Boulder City Council Takes Steps to Divest from JPMorgan Chase

boulder city councilBoulder City Council advised staff in a study session on Tuesday to further investigate ways to divest from JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase is a major creditor of Sunoco Logistics, the company behind the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Last month Boulder City Council declared its support of the Standing Rock Sioux for the actions the tribe has taken to resist the construction of DAPL, and also to condemn the violence committed on the part of the military and police against water protectors at the pipeline construction site near Cannonball, North Dakota.

In 2014 JPMorgan Chase settled with US Attorney General Eric Holder for $13 billion, $4 billion of which was to be directed as relief to struggling homeowners who had been affected by the banking institution’s mortgage practices.  JPMorgan Chase has also drawn criticism for its role in funding the for-profit prison industry.

City staffers Cheryl Patelli and Bob Eichem did not recommend to city council an immediate divestment, but council members stood firm on exploring options for moving city coffers away from investments associated with fossil fuel extraction.  Patelli said that the city is due to look for banking options that offer better earnings and a greater diversification of the city’s financial portfolio.

Eichman said the city has not offered Requests for Proposals (RFP) recently as it usually does every 5-7 years.  Council member Sam Weaver encouraged city staff to advance that process as soon as possible.  The city has used JPMorgan Chase since 2004.

Eichman and Patelli described to council the nightmares that are involved switching institutions including cyber security issues and finding an institution that could handle the city’s tens of thousands of financial transactions per year.  Staffers doubted that a local credit union would be able to handle the load, but remained open to including smaller institutions to the RFP process.

Staffers also raised the issue of switching banks, and then later discovering that the bank has chosen to invest in socially irresponsible practices that meet disapproval of the city such as investments in tobacco or assault rifles.

Council member Lisa Morzel said although there’s no predictability in what a banking institution can invest in, “Right now we are clear that we don’t want to invest in fossil fuels.”

Council member Jan Burton said that she supported divestment from fossil fuels, but as an owner and manager of small businesses where she does all the banking, she had firsthand knowledge of the complications involved in switching financial institutions.  “We all have an intent for [the staff] to look at some different options, and clearly social responsibility should be one.  That’s something that people would expect from us.  We should definitely send a message about social responsibility.”

In response to the conversations around the complications and burden involved in switching, Council member Mary Young said, “I want to remind us all that last year we passed an Indigenous People’s Day resolution which recognizes the harm that’s been done to Indigenous people, and I think the Dakota Access Pipeline is something that would do a lot of harm.  It’s right squarely within our values to look elsewhere.  Yes it might be really difficult [to divest], but nothing ever worth doing is easy.”  This comment drew roaring applause and cheers from the public who was admonished by Mayor Suzanne Jones.  Study sessions do not allow for public comment.

A statement released by Colorado prior to the meeting stated, “It is unconscionable and irresponsible to remain invested in a bank that is using a portion of City of Boulder taxpayers’ (and other investors’) money to fund many of the human rights atrocities we have seen at Standing Rock.”

boulder city council

Boulder resident Ethan Green (l), a Naropa graduate in Environmental Leadership, holds a message addressing city council.

During council discussion Ethan Green held a banner that read, “City of Boulder, DEFUND DAPL.”  Green told The Nation Report the reason for the banner display, “We hope the city will move forward.  Tonight they took a major step by expediting a new Request for Proposals for banking services that will include social responsibility.  That’s a big step that will open the door for more banks to apply to be the city’s fiscal agent.”

Molly Ryan Kills Enemy runs the Denver Stands as Water Protectors and Earth Defenders group and said that she felt positive, but had just learned of the recent order by Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer who ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the easement under Lake Oahe, the part of the pipeline that has most been vehemently protested in recent months by water protectors and their supporters, “When they put this pipeline in, it’ll be 40 years before there is no future for our children.”

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