Lee Raymond, the former chief executive of oil company ExxonMobil, has resigned from the board of JPMorgan Chase following sustained pressure on the bank from climate activists and investors.
Mr Raymond, 82, was the bank’s longest tenured director with 33 years of service, starting on the board of JPMorgan & Co in 1987 and guiding that bank through its merger with Chase Manhattan Bank in 2000.
He also served as the bank’s lead independent director for 19 years, up until May of this year.
Activist groups, including Majority Action and Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition, as well as Scott Stringer, New York City’s comptroller, had called for Mr Raymond to not just relinquish that post but also to quit the board because of his close links to the fossil fuel industry.
A JPMorgan representative said that Mr Raymond’s retirement had “zero” to do with climate issues or investor activism. In a memo to staff, chief executive Jamie Dimon praised him as “a man of extraordinary character, wisdom and judgment” and “an instrumental force in helping make JPMorgan Chase the outstanding company it is today”.
The resignation, which is effective at the end of the year, “is not the result of any disagreement with the company”, the bank said in a regulatory filing.
Richard Brooks, senior campaign specialist at 350.org, a climate lobby group, said the news “is a sign of the changing winds of financial institutions taking climate action seriously” and that “while JPMorgan Chase remains the world’s largest fossil fuel financier, with Raymond no longer holding them back, Chase must overhaul its coal, oil and gas funding”.