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Genocide-free Investing: Why is it Controversial at JPMorgan Chase?

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Genocide-free Investing: Why is it Controversial at JPMorgan Chase?

Posted by Enough Team on April 24, 2012

Genocide-free Investing: Why is it Controversial at JPMorgan Chase?

Editor’s Note: JPMorgan Chase invests in PetroChina, a company with links to the Khartoum government, and thus connects its shareholders to state-sponsored atrocities across Sudan. In this guest blog post, William Rosenfeld of Investors Against Genocide explains how JPMorgan Chase has responded to concerns about this investment and what shareholders or prospective customers can do to push for a genocide-free investing policy.

For the second year in a row, shareholders are asking JPMorgan Chase to avoid holding investments in companies that substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity. This request seems so obvious that people are surprised anyone would contest it. Yet JPMorgan opposes the shareholder proposal asking the company to become genocide-free.

JPMorgan Chase is one of the largest U.S. holders of PetroChina, which through its closely related parent, China National Petroleum Company, helps to fund the government of Sudan’s campaign of violence. Nearly half a million people in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of Sudan currently are facing relentless aerial attacks, violent displacement, and starvation due to the Sudanese government’s ongoing military assaults. Ongoing government-sponsored genocide in Sudan has spanned more than two decades and resulted in the death of over 2.5 million innocent civilians. Millions more have been displaced and currently live in deplorable and insecure conditions.

According to JPMorgan Chase’s statement of opposition, “Our business practices reflect our support and respect for the protection of fundamental human rights and the prevention of crimes against humanity.“ But the company’s statement offers no explanation for its ongoing investments in PetroChina. If their business practices reflect support for human rights, why do they continue to own and buy more shares of foreign oil companies tied to genocide? Since a similar proposal appeared on the ballot at JPMorgan last year, the company has had ample opportunity to take steps to become genocide-free. Instead they increased their shares of PetroChina, by 11 percent, to 1,193,150,903 H-shares worth $1.5 billion.

The vast majority of Americans want their investments to be genocide-free. According to a market research study conducted by KRC Research in 2010, 88 percent of Americans would like their mutual funds to be genocide-free.

As a JPMorgan Chase customer or potential customer, your opinion matters to the company. By signing this petition, you can send a message to Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, that you want the company to adopt a genocide-free investing policy.

The campaign at JPMorgan is one of many that Investors Against Genocide, or IAG, has mounted during the last six years. IAG works with individuals, financial firms, pension and endowment managers, and government officials to encourage investment firms to change their investing strategy to avoid investments in companies that substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity. Our goal is to make the U.S. financial investment industry more responsive to the American public’s interest in not having their savings connected to the most egregious violations of human rights. By advocating for action in Sudan today Investors Against Genocide hopes to convince investment firms to make an ongoing commitment to genocide-free investing policies that would apply to future genocides or crimes against humanity.

Investors Against Genocide intends to confront JPMorgan with this issue every year until they change their policy. Let’s hope that 2012 is the year JPMorgan listens to shareholders and the public telling the company to take action.

William Rosenfeld is the co-founder and director of strategic initiatives at Investors Against Genocide. Rosenfeld has over 30 years of Information Technology and management experience. In addition to his extensive Darfur-related activities, on a volunteer basis, he is currently a self-employed information technology consultant.