By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon urged business and government to use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to create a fairer economy:
‘This crisis must serve as a wake-up call and a call to action for business and government to think, act and invest for the common good and confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years.’
Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan
Dimon said the pandemic, with its lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, store and plant closures, and mass layoffs and furloughs, has “laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge.”
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits since the pandemic struck climbed to 39 million last week, according to Labor Department data.
Dimon regularly comments on social issues, and observed in his annual letter to shareholders in early April that the U.S. had not been adequately prepared for the pandemic.
Dimon said he hoped America will “roll up its sleeves” and start to attack its shortcomings, including the high cost of health care, unequal access to education, a litigation and regulatory system that burdens small businesses, failed immigration policies, and ineffective infrastructure. The share of wages for the bottom 30% of Americans has been falling, he said, identifying it as a problem that needs to be acknowledged if it is to be fixed.
“There should have been a pandemic playbook,” he wrote, wading into contentious territory, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell having recently corrected in public his prior claim that the Obama administration had left in place no such document for the Trump team , and Trump’s White House press secretary brandishing a binder with a laminated cover that she identified as a Trump administration playbook that superseded the last administration’s.
Likewise, Dimon added, every problem he denoted “should have detailed and nonpartisan solutions.”
In Tuesday’s memo, he also defended the bank from criticism for helping some of its larger clients, including the burger chain Shake Shack Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209397077/composite SHAK -0.29% , access a small-business rescue fund that was set up to help smaller-scale companies avert bankruptcy.
Shake Shack has since returned the money. Dimon said his bank has helped holders of more than 1.5 million accounts who were struggling, and has delayed payments and refunded fees across its business banking, mortgage lending, credit-card and automobile-loan accounts.