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Death of JPMorgan Board Member Adds to the Bank’s String of Unusual Deaths

Published: July 4, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF
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James S. Crown

James S. Crown

On Sunday, James S. Crown died in an unusual single-car accident, reportedly on a motorsport racetrack at a “member-owned country club” in Aspen, Colorado. The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office said in a statement that “The official cause of death is pending autopsy, although multiple blunt force trauma is evident.” The Sheriff’s Office indicated that the earliest new information would be made available to the public is next week.

In August of last year, Wall Street On Parade made a referral to the U.S. Department of Justice involving James S. Crown, who was a long-term member of the Board of Directors of JPMorgan Chase and two predecessor banks, Bank One Corporation (previously Banc One) and First Chicago Corporation. Following mergers between the banks, Crown seamlessly went from First Chicago (1991 to 1996) to Bank One (1996–2004) to JPMorgan Chase (2004 to the present) – a stunning tenure of 32 years for a Board Member dubbed an “Independent Director.”

Wall Street On Parade’s referral to the Justice Department concerned financial dealings between Crown and JPMorgan Chase that were not disclosed in public filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission or to shareholders. We reported at the time:

For more than a decade, JPMorgan Chase has been asserting in its proxy statement that its entire Board of Directors, other than Jamie Dimon, its Chairman and CEO, consists of independent directors. In its most recent proxy statement for 2022, JPMorgan Chase asserts that “The Board, having reviewed the relevant relationships between the Firm and each director, determined, in accordance with the NYSE’s listing standards and the Firm’s independence standards, that each non-management director…had only immaterial relationships with JPMorgan Chase and accordingly is independent”…

But JPMorgan Chase has failed to disclose the granular details of a string of financial dealings it has had with companies tied to its Board member James S. Crown, Chairman and CEO of Henry Crown and Company, a private company owned by Crown and his siblings that invest in a sprawling array of businesses…

Crown was the Chair of JPMorgan Chase’s Risk Committee in the years leading up to, and during, the investigation of the London Whale scandal where the bank lost $6.2 billion from deposits in its federally-insured bank by gambling in derivatives in London. Crown remained Chair of the Risk Committee during the two felony counts brought by the Justice Department in 2014 related to the bank’s role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Crown also headed the Risk Committee during the 2015 felony count brought by the Justice Department related to the bank rigging the foreign exchange market. Crown remained a member (but not the Chair) of the Risk Committee in 2020 when the bank was charged with its fourth and fifth criminal felony counts by the Justice Department. The 2020 charges against the bank were for rigging the precious metals and U.S. Treasury securities markets. The bank admitted to all five felony counts from 2014 through 2020 and received deferred prosecution agreements from the Justice Department. Not only did the Board of JPMorgan Chase not fire Dimon after this unprecedented string of criminal charges, but it awarded him a bonus of $50 million.

During the years that Crown served on the Risk Committee at JPMorgan Chase, the bank was engaged in a major lending operation with his company, Henry Crown and Company. The details of that specific loan were not disclosed in the bank’s proxy statement.

The loan involved the 2017 purchase of Intrawest Resorts Holdings and Mammoth Resorts by a joint venture formed by an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company – the largest deal in ski resort history according to the Denver Post. In 2018 the resulting company was named Alterra Mountain Company. The company’s press release indicated that “The destinations that make up Alterra Mountain Company are spread throughout five states and three Canadian provinces: Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec; Blue Mountain in Ontario; Deer Valley in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures in British Columbia.”

According to an SEC filing, “The Company [Intrawest] also received draft equity commitment and limited guaranty letters from KSL Capital Partners and Crown, and a draft debt commitment letter from JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (‘JPM’) relating to Parent’s bid.” The ‘Parent’ is Hawk Holding Company, made up of KSL Capital and Henry Crown and Company interests. The SEC filing goes on to note that JPMorgan Chase is one of a syndicate of banks that have “committed to provide a $1.235 billion first lien secured term loan facility, a $196.25 million senior secured revolving credit facility, and a $365 million second lien secured term loan facility, of which $640 million of the loans under the first lien secured term loan facility, $190 million of the loans under the second lien secured term loan facility, and a portion of the commitments under the senior secured revolving credit facility, will be available on the closing date to finance the Transactions….”

Under the corporate governance statute covering “Director Independence,” 17 CFR § 229.407 Item 407, the Instruction to Item 407(a) reads: “The description of the specific categories or types of transactions, relationships or arrangements required by paragraph (a)(3) of this Item must be provided in such detail as is necessary to fully describe the nature of the transactions, relationships or arrangements.” (Italic emphasis added.)

Jamie Dimon knew Crown from their overlapping tenure at Bank One, where Dimon served as Chairman and CEO from 2000 until the merger with JPMorgan Chase in 2004. (Dimon had previously been a top lieutenant for Sandy Weill, Chairman and CEO of Citigroup, the bank that became a 99-cent stock in 2009 following the financial crisis of 2008 when it blew itself up with off-balance sheet toxic instruments.)

In a statement filed with the SEC on Monday, Dimon said Crown “has been a trusted advisor to me for nearly 20 years, playing a key role in helping our company navigate numerous business and economic challenges, most recently serving on our Public Responsibility and Risk Committees.”

One of those “challenges” is currently ongoing. JPMorgan Chase is facing very serious charges in federal court for facilitating Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring by servicing his accounts at the bank from 1998 to 2013, providing millions of dollars to him in cold hard cash without making the required Suspicious Activity Reports to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and receiving referrals of high-net-worth clients and business deals as a quid pro quo. The bank settled a separate lawsuit with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims for $290 million on Monday but is facing a similar suit filed by the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Epstein owned a secluded island and compound in the Virgin Islands where sex trafficking is reported to have occurred.)

One of the men who was aggressively avoiding the service of subpoena in the Virgin Islands’ case is Leslie Wexner, founder of The Limited retail conglomerate. Wexner was on the Board of Directors of the bank that Jamie Dimon would eventually head, Banc One, from at least 1986 – the year that Epstein took over financial affairs for Wexner – to 1991. (Wexner may have served as a Director at Banc One beyond 1991. We, thus far, could not locate definitive information beyond that date.)

For the past three days, newspapers covering Crown’s death have been canonizing him. But in 2013, a respected and prominent proxy advisory firm to institutions, ISS, recommended that Crown be removed from JPMorgan’s Board. ISS said that JPMorgan’s Board of Directors took action “only when it was clear that it could no longer maintain the status quo” and concluded with this:

“In the era of too-big-to-fail, large, complex financial institutions require board members who are knowledgeable, engaged and willing to put management on the spot when necessary. The need for qualified directors in the risk function who can go toe to toe with management is particularly acute. The legacy (risk policy committee) directors lack these skills, and the episode of (‘London Whale’) losses has demonstrated their unsuitability for service on the (committee) and the board.”

Crown, however, like Dimon, appeared to have protectors keeping them both in place at the bank.

Crown’s sudden death might not raise eyebrows were it not for the uniquely disturbing past rash of unusual deaths at this one bank, which include multiple leaps from buildings in 2014 and two alleged murder suicides in a 7-month span in 2014 and early 2015. A death of a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase in 2019, Douglas Arthur Carucci, was so hush, hush that the New York City Medical Examiner had no record of the death, family members refused to speak with us, and news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Financial Times, and Reuters didn’t even cover the death. See our report: JPMorgan Managing Director Dies Suddenly; Has Links to Other JPM Deaths. Below is a listing of the unusual deaths we have reported on related to JPMorgan Chase:

Joseph M. Ambrosio, age 34, of Sayreville, New Jersey, passed away on December 7, 2013 at Raritan Bay Medical Center, Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He was employed as a Financial Analyst for J.P. Morgan Chase in Menlo Park. On March 18, 2014, Wall Street On Parade learned from an immediate member of the family that Joseph M. Ambrosio died suddenly from Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Jason Alan Salais, 34 years old, died December 15, 2013 outside a Walgreens in Pearland, Texas. A family member confirmed that the cause of death was a heart attack. According to the LinkedIn profile for Salais, he was engaged in Client Technology Service “L3 Operate Support” and previously “FXO Operate L2 Support” at JPMorgan. Prior to joining JPMorgan in 2008, Salais had worked as a Client Software Technician at SunGard and a UNIX Systems Analyst at Logix Communications.

Gabriel Magee, 39, died on the evening of January 27, 2014 or the morning of January 28, 2014. Magee was discovered at approximately 8:02 a.m. lying on a 9th level rooftop at the Canary Wharf European headquarters of JPMorgan Chase at 25 Bank Street, London. His specific area of specialty at JPMorgan was “Technical architecture oversight for planning, development, and operation of systems for fixed income securities and interest rate derivatives.”

Ryan Crane, age 37, died February 3, 2014, at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. The Chief Medical Examiner’s office ruled, after much delay, that the cause of death was “ethanol toxicity/accident.” Crane was an Executive Director involved in trading at JPMorgan’s New York office. Crane’s death on February 3 was not reported by any major media until February 13, ten days later, when Bloomberg News ran a brief story.

Dennis Li (Junjie), 33 years old, died February 18, 2014 as a result of a purported fall from the 30-story Chater House office building in Hong Kong where JPMorgan occupied the upper floors. Li is reported to have been an accounting major who worked in the finance department of the bank.

Kenneth Bellando, age 28, was found outside his East Side Manhattan apartment building on March 12, 2014.  The building from which Bellando allegedly jumped was only six stories – by no means ensuring that death would result. The young Bellando had previously worked for JPMorgan Chase as an analyst and was the brother of JPMorgan employee John Bellando, who was referenced in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ report on how JPMorgan had hid losses and lied to regulators in the London Whale derivatives trading scandal that resulted in losses of at least $6.2 billion. Deposits from the federally-insured bank had been used to make the derivative bets according to the Senate’s report.

Thomas James Schenkman, age 42, died suddenly in Connecticut on May 7, 2014. Schenkman was Managing Director of Global Infrastructure Engineering for JPMorgan Chase. Schenkman began his technology career with Microsoft, where he worked for 11 years. He had also previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns. Schenkman’s tenure at JPMorgan stretched from 2008 to the time of his death. The cause of death was eventually assigned to “atherosclerotic coronary artery disease” by the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Julian Knott and his wife, Alita, ages 45 and 47, respectively, were discovered by police on July 6, 2014 at approximately 1:12 a.m. in their home in the Lake Hopatcong section of Jefferson Township, New Jersey. After a two-day investigation, police announced that they believed Julian Knott shot his wife repeatedly and then took his own life with the same gun. The Knotts had three teenage children, two living at home and one in college. Knott had worked on JPMorgan computer networks in London since 2001, initially as a subcontractor for Computer Science Corporation and, later, IBM. Knott formally joined JPMorgan Chase at its London operations in January 2006 and remained there until 2010 when he transferred to JPMorgan’s large complex in Columbus, Ohio and rose to the rank of Technical Director of Global Tier 3 Network Operations. Knott was transferred again in 2012 and began work in JPMorgan’s high tech Global Network Operations Center in Whippany, New Jersey. Six months before his death he was promoted to Executive Director.

Michael A. Tabacchi and His Wife, Iran Pars Tabacchi: According to Bergen County, New Jersey Prosecutor John Molinelli and police reports, 27-year old Michael A. Tabacchi and his wife, Iran Pars Tabacchi (who also went by the name Denise) were discovered dead on Friday evening, February 7, 2015 in their home in Closter, New Jersey. Their infant son was in the home and unharmed. He was cared for by paternal grandparents. A text message from the home had been sent to the father of Michael Tabacchi asking him to come to the home, according to media reports. The father found the couple. County Prosecutor John Molinelli made short work of his investigation, tweeting: “Autopsy on Closter couple shows wife died from strangulation and single stab wound to chest. Husband died from self-inflicted stab chest.” On the very evening the bodies were discovered, before any autopsy had been performed, Molinelli characterized the deaths in a tweet as a “probable murder suicide.” Michael Tabacchi’s LinkedIn profile listed him as an Associate at JPMorgan, indicating a previous title there of Operations Analyst.

Ann Korkki, a Senior Administrative Assistant in the Wealth Management division of JPMorgan Chase in Denver, Colorado was found with the body of her sister, Robin Korkki, inside their luxury vacation villa at the Maia Resort on Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean off the East African coast. Ann Korkki was 37; her sister Robin was 42. Robin Korkki had an extensive history as a futures trader in Chicago, according to her past registration history at the self-regulatory body, FINRA. The deaths were discovered on September 22, 2016.

Douglas (Doug) Arthur Carucci, age 53, died on Saturday, March 9, 2019. His LinkedIn profile at the time indicated that he was a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase and employed there since June 2011. The profile showed the titles at JPMorgan Chase of Global Head of Currencies, Emerging Markets, and Commodities Technology and Global Head of FICC Electronic Trading Technology. His online obituary says simply that he died “tragically and suddenly.” Carucci is believed to have been a resident of Manhattan with his wife, Cindy. Wall Street On Parade called the New York City Police Department and we were told they had no information in their database about the death of a Douglas Carucci in March 2019. We next emailed the New York City Medical Examiner’s office – which is mandated under law to investigate all deaths from accidents or sudden deaths. Aja Worthy-Davis, the Executive Director for Public Affairs of the Medical Examiner’s Office responded as follows: “There is no OCME record of this individual (under the name shared). Please keep in mind that the OCME does not investigate (or keep records of) all deaths within the City of New York. The OCME is specifically responsible for investigating only NYC-based deaths occurring from criminal violence, by accident, by suicide, or in any unusual or suspicious manner.”

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