JPMorgan Chase has joined a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei after the Asian country introduced laws that punish gay sex with death.
America’s largest bank is the second major financial institution after Deutsche Bank (DB) to direct staff to avoid hotels including London’s Dorchester and Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel.
The move was first reported by the Financial Times.
JPMorgan (JPM) confirmed the hotel ban to CNN Business but a spokesman declined to answer questions about its business activities in Brunei and other countries that discriminate against LGBT people.
Celebrities including Elton John and George Clooney have called on companies to boycott the hotels after Brunei brought in laws earlier this month that make gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning.
Clooney wrote late last month in an opinion piece for Deadline that governments are difficult to influence but “you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them.”
Dealing with Riyadh
Gay sex is a crime in 72 countries, according to Amnesty International, and punishable by death in eight of them including Iran and Saudi Arabia. Many of those laws have been on the books for decades.
JPMorgan has done business with Saudi Arabia recently. It was one of several banks, including Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and HSBC (HBCYF), that managed a $12.5 billion bond sale for state-owned oil giant, Saudi Aramco, in early April.
The head of JPMorgan’s investment bank, Daniel Pinto, appeared on stage at a finance conference in Riyadh last week. The government of Saudi Arabia is trying to reassure foreign investors following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. It needs investment and expertise for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to diversify the economy away from oil over the next decade.
But the event — attended also by the CEOs of HSBC and BlackRock — was overshadowed by news that Saudi Arabia had carried out a controversial mass execution. Documents obtained by CNN show some of the 37 killed claimed their confessions were obtained through torture. Some of those executed were minors at the time of their arrest.
Brunei also depends on oil revenue for its wealth. But the country of 450,000 people is much smaller than Saudi Arabia and offers far fewer opportunities for global banks and businesses.
The Dorchester Collection, which operates the hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, said earlier this month that “we do not tolerate any form of discrimination, we never have and we never will.”
“We understand people’s anger and frustration but this is a political and religious issue that we don’t believe should be played out in our hotels and amongst our 3,630 employees,” it said in a statement.
Chris Liakos and Zahraa Alkhalisi contributed reporting.