The Roundtable represents 192 chief executives from major American companies who voted on Wednesday morning to give Dimon a two-year term as their leader. He will replace Doug Oberhelman, who will retire as chairman and CEO of Caterpillar at year’s end.
He appears likely to push the group to embrace the opportunities of the shifting political landscape, including possible cooperation with Trump and the Republican majority in Congress on lowering corporate taxes and rolling back environmental, financial and other regulations issued by the Obama administration. He also appears set to push the business community, and Trump, to work together on issues meant to help working-class Americans, such as investing in job-training programs.
Dimon’s champions inside the Roundtable say he is also likely to steer the group to confront Trump on several issues, most notably trade and immigration, where his campaign promises have broken with long-standing goals of the business lobby.
Randall Stephenson, the chairman and CEO of AT&T and a past chairman of the Roundtable, said he was hopeful business leaders could help Trump “accomplish his agenda in a way that doesn’t disrupt the U.S. economy” — in particular, by avoiding potential tariffs on goods imported from factories that have been outsourced from America.
“I don’t worry about it,” Stephenson said when asked about Trump's recent promise of “retaliation” against companies that move jobs overseas. “I think Mr. Trump has made his point, and business is going to have to work with his administration and Congress to achieve what is the core cause of this. And the core cause is an uncompetitive tax structure. If you fix that structure, if you fix rates, you take care of all that. That goes a long way toward addressing Mr. Trump’s concern.”
Stephenson called Dimon “very practical,” an advocate for American workers, and an executive with a deep knowledge of many U.S. industries who would be “probably a terrific resource for the president-elect.”
John Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan who is the president of the Roundtable, praised Dimon's focus on policies that business groups say would speed economic growth, including points of disagreement with Trump. “He's an influential voice and strong advocate for immigration reform,” Engler said, “which we still think is possible.”
Dimon is a native New Yorker whose grandfather came to the United States from Greece. He has led JPMorgan Chase for more than a decade, following its merger in 2004 with Bank One, where he had been chairman and CEO since 2000. He steered the bank successfully through the financial crisis, where it turned a profit, and emerged as an early Wall Street ally of President Obama. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014, but said this year that he has completed treatment and that his prognosis is good.
He has criticized some of Obama's signature financial revisions, and, in recent years, had two high-profile brushes with Washington. Congress called him to testify — and his bank paid more than $1 billion in fines — over a massive trading loss stemming from what was called the “London Whale.” JPMorgan Chase also paid $13 billion to settle with the Justice Department in a case involving the sale of risky mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis.
In recent years, Dimon has pushed JPMorgan Chase to invest $325 million in efforts to boost skills training for American workers and to spend $100 million in a high-profile effort to assist urban revival in Detroit. He has pushed other business leaders to embrace the idea, as Engler puts it, that “what's good for the country is also good for American business.”
Dimon expounded on that this fall in an appearance before the Washington Economic Club.
When business leaders come to lobby policymakers in Washington, he said, “the interest of the country should be put before the interest of your industry or your company. And so businesses are constantly coming down here asking for you know, that one little thing that helps them, like I hear these horror stories. You know, just do what’s right for the damn country. Your business is going to be fine. And, in fact, your business will be better off if the country’s strong.”
In that appearance, Dimon praised immigration reform and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement Trump has promised to kill. He also called for corporate and individual tax reform, areas where Trump has promised swift action.
In a statement after his election to lead the Roundtable, Dimon cast the group as an opportunity for bridge-building on those and other issues. “By helping to bridge the divide between political parties and working collaboratively to find solutions,” he said, “Business Roundtable can play a key role in fostering economic mobility and sustained growth... that creates opportunity for everyone in this country.”