First there was the string of regulatory investigations, almost too many to count, of its business and the accompanying $23 billion in fines. Then a shareholder proposal suggesting that the company should split its chairman and chief executive roles. Yesterday came the announcement of thousands of layoffs. But neither are likely to compare with JPMorgan Chase’s most recent indignity, its decision to move approximately 2,000 employees from Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn.
It isn’t because they’ve gotten cool. According to Bloomberg News, the country’s largest bank by assets is planning to relocate employees from its 60-story Manhattan tower 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza to Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, after reviewing its real estate portfolio with an eye toward cutting expenses. The move is expected to occur by the end of the year. The bank will still keep some space inside 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, its skyscraper that was sold to a Chinese company called Fosun International in 2013.
It has been an eventful year for JPMorgan—in January, the company reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office over claims it had ignored signs of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines. In November, the bank reached an agreement with the Department of Justice over sales of mortgage securities that went bad during the financial crisis, which was accompanied by a $13 billion fine—the largest ever paid to the government by a company. Investigations are continuing into the company’s hiring practices in China. Before that was the London Whale, the trader in London who caused the bank billions in losses. In between was the embarrassing Twitter fiasco.
Regardless of the optics, Brooklyn—ground zero for hipster beard implants, artisanal pickles, and more street fairs than one might care to count—welcomes the bank’s employees. “Were they to come, it would be a validation of our office market here,” Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, told Bloomberg News. “The only drawback, if you can call it that, would be the challenge it creates. It means there would be even less office space for us to grow into. It makes our space dilemma a little more acute, but that’s a good problem to have.”