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JPMorgan launches think tank to advance Business Roundtable agenda

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has launched a think tank to develop policy ideas that will drive inclusive economic growth, roughly two months after Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon joined other American CEOs in calling for companies to refocus their priorities toward employees, consumers and other stakeholders, in addition to shareholders.

The JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter will work toward lowering barriers for people with criminal records to join the workforce, the bank said. The think tank will advocate for reforms to FDIC-imposed restrictions on hiring people with criminal backgrounds, and JPMorgan has removed questions about criminal records from job applications at the company. It will also support federal and state-level efforts to enact automatic record clearing for juvenile and misdemeanor crimes.

JPMorgan said it will invest more than $7 million to help organizations in Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, New York, Seattle and Wilmington, Del. to help people with criminal backgrounds find jobs and provide entrepreneurship training.

The bank named Heather Higginbottom, who held various roles in the Obama administration, president of the PolicyCenter.

In August, Dimon and members of the Business Roundtable released a new 'Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation' that signaled a major change in the group's position. Generating value for shareholders remained a key goal for the group, but the executives added to that a new focus on benefiting "all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders."

Sustainability groups reacted to the shift by calling on the CEOs to make meaningful changes to their companies' operations and strategies to reflect the new position.

More investors in the U.S. are asking companies to consider how environmental, social and governance issues will affect their long-term performance — the central concern of the ESG movement that has become a rapidly growing segment of the asset management industry. JPMorgan is taking those concerns seriously, one of the bank's executives said at an Oct. 17 event.

"JPMorgan's investors and our would-be investors are asking questions about these issues. So if we don't have an analytically rigorous process to analyze climate change risks and other social and governance risks, we're not going to get their money or they're going to take their money away from us. So this is something that is very important to us," Managing Director David Maccarrone said.