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Protests of JPM Chase on Wall St, of Predatory Loans and Mining, Laissez Faire

By Matthew Russell Lee

WALL STREET, May 18 -- Of the Big Four American bank, JPMorgan Chase has perhaps benefited more than any other from the financial meltdown. While having securitized many and made some of the most predatory mortgage loans, it was given Bear Stearns, and then Washington Mutual on the cheap. It proceeded to close scores of WaMu branches.

Tuesday in lower Manhattan outside JPMorgan Chase annual shareholders meeting, environmentalists sang songs about the bank's support of mountain top removal mining. As Inner City Press has reported, JPMorgan Chase pays former UK prime minister Tony Blair as an environmental consultant.

  The bank's security officers handed out leaflets about less than living wages from Chase's subcontractors Allied Barton and Summit Security. A protest of predatory lending by Chase was right around the corner. "What do we want? No redlining! When do we want it? Now!"

  Bronx-based Fair Finance Watch got an early copy of JPM Chase's 2009 mortgage lending on disk. Its analysis, the first in the country, found that in 2009 JPMorgan Chase was even more disparate to Latinos, confined them to higher-cost mortgage loans as defined by the Federal Reserve 1.98 times more frequently than whites, almost as pronounced as its disparity between African-Americans and whites, 2.17.

Still Chase and its CEO Jaime Dimon lobby against regulatory reform, and call it unfair that they are tarred with the stigma of the bailout they accepted. Dimon's speech last weekend at Syracuse University was protested, although some spun it as a success, with cheers for his commencement speech about free thinking. Laissez faire is more like it. Private profits, socialized risk.

JPMC's Dimon, at right: one down, one to go

JPMorgan Chase helped cause the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. by demanding more collateral and changing guarantee agreements, the bankruptcy examiner said last week. “The demands for collateral by Lehman’s lenders had direct impact on Lehman’s liquidity pool,” said Anton Valukas, the U.S. Trustee-appointed examiner, in a 2,200-page report filed in federal court, also in lower Manhattan.

Footnote: Simultaneous with the protest and shareholders' meeting, Chase's previous Community Reinvestment Act officer organized a CRA breakfast talk. At least two activists were asked to skip the protest in order to speak, but declined. Willis is known to oppose any legislation to expand CRA to cover, for example, investment banking including the securitization of subprime mortgages.

  Rather, he is promoting a more limited regulatory fix to CRA, on such matters as expanding the areas in which banks are assessed. Whether legislators like House Banking Committee chair Barney Frank, who argued CRA should not be under the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, will now move forward with the CRA modernization bill is not yet known. Watch this site.

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As Blair Lobbies for Wataniya, Do Kuwait and JPM Chase's Arranger Role Spell UN Conflict of Interest?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- When Tony Blair does business, who does he work for? He represents the Quartet, and thus the UN, on development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He has been paid by JPMorgan Chase as a consultant, and presumably works for them. When he acts in the West Bank for the Wataniya cell phone company, who is he working for?

  The UN has repeatedly claimed that there would and could be no conflict of interest between Blair's paid position for JPMorgan Chase and his work in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. When Inner City Press asked Blair, after a meeting of the Quarter in the Conference Room 4 in UN Headquarters, about any safeguards in place for his UN and JPMorgan Chase roles, he scoffed. A Blair staffer confirmed that he continued in JPM Chase's employ.

  This week, Tony Blair attended a press conference announcing the finalization of Wataniya's deal, which Blair "negotiated." At the UN noon briefing on November 11, Inner City Press asked about this last:

Inner City Press: yesterday, Tony Blair was in Ramallah, and he’s described as having negotiated on behalf of a cell phone company with the Israeli Government. There’s a whole press conference also that noted his role for the Quartet and for the UN. So I’m wondering, did he do this on behalf of the Quartet and the UN and what is the UN’s knowledge, do they have any knowledge on this business negotiating activity?

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: I have no knowledge of that.

  Even forty six hours later, no answer has been provided. But even cursory research reveals that Blair's employer JPMorgan Chase served as a "mandated lead arranger" for the acquisition of Wataniya. Click here for the document.

  So again, what safeguards are in place? Who is Tony Blair working for?

  Tony Blair Associates has as a client Kuwait, and by implication its royal family, while Blair has met with the finance minister of Kuwait while representing JPMorgan Chase. Wataniya Palestine is substantially (57%) owned by investors from Qatar and... Kuwait. For the former, it's Qatar Telecom. But for the later, it's the Kuwait Investment Authority, which operates on behalf of the State of Kuwait -- Tony Blair Associates' client.  So when Blair lobbies for Wataniya, who is he representing?

Tony Blair and UN's Ban, JPM Chase safeguards not shown

  While awaiting the UN's answers, we note that in June 2009, "Wataniya Palestine CEO Alan Richardson recently called on Middle East envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair to intervene on behalf of Wataniya to get the frequency released. Richardson previously has been involved in controversial cell phone projects in Iraq, with Orascom and Iraqna, contracts which the U.S. Pentagon urged the Coalition Provisional Authority to cancel.

  So to the degree Tony Blair is working for Richardson, this too is problematic. But beyond the UN and Quarter, is Blair working for Kuwait? With JPMorgan Chase's documented mandate lead arranger role for the acquisition of Wataniya, there is a conflict which, it would seem, will require action. Blair is dismissive, and the UN appears cowed. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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