J.P. Morgan Chase and Slavery
The financial-services outfit becomes the latest to disclose historical ties to slavery:
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. on Thursday filed a disclosure statement with the city of Chicago acknowledging that two of its predecessor banks had received thousands of slaves as collateral prior to the Civil War.
J.P. Morgan, the country’s second-largest bank, apologized for contributing to “a brutal and unjust institution” and said it was setting up a special scholarship fund in Louisiana to try to make amends.
As a former manager at a large public-sector consulting firm, I know how difficult these disclosure processes are. The Chicago forms are particularly cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly, and they often discourage bidders from participating. Indeed, I was once involved in a high-profile, top-priority project. Our proposal won — but only by default, as we were the only company that even bothered to respond to the city’s solicitation. It turned out that our competitors couldn’t afford to devote resources to Chicago, which, on top of having many regulations, was a high-maintenance client perenially mired in nasty politics. Good for us, I suppose, though perhaps terrible for taxpayers: our fees tended to hover above the industry average.
But back to the main topic. It now remains to be seen whether JP Morgan’s scholarship fund would be enough of a penance. My guess is that it wouldn’t be. Though a Chicago-based reparations lawsuit was rejected last year, thereby dealing a blow to that movement, it will probably reemerge to put JP Morgan under close scrutiny. I don’t know what form such scrutiny would take. I suspect, however, that proponents of reparations will argue that, because the bank wishes to do business in the Windy City, it ought to make amends there, not just in Louisiana.