Thursday, June 30, 2011

J.P. Morgan Chase: A Stockholder's Perspective

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I am not a fan of banks.   Having a checking account with Bank of America, I have felt entitled to rail against its excesses (of which there are many) in this space on several occasions.  I also have two credit cards through J.P. Morgan Chase, which I feel entitles me to speak to their excesses as well.

I got my first Chase card several years ago, and though I can't remember why, I must have been lured in by some bit of wicked and/or misleading advertising - because in all of the time that I have had that card, I have never used it.  In fact, I requested in writing that it be cancelled, but I still get the occasional pack of complimentary checks prodding me to please spend their money and become a slave to their obscene interest charges.

When I arrived at Kadena, I was encouraged to join the Officers Club.  Membership is good for a five percent discount some places (usually places that I avoid), and it seemed like a supportive and good thing for a new base employee to do.   Membership is eighteen dollars a month, billed through a Chase credit card.  After inadvertently missing a payment a few months ago and receiving a hefty penalty, I decided to cancel the card.  I wrote to Chase who eventually wrote back and told me that I did not have the authority to cancel my card - only the Kadena Officers' Club could make that request.  

Kadena is a big base, but I eventually made it by the Club where I inquired about cancelling my card.  I made that inquiry at the very same desk where I got the application for the card in the first place.  The lady there told me that I would have to go to a building on another part of the base in order to cancel.   Today I finally made it to that building.

It took fifteen minutes to locate the right office, and once I found it I discovered that the sole clerk was busy with another customer.  She was very kind and set a chair out in the hallway so that I could wait out of the way. After nearly half-an-hour of sitting outside of the door like some errant seventh grader waiting to see the principal, I finally got in and was able to conclude this most recent misadventure with J.P. Morgan Chase.

I probably could have continued to put up with Chase for my last year on the island, but when I received the last statement they included a copy of their policy outlining my very limited rights to control of my personal information.  After reading that pissy little manifesto, I thought to myself - this crap ends right here, right now!

One thing I learned was that Chase has the right to use my personal information (social security number, account balances, transaction history, and credit and payment history)  pretty much however they damned well see fit, and I have virtually no say in the matter.  Not only may they use that personal information in the management of my accounts (which I understand), but they can also use it to market services and items to me - both by themselves as well as with other financial companies.  J.P Morgan Chase may also use my personal information to educate other banks about my transactions and experiences, and to spread information about my credit worthiness.  The individual consumer cannot limit any of that type of sharing!

Even a consumer's social security number can be shared without the consumer's permission!

Chase said that I can't limit this type of sharing because federal law does not give me the right to limit it.  Average people don't own congressmen and senators, but banks damned sure do.  So the honest response would have been that consumers can't limit the flow of personal information from banks because banks don't want them to. 

Much to my personal amusement, I now find myself a bona fide shareholder in both Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase.  Neither of those banks is worth as much today as they were when my father originally purchased their shares – even with the government stimulus money that they greedily swallowed like hogs at the trough. 

But that’s alright because I’m not in the selling mode.  I want to remain a shareholder so that I can feel entitled to bitch about their abusive policies not only as a victim, but as one of the owners as well.  If a few more owners would muster some long overdue outrage, maybe we could curtail the astronomical salaries and bonuses of the CEOs, directors, and other high level corporate maggots.   That money could be far better spent paying living wages to the women who work on the front lines of the banks as tellers and minor bank officers.  Cutting the bosses' salaries and bonuses could also help in reducing credit card interest levels and those criminal fees that rape the poor.   Who knows, maybe making the bank big shots live like mere mortals might even lead to paying back the stimulus money that saved their corporate asses after Bush flushed the economy.

Sooner or later I’ll see you boys at a shareholder’s meeting.

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