|CHICAGO CITY COUNCIL HEARING
ON JP MORGAN CHASE MANTTAN BANK MERGER
March 5, 2004
Testimony of Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann
My name is Deadria Farmer-Paellmann. I am Executive Director of the
Restitution Study Group – a not-for-profit organization that examines
approaches to securing restitution for injuries inflicted upon oppressed
people. I was also lead plaintiff in class action litigation against JP
Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank and 18 other companies due to their
historical roles in the enslavement of Africans.
I wish to thank Alderman Dorothy Tillman and the Judiciary Committee
for your bold leadership in holding modern companies accountable for
their complicity in slavery through this hearing and your prior passage
of the Slavery Era Disclosure Ordinance.
I thank you all for this opportunity to contribute to the general
understanding of slavery through my testimony.
I come before you today to inform you of the dangers of the merger of
JP Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank with Bank One – an Illinois-based Bank,
if JP Morgan Chase does not pay reparations as demanded by slave
First let me say that my role in the struggle for slavery began as a
law student at New England School of Law, in Boston, Massachusetts, in
1997. I went to law school specifically to develop a case for slavery
reparations. I thought the case would be against the federal government
for the forty-acres and a mule promised in General Sherman’s Field
Order 15 during the Civil War. However, due to legal hurdles in
litgating against the federal government, including sovereign immunity,
I began focusing on corporations and private estates that were built on
slavery, as targets for reparations demands.
I took a class called Race and the Law, taught by Robert V. Ward, now
Dean of Southern New England School of Law. I choose to present a case
for reparations that required me to research my family roots to link
myself to a particular company. To conduct the complicated genealogy
research required to trace enslaved ancestors, I referred to the book, Black
Genealogy, by Charles L. Blockson. Blockson suggested that one
source of tracing enslaved ancestors was slave life insurance policies.
He directs readers to Aetna Incorporated, the Insurance Company of North
America, and Lloyd’s of London, as sources of such policies because
they used to write them.
This was my first encounter with modern-day corporations that played
a role in slavery.
In January of 2000, motivated by a desire for justice in the new
millennium, I called Aetna to request copies of their slave policies. An
enthusiastic Archivist sent copies of two policies, and a group of
circulars from life insurance companies that competed with Aetna in its
slave policy business. I conducted preliminary research on all the
circulars and traced one circular to Chase Manhattan Bank.
Prior to making this critical link, I asked Aetna to apologize for
its role in slavery and to pay restitution. On March 10, 2000, they
issued an unprecedented public apology for their role in slavery.
Although they also promised me they would pay restitution to benefit
slave descendants, they choose not to do so.
I contacted several other companies I traced to slavery making the
same requests to no avail.
By September 2000, I had completed research around Chase Manhattan
Bank. Using the online New York State Banking History Database, I traced
two of JP Morgan Chase’s earlier banks, The Merchant’s Bank of New
York, and The Leather Manufacturers Bank of New York, to a slave policy
circular. They are listed as the exclusive bankers for a $2.5 million
venture in writing slave life insurance policies in 1852. This amount of
money is substantial for that time. Other slave policy writing ventures
I have encountered did not exceed $300,000 in capital investments.
The company in which this investment was made was the National Loan
Fund Life Assurance Company of London. The policies were to be written
on the lives of enslaved people in Virginia, North Carolina, and
Washington, D.C. Some of the wealthiest people of that time were listed
as members of the board of directors in this venture such as George
Barclay. Some were prominent tobacco planters and shippers such as Henry
Ludlam of Virginia.
The local operation of this venture involved insurance agents and
medical examiners. Medical examiners were required to inspect enslaved
Africans before a policy could be written.
Many insurance companies practiced the writing of slave life
insurance policies in 19th Century United States. The effect of this
practice was to provide the financial backing necessary to give
potential slave owners motivation to purchase human chattel – a very
expensive investment. The policies gave slave owners the security
necessary to employ enslaved Africans in ultra-hazardous capacities.
In exchange for this security, insurers required medical inspections
to be sure that they could profit from writing policies. Further, they
never insured an African for full value. The circular indicates that JP
Morgan’s early bank helped cover "three-fourths the actual cash
value" of the enslaved African. The circular, listing fifty-five
businessmen and their institutions, is submitted to the record.
On September 18, 2000, I wrote a letter to William Harrison, Jr.,
Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, and requested that they verify
that such policies were written, and if so, that they apologize and
create a restitution trust fund to benefit the descendants of enslaved
By October 27, 2000, Lynne Federman, one of Chase’s Vice
Presidents, wrote back saying the matter was under investigation and
that she would contact me directly. I was never contacted.
During the course of the reparations litigation, I learned that a
report was prepared about the matter; however, the report has never been
made public. I have never seen it or been offered a copy. I urge this
panel to demand a copy of the report.
Subsequent to my communications with Chase Manhattan Bank in 2000,
they merged with JP Morgan, but not without inquiries at the Federal
Reserve Board about their possible connection to slavery. At that time,
Chase Manhattan Bank indicated that the matter was being investigated
and that they would take full responsibility for issues arising out of
In January of 2003, JP Morgan Chase was added to the list of
companies against whom reparations lawsuits were filed. The filing took
place in Texas. In response to the filing, a JP Morgan Chase
spokesperson said no evidence exists linking the bank to slavery. Tom
Johnson, of the bank, is quoted in the Houston Chronicle, on
January 21, saying: "We’ve found nothing to indicate that we were
involved in any of the (slave) transactions that are being quoted in
articles about the lawsuit."
This statement raises major questions about the veracity of the
company. Is the company violating state consumer protection laws by
making misleading statements about their history – a history that
would motivate many consumers to take their business elsewhere?
If there is no connection between JP Morgan Chase and slavery, what
do we make of the circular from Aetna’s archives? What about the $2.5
million capital investment advertised in the 1852 circular – what
became of that? Also, would fifty-five bankers, doctors, insurers,
shippers, and others advertise a venture that was never launched?
The public and their consumers, have a right to know the truth!
I urge this committee to uncover that truth. JP Morgan Chase
Manhattan Bank must release their investigative report on this matter.
BANK HOLDING COMPANY ACT CONSIDERATIONS
With respect to the potential merger of JP Morgan Chase and Bank One,
the historical and current actions around the issue of slavery raise
factors the Federal Reserve Board is required to consider under the Bank
Holding Company Act -- such as "the financial and managerial
resources and future prospects of the companies and banks involved in a
Future Prospects and Financial Resources
The prospects for this merger are clear – news reports indicate
that high profile litigation teams are preparing new reparations
lawsuits against companies, including JP Morgan Chase. The new entity
comprised of JP Morgan Chase and Bank One will be forced to fight
expensive legal battles that JP Morgan Chase could resolve right now.
The prospect is that their financial resources will be adversely affected
by this litigation.
In addition to the litigation, there is the prospect of more
financial woes due to actions by state and local governments, such as
you. Laws, modeled after your Slavery Era Disclosure Ordinance, are
being ntroduced and passed around this country requiring disclosure of
ties to slavery. Besides you, Los Angeles has slavery disclosure laws,
and New York City and Cleveland, Ohio, have pending disclosure bills.
Disclosure laws are making life more difficult for companies that are
trying to hide their tainted histories. The laws force them to tell the
whole truth about their connections to slavery. When a company reports,
it becomes exposed to more reparations lawsuits. If a company is found
to have failed to disclose the truth, they could loose lucrative
contracts with state and local governments.
One example of a company caught in the crosshairs of Chicago’s
slavery disclosure law is Lehman Brothers. As you know, Alderwoman
Dorothy Tillman introduced the slavery disclosure bill that became a
City ordinance in October of 2002, and took effect at the beginning of
2003. Consequently, last year Lehman Brothers was forced to disclose its
connection to slavery, or forgo a $145 million contract with the City.
In January of this year, just one month after the media reported on the
disclosure filing, a new class action lawsuit for reparations was filed
against Lehman Brothers. In addition, an investigation is underway to
determine whether their disclosure was incomplete. If Lehman Brothers is
found to have distorted their history, they could loose their contract
with the City.
This merger will make JP Morgan Chase/Bank One of the ten largest
companies in the world. If this is true, their financial exposure to
ongoing slavery reparations litigation and disclosure laws could have a
profound impact on the nation’s banking system, the national economy,
and certainly the City of Chicago. Considering these factors, this
merger should not be allowed to go forward, until JP Morgan Chase tells
the truth about their history, pays reparations, and changes a legacy of
shame, to a future of dignity and respect for humanity.