anadarko Petroleum Corp., dairy company Dean Foods Co., health-care firm Johnson & Johnson and defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. are also targeted.
The union, which says it has some $850 million in assets and 1.6 million members, also filed proposals for increasing disclosures on lobbying efforts and tax risks at several companies. The union also said it would closely examine executive pay this year.
For JPMorgan, the union said it was time to end Dimon's grip on the company's board and move risk management to the non-executives.
"An independent chair would get JPMorgan executives focused on generating long term value for shareholders, rather than empire building and big bonuses," said Afscme President Gerald W. McEntee.
The proposal has become increasingly common in recent years as board governance experts have pushed for splits. Bank of America Corp. split its roles in the midst of the financial crisis, taking the chairman role away from Kenneth Lewis.
Dimon is widely considered among the strongest banking executives, and a respected voice for the industry as a whole. He faced a similar shareholder proposal at the 2010 annual meeting, a proposal that failed, with 66% of votes tallied against and 34% for.
A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment Tuesday. In the 2010 proxy, the bank said it doesn't have a set rule on whether or not to have a non-executive chairman. Instead, the bank said, the board selects the best leader for the board, and believed Dimon has "the most effective leadership."