A proposal to cleave the roles of chairman and CEO at banking giant JPMorgan Chase was defeated in a shareholder vote on Tuesday, strengthening the hand of the bank's embattled chief, Jamie Dimon.
At a Tampa meeting for investors, the bank fended off a stiff challenge that would have redefined Dimon's bifurcated role as JPMorgan's top governance official and head of its operational functions. Although initial tallies showed a narrow result, the final tally came in at 32.2 percent — a smaller margin than a similar proposal that was advanced last year.
Dimon – who in media reports raised the prospect of resigning if he lost his dual title – has been at the center of withering public scrutiny after a series of regulatory failures engulfed the bank. The widely publicized "London Whale" trading scandal, which cost the bank billions of dollars and exposed risk failures, also cost the powerful banker a hefty slice of his compensation.
In the aftermath of the contentious investor showdown, Dimon addressed the London Whale saga. At the Tampa meeting, he told investors and media that it would have been a shame if the issue had shut down the trading business, but the bank was fortunate it had not.
The bank chief also staunchly defended JPMorgan's risk committee, which has taken heavy incoming fire in the midst of the bank's regulatory lapses. He said the group helped steer JPMorgan through the London Whale fiasco, while insisting on stricter capital and balance sheet cushions. Dimon added that the committee had no way of knowing about the trading scandal, nor should they have been required to.
Dimon added that JPMorgan had raised $1.8 billion for its clients in 2012, and that global investor client demand could rise by as much as 25 percent.
Analysts and some influential investors have called for JPMorgan to split the two top jobs, ahead of what was viewed as a make-or-break shareholder meeting in Tampa.
The margin of victory was unclear, but the source close to the voting told CNBC that the results were narrow.
Although JPMorgan has been lauded as one of Wall Street's best-run investment banks – and one of the few to emerge from the 2008 financial crisis unscathed – the firm has run into a thicket of legal and regulatory problems over the last several months.
In a blistering complaint regulators have taken aim at JPMorgan's energy trading arm in California. Meanwhile, the golden state has accused the bank of flooding state courts with specious lawsuits to collect overdue credit card bills.
Earlier this year, JPMorgan prevailed in a lawsuit by Dexia, a Belgian-French bank that accused the firm of duping investors into buying questionable mortgage-backed securities. Although proceedings are still ongoing, a decision by a federal judge to bar certain claims sharply limited the amount of money for which the bank could be held liable.
Investors largely cheered the outcome of JPMorgan's vote. In afternoon trading, the company's stock rose by more than two percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
At the shareholder meeting, Dimon said that more mortgage-related claims could come up.
—Reporting by CNBC's Kayla Taushe and Margaret Popper, writing by Javier E. David
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