Columns » Hightower

Chase's TV 'greedwashing' leaves a stain




'Greenwashing" is the use of shameless PR campaigns by notorious polluters to portray their corporations as benign, Bambi-loving protectors of nature.

But now comes a new phenomenon: "Greedwashing."

And who's in greater need of a greed bath than Wall Street banksters? So, splish-splash and rub-a-dub, here came JPMorgan Chase with a holiday season PR campaign intended to scrub off its greed. The message was that Chase is not merely a bailed-out, fee-grubbing, casino huckster, but a generous philanthropist that wants only to benefit humanity.

Rather than simply presenting this image makeover in an ad, however, Chase created a two-hour television special on NBC devoted to itself. Called the American Giving Awards, the show profiled community groups that had received charitable contributions from the Wall Street bank. Isn't that just precious?

If any viewers missed the point that Chase is not really a financial behemoth, but a bunch of big-hearted bankers who give away money, the show was spiked with eight 30-second commercials about the bank, plus frequent reminders that the altruism being displayed was "presented by Chase." Well ... actually, this two-hour greedwash was also presented by us taxpayers, for the cost of the show and the donations to the groups are all deductible from the corporation's income taxes. Yet, we got no credit for our help. Probably an oversight.

But the cheesiest part of the whole fraud is that the total amount of Chase's "magnanimous" donations to the five groups was $2 million. Come on — this outfit had $104 billion in revenues in the past year and showered its CEO with $23 million in pay, including a $5 million cash bonus.

At JPMorgan Chase, charity really does begin at home, and its dab of trumped-up philanthropy won't wash off a speck of its greed.

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