Dimon defends his role as Trump adviser

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WILMINGTON, Del. — Facing a group of angry shareholders, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon on Tuesday endured nearly a half-hour of stinging criticism about his ties to the Trump administration.

Dimon listened quietly at the podium during his company's annual meeting here as several activists blasted its financing of prisons used by the Trump administration to detain undocumented immigrants.

According to the activists, JPMorgan is one of largest financiers of debt for private detention centers — including those operated by CoreCivic in Nashville, Tenn. — where immigrants are being held while federal agencies move to boost deportations.

But they didn’t stop there. Several of the activist shareholders — quoting Dimon’s past statements in praise of Trump — questioned the JPMorgan CEO’s decision to advise the administration on broader economic issues, saying that he’s coming to the aid of a president who is pushing an “anti-immigrant agenda.”

Dimon currently serves as co-chair of the president’s council on jobs along with Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman.

“Mr. Dimon, you currently sit on Trump’s business council, where you advise him on business decisions,” said a shareholder who identified herself as an educator in New Jersey. “Will you step down from this council?”

“No,” Dimon said.

After several activists had spoken out on the issue, Dimon turned to General Counsel Stacey Friedman, who was running the meeting from the other side of the podium. “Is that the last one of those?” Dimon said after Friedman told the audience that it was time to move on to a different issue.

Dimon then told the audience he will look into JPMorgan’s relationship with private prisons. He noted that the New York company has supported free and fair trade with Mexico, and that it works closely with Hispanic groups in its communities.

Dimon also reiterated his commitment to political work — but notably stopped short of expressing his support for President Trump.

"He's the pilot flying our airplane — I’m trying to help," Dimon said. "I would try to help any president of the United States because I’m a patriot. That does not mean we agree with all of the policies that an administration comes up with.”

The meeting offered a rare public confrontation between Dimon and activists concerned about his political work.

Dimon’s profile in Washington has grown in recent months, following the Republican sweep in the elections. In addition to being co-leader of Trump’s jobs council, he was also named chairman of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group for corporate CEOs.

Dimon has also visited the White House along with his peers in the industry to advise the administration on ways to roll back financial regulations. “There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie,” Trump was reported as saying in February.

It remains to be seen whether Dimon’s association with Trump will tarnish his public image in the months ahead as the administration faces widespread public backlash on issues ranging from its bans on immigration from Muslim-majority countries to the ongoing investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Earlier this year, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from Trump’s business council to distance himself from the White House. The decision came after Uber users began deleting their accounts, accusing the company of profiting during a protest among New York cabdrivers of Trump’s travel ban orders.

Before closing out the hourlong JPMorgan meeting, an activist walked up to the stage, holding up a banner urging the company to stop supporting the construction of oil pipelines.

Additionally, immigrant-rights activists marched to the front of the corporate campus following the meeting, holding signs and chanting.

Yet the annual meeting ultimately proceeded according to regular order.

By wide margins, shareholders voted in favor of all directors who were up for election and also approved the company’s executive compensation plans.

Additionally, all shareholder proposals up for a vote were soundly defeated, including a new proposal this year that would have required JPMorgan to issue a report on gender pay equity.

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Commercial banking Corporate governance Policymaking Jamie Dimon Donald Trump JPMorgan Chase