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Jamie Dimon defends JPMorgan Chase’s $16.50-an-hour minimum wage, saying it’s not an ‘arms race’

The bank’s chief executive was challenged on the issue by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter during a House hearing this week.

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington on Wednesday. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on Friday defended the bank’s $16.50 minimum wage, saying it’s not in an “arms race” with competitors to raise entry-level salary any further.

“We take very good care of our entry-level jobs: $35,000 to $37,000 per year, medical, retirement,” Dimon said in a conference call with reporters to discuss the bank’s first-quarter profit.

This comes after Dimon was confronted on the issue by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) during a House hearing this week. Porter questioned how a mother with one child could survive on that salary after calculating the cost of child care and other expenses. Such a full-time employee would end every month more than $500 “in the red,” she said.

“How should she manage this budget shortfall while she is working full time at your bank?” Porter asked.

“I don’t know, I would have to think about that,” Dimon responded at the time.

On a conference call Friday, Dimon said the question was fair but noted that the starting salary of $16.50 an hour, which increases to $18 an hour in some high-cost areas, are for entry-level positions usually filled by people just out of high school. The bank also provides good medical insurance and retirement plans, he said.

“When looking at wages, you better be looking at other areas not just banks,” he said.

Giant corporations have been under increasing pressure to raise their minimum wage, a push that is expected to intensify during the 2020 presidential campaign. Just this week, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos called on retailers to match or beat Amazon’s pledge to boost pay to at least $15 an hour; and Bank of America said it would raise its minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021, gaining praise from some lawmakers. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Asked whether JPMorgan Chase would match Bank of America’s minimum wage increase, Dimon said, It’s not an ‘arms race.’ ”

CEOs of 7 mega banks challenged by House Democrats

JPMorgan Chase, the country’s largest bank, reported first-quarter earnings on Friday that beat Wall Street expectations. Profit and revenue rose 5 percent to $9.2 billion and $29.9 billion respectively compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo also reported strong quarterly results on Friday. The San Francisco bank’s first-quarter profit rose 16 percent to $5.9 billion, compared with $5.1 billion during the same period in 2018. Revenue was slightly lower, $21.6 billion, compared with $21.9 billion during the first quarter of last year.

Wells Fargo’s growing profit came even as it has struggled for nearly three years to convince regulators that it has changed since admitting opening millions of accounts customers didn’t ask for or need. Three of the bank’s most important regulators — the Federal Reserve, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Office of Comptroller of the Currency — said in letters released by Democratic senators this week that they were still unhappy with Wells Fargo’s progress.

"I am not satisfied with the Bank’s progress to date and have instructed staff to take all appropriate actions to ensure the Bank complies with the consent order and Federal consumer financial law,” CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger wrote in a letter to Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Wells Fargo’s chief executive, Tim Sloan, stepped down last month, and the bank’s board is looking for an external candidate to take the job.

The search is still in the early stages, and it is unclear when Wells Fargo’s board will make a decision, said interim chief executive C. Allen Parker. “We’re going to be redoubling our efforts to satisfy” regulators, Parker said in a conference call with analysts Friday. “We want to meet their expectations and also exceed them.”