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AJC Report Says Commercial Banks Virtually Ban Jews from Top Jobs

September 2, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The American Jewish Committee charged today that prejudice and discrimination are virtually excluding qualified Jews from executive positions in the nation’s leading commercial banks. A survey of management posts in the 50 largest commercial banks in the United States, made public here today by Morris B. Abram, New York attorney who is president of the AJC, disclosed that 45 of these banks had no Jews among their senior officers; each of four of the remaining five banks had one Jew in such top posts; while the fifth had four Jewish senior officers. These figures –eight Jews out of a total of 632 bank officers — represent 1.3 percent.

Out of 3,438 middle-management officials in these banks, executives below the senior level down through the vice-presidential bracket, 32 Jews — approximately 0.9 percent — were identified, the survey disclosed further. Yet the talent shortage in “the booming field of banking” is so acute, the report added, “that a top U.S. official says it is forcing some banks to seek to merge with other banks and thus go out of independent existence.”

The report was made public on the heels of the Johnson Administration’s announcement that approximately 95 percent of the nation’s 15,000 commercial banks would be considered Government contractors under regulations taking effect November 30, 1966, since they handle Federal funds, and as such would be required to refrain from discriminating against employes or applicants because of race, color, creed, or national origin. The AJC has persistently urged Federal officials to enforce the religious-discrimination provision of this ban against companies enjoying U.S. contracts.

The report, one of a series stemming from AJC studies of ethnic barriers in the selection of executives in U.S. business and industry was based on a year of intensive investigation carried out by the 18 area offices of the Committee. It was prepared by Lawrence Bloomgarden, director of the AJC’s business and discrimination division and a long-time student of executive-suite bias, under the direction of Nathan Perlmutter, director of domestic affairs for the American Jewish Committee.


A “particularly extreme” situation was revealed by the study in New York City, the nation’s financial capital, where nine of the 50 queried banks are located. One lone Jewish banker was found among 173 senior officials in these nine banks — representing just over one-half of I percent — in a community where almost 25 percent of the population and 50 percent of the college-graduate population are Jewish, The report added that “banks, unlike many other large business organizations, employ most of their personnel in a single locality, or, at most, in one state, and thus may reasonably be expected to reflect ethnic configurations in their staffs.”

The report recalled that a 1965 AJC analysis had found Jews to be markedly under-represented in New York City’s 50 mutual savings banks, although not to the same degree as in the commercial banks. Jews were found to total just under 2.5 percent among the more than 400 officers in these mutual savings banks.

The report recalled two prior inquiries into the involvement of Jews in management levels of commercial banking in individual communities. A survey made public last May, conducted by Wayne State University, in Detroit, for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, found only one among 152 senior executives and two Jews among 281 other officials — 0.7 percent in each case –in nine banks in Washington, D.C. A study of Jews in Philadelphia’s six leading commercial banks, conducted by the AJC in 1960, disclosed 12 Jews among 1,216 executives in all categories, or approximately 1 percent.

The report disavowed any advocacy of “hiring or upgrading according to a predetermined quota, ” but pointed to several sets of statistics to emphasize its underlying contention that Jews are qualified for executive positions in the nation’s banks. The AJC noted that:

1) Almost all banking officials have a college background, and Jews account for about 8 percent of all college graduates up to age 50 in the U.S.

2) Ivy League colleges account for a high ratio of banking executives; Jews make up 25 percent of all Ivy League graduates of the past five or six years and more than 15 percent of all such graduates up to age 50.

3) Among the executives of the 50 leading U.S. banks, 528 are Harvard Business School graduates, 44 percent of them in top management posts, and banking reportedly is the most popular business career chosen by Harvard Business School graduates. Jews make up 12 to 15 percent of the living graduates of the Harvard Business School, yet fewer than 1 percent of the young men who go into commercial banking from Harvard Business School are Jews. Those Jews interested in finance find their way to careers in investment banking, securities and commodities.”

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