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Lawmakers demand answers from JPMorgan after discrimination allegations

A group of Democrats on Capitol Hill has issued a broad series of questions to JPMorgan Chase & Co., seeking information on allegations of racial discrimination at the bank and steps it is taking to address them.

Five senators, led by Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asked that JPMorgan deliver a list of all enforcement actions against it since 2010 for violations of consumer protection, civil rights, fair lending, employment and other laws. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev.; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., also signed the Dec. 19, 2019, letter making the requests.

In a separate Dec. 19, 2019, letter, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and Al Green, D-Texas, urged the bank and several federal regulators — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate claims of discrimination.

The members of Congress also asked JPMorgan to provide them with information on discrimination complaints by employees, the demographic data the bank uses to assess branches, and the racial background of financial advisers at each of its branches. In 2018, JPMorgan agreed to pay millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit that accused the bank of systematically giving less lucrative assignments to black financial advisers. The bank denied any wrongdoing as a part of the settlement.

The letters were prompted by a Dec. 11, 2019, article in The New York Times that detailed discrimination against a wealthy client of the bank and one of its financial advisers, both of whom are black. They provided the newspaper with audio recordings of conversations with other bank employees, including one that captured disparaging comments made by a manager against another black client and that led to the manager's resignation.

In a Dec. 13 letter to employees, JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said he is "disgusted by racism and hate in any form" and that the bank "must make sure that the culture we aspire to reaches every corner of our company."

"We have done some great work on diversity and inclusion, but it's not enough," he added.

The senators also asked JPMorgan to list its branch closings since 2010, indicating whether they were in majority-black or majority-Latino areas and explaining imbalances. Their letter cited an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence that found that the bank reduced the number of its branches in majority-black communities by 22.8% from 2010 to 2018, while the number of its branches elsewhere remained about flat.

The senators asked that JPMorgan deliver the information by Jan. 15, and the congressmen asked for responses by Jan. 20. A JPMorgan spokesperson said the bank is "happy to continue the conversation with these members of Congress."