JPMorgan Shareholders Praise CEO Dimon

JPMorgan Chase's annual meeting on Tuesday was much more upbeat than recent gathering of investors at its more troubled competitors.
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The mood at

JPMorgan Chase's

(JPM) - Get Report

annual meeting on Tuesday was much more upbeat than recent gathering of investors at its more troubled competitors.

Kicking off his prepared comments, chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said that 2008 was an "unbelievable year" and that it "may have been our finest year ever."

Several shareholders praised Dimon for the company's ability to remain profitable despite the difficult economic environment. One shareholder even went so far as to say that he was "the premier banker" in the U.S., while another asked if there was any other CEO able to protect shareholder value better than him.

The praise was quite a contrast to the scorn

Citigroup

shareholders directed at that company at its annual meeting last month or the uprising staged by

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

shareholders at its meeting. Citi Chairman Richard Parsons and CEO Vikram Pandit had to endure roughly six hours worth of shareholder frustration with the company's board of directors, while BofA shareholders stripped CEO Ken Lewis of his chairman title.

JPMorgan Chase shareholders, on the other hand, re-elected all 11 directors to the board, according to preliminary voting results announced at the end of the roughly three-hour meeting in downtown Manhattan.

Shareholders also re-appointed JPMorgan Chase's accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers and approved of an advisory vote on compensation -- part of the requirements of the Troubled Asset Relief Program's Capital Purchase Plan. JPMorgan Chase received $25 billion from the Treasury Department in the government bailout of the banking system last year.

None of the shareholder-led proposals passed, according to preliminary results. But Dimon addressed shareholders primary concerns about repaying the TARP funds and restoring the company's dividend.

Dimon said JPMorgan plans to repay the funds as soon as possible, particularly now that the company has passed the stress test. Other big banks including

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

,

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

,

State Street

(STT) - Get Report

and

Bank of New York Mellon

(BK) - Get Report

reportedly have applied to

repay the government funds

.

The Associated Press

reported on Tuesday that the

Federal Reserve

said approval for big banks seeking to repay bailout money could start in early June.

"We believe the banks should be allowed -- who can -- to be able to pay back

TARP," Dimon said, who called the TARP experience "traumatic."

"The directors are in favor. We hope to be able to do that once we get the specifics from the government," he said later on.

Dimon has repeatedly said that the company did not need the money but took it for the well-being of the country.

Another large issue at the meeting was the company's scaled back dividend. JPMorgan Chase in February cut its dividend by 86% to 5 cents a share, as a "precautionary step" to conserve capital, it said at the time.

Accordingly, shareholders were unhappy by the move. Many of those attending the meeting were retirees that use the dividend as a source of income.

JPMorgan must repay its TARP funds before it can raise the dividend, but repaying TARP would not automatically mean the company would increase its dividend, Dimon said. Still, the board could possibly "take a look at that by the end of the year," he added.

"We think our highest obligation is to protect the health and wealth of the company," he said.

Shares were falling 1.9% to $35.56 in recent trading on Tuesday.