A former financial adviser for JP Morgan Chase who claims he was fired for calling out racism at the investment bank is speaking out following the firm’s response to recent allegations of race discrimination.
The New York-based bank made headlines last week after Jimmy Kennedy, a retired NFL Super Bowl champion, went public with secret recordings of an employee admitting to bank executives’ racial bias when Kennedy tried investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings.
The former athlete had also applied to become a “private client,” an elite status giving perks not afforded to regular clients. He became frustrated, however, after getting the runaround from bank staff.
Kennedy would learn his application was denied — a decision a JP Morgan employee suggested said was due to Kennedy’s race and “intimidating” stature.
“You’re bigger than the average person, period. And you’re also an African-American,” Charles Belton, who’s also Black, told Kennedy in the recording published by The New York Times Wednesday. “We’re in Arizona. I do not have to tell you about what the demographics are in Arizona. They don’t see people like you a lot.”
Doing damage control, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon issued a statement condemning the incident, saying he’s “disgusted” by racism in any form.
“Any such behavior — explicit or veiled, deliberate or unconscious — is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as a company and how we serve our clients and communities every day,” Dimon said.
“Racism has existed for too long — in our country, in our communities — and unfortunately, at times, even at our company,” he added, noting that he’s instructed the firm’s management team to review and improve its policies. “We will use this moment as an opportunity to do better — as leaders, as employees and as human beings.”
The statement did little to quell outrage over the incident and prompted response from Ricardo Peters, Kennedy’s original financial adviser before he was fired after making his own racism claims against JPMorgan Chase.
Peters, who sued the bank for discrimination, initially wasn’t given a reason for his termination, but the firm later accused him of “improperly assigning credit for a new client to an employee who managers didn’t think deserved it.” The former adviser denied the allegations and recently accused the firm of sweeping his discrimination claims under the rug.
“Mr. Dimon couldn’t possibly be that disgusted by racism within the company,” Peters tweeted Saturday, “Especially, when he and JPM’s heads of HR were fully aware of what was happening and decided to cover it up when I informed them.”
The ex-adviser also posted screenshots from his former client, Kennedy, rallying on his behalf after the company canned him in 2018.
— Ricardo Peters (@Rpeter143) December 15, 2019
“Peters has been the first financial advisor I’ve felt comfortable working with since departing NFL,” the former New York Giant wrote in a tweet dated Oct. 18, 2018. “He’s the most honest, ethical, humble, highly intelligent advisor I’ve ever worked with.
He added: “It’s mind boggling to me how you could allow such an asset to your company to be wrongfully terminated, FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING!”
In Kennedy’s secret recording, Belton, his new adviser, admits that his boss, Frank Venniro, was too afraid to tell Kennedy that his application for the premier perks was deleted when he canned Peters.
“You sit in front of him, you’re like three times his size — you feel what I’m saying? — he already probably has his perception of how these interactions could go,” Belton said. “They’re not going to say this, but I don’t have the same level of intimidation that they have — you know what I’m saying? — not only being a former athlete but also being two black men.”
Kennedy has since pulled much of his money from the bank and took his complaints to a watchdog group.
Dimon said the firm will continue to make changes in light of the incident.
“We must make sure that the culture we aspire to reaches every corner of our company,” he said in a statement. “We have done some great work on diversity and inclusion, but it’s not enough. We must be absolutely relentless on doing more.”