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JPMorgan Faces Race Discrimination Claims From Ex-FA and Client

December 12, 2019

A former JPMorgan advisor has smacked the bank with claims they denied him a promotion and rejected issuing credit to a creditworthy client because both are black.

Ricardo Peters, who joined JPMorgan in 2008 as a salesman in its credit cards unit, was promoted to a financial advisor role in Phoenix in 2016, the New York Times writes. Despite winning “numerous performance awards” at JPMorgan, Peters was allegedly passed over for a promotion to become a private client advisor, which would have given him access to wealthier clients, according to the paper.

The company allegedly instead moved Peters from an office he shared with other advisors to a “windowless room in the back,” the Times writes. Then, in April 2017, Peters found out from Frank Venniro, one of his bosses, that another manager had accused Peters of taking client files home against the firm’s policy, according to the paper. His boss accepted Peters’ denial, according to a recording of the conversation reviewed by the Times, but told Peters that he “needed to be more cognizant of how his colleagues perceived him,” the paper writes.

Later, when Peters complained to Venniro that another advisor was trying to poach a prospective client — a black woman who received a $372,000 wrongful death settlement after her son died — Venniro told him she wasn’t a worthwhile client, as she would spend all the money because “[s]he didn’t earn it,” according to the Times.

In February 2018, Peters was moved to a branch in a less-wealthy neighborhood in Phoenix, which he claims was an example of his managers, including Venniro, “mistreating him because he was black,” the paper writes.

In August, Peters filed a formal complaint, saying he had told Venniro he felt he was “being treated differently because of my race and color of my skin” and that Venniro had suggested he work at the less-wealthy branch as a solution, according to the Times.

On Oct. 5, Venniro told Peters he was getting fired, saying he was “just given marching orders” and didn’t know the reason, according to a recording of the conversation reviewed by the paper.

Venniro declined comment to the Times.

JPMorgan Chase co-president Gordon Smith reportedly told colleagues Wednesday he was“sickened” by the apparent revelations of racism, according to the Financial Times. On a conference call with thousands of employees, Smith asked staff to email a "hotline" with any concerns they have or ideas to improve practices, writes the FT.

Peters has accused JPMorgan of racial discrimination in a claim filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights division of the Arizona attorney general’s office, the paper writes. The firm denies the charge, saying it terminated him because he had assigned credit for a new client to an employee who the management deemed didn’t deserve it, according to the Times and his BrokerCheck record.

Peters has since started his own investment advice firm in Arizona, the paper writes.

Peters says the racial discrimination allegedly extended to affluent clients. While Peters was with JPMorgan, he met former NFL player Jimmy Kennedy, who had earned $13 million during his nine-year career in the league, according to the Times. The company’s bankers had been trying to lure Kennedy, who is black, but he avoided giving business to the firm until he met Peters, the paper writes.

When Kennedy moved $800,000 to the bank in the summer of 2018, Peters promised Kennedy that he would get private client status, available to those with accounts of more than $250,000, according to the Times. But Kennedy “kept getting the runaround,” the paper writes. Eventually, Charles Belton, a black employee at a JPMorgan branch, told Kennedy that he’s “bigger than the average person, period. And you’re also an African-American,” according to a recording of the conversation Kennedy made and shared with the the Times.

“We’re in Arizona. I don’t have to tell you about what the demographics are in Arizona,” Belton says in the recording reviewed by the paper. “They don’t see people like you a lot.”

Eventually, after Kennedy talked to Venniro about the private client status, Belton told him to never talk to Venniro again, according to the Times.

“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,” Belton told Kennedy, according to the paper.

Kennedy withdrew his money from JPMorgan and filed a complaint with an industry watchdog, the Times writes. In June, the firm sent him a letter, according to the paper.

“You stated that Mr. Belton informed you that our firm was prejudiced against you and intimidated by you because of your race,” the letter said, according to the Times. “We found no evidence to substantiate your allegations.”

A JPMorgan spokeswoman tells the paper the company bank wasn’t aware of all of the audio recordings and that in light of the information it found out from the Times, it has already put an executive director on administrative leave as it investigates his conduct.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Financial Times article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the New York Times article cited in this story, click here.
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Tags:  Finding and winning new clients , Client retention , Fees and compensation , Regulatory/legal issues , Marketing , JPMorgan

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CaliN Dec. 12, 2019 at 12:25 PM EST

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I can't believe this crap is still happening in 2020. Sickening.
Social States Dec. 13, 2019 at 03:05 PM EST

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My oh my! Sounds to me like JP Morgan is going to be out some money.