Friday morning, Reuters has a headline:
Special report: Jamie Dimon wants some R-E-S-P-E-C-T
This would be JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, one of the bailed out banks that did more than their share to destroy the US and world economy.
At last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the JPMorgan Chase chief executive once again lambasted the media and politicians for portraying all bankers as greedy evil-doers.
It was at least the 12th time since the start of the financial crisis that Dimon has complained about Wall Street critics painting all bankers as cut from the same cloth. But the timing of his latest outburst seemed odd.
To their credit, Reuters goes on to point out a number of reasons why Dimon should not be whining, not least of which is the appointment of William Daley, former JP Morgan executive, as President Obama’s Chief of Staff. They also point out that the Dimon self image just might be a bit of PR fluff:
But there’s another side to the popular narrative about Dimon the Good and how he outperformed his peers by steering clear of things like subprime-backed mortgage securities. In reality, the main reason JPMorgan didn’t load up on subprime debt as much as other banks was because it was slow to enter the market, critics say.
Critics point out that JPMorgan, even if it wasn’t a leader in churning out collateralized debt obligations, provided some of the building blocks for these toxic securities through all the home loans and second mortgages it sold.
And despite his good-guy image, Dimon is just as aggressive as any banker when it comes to looking for ways to generate fees from credit cards and other staple consumer banking products.
To further the imposition of reality on Dimon’s world view of the beleaguered banker just trying to help people is this reported yesterday (via the NY Times) that JP Morgan had hidden doubts about Bernie Madoff while continuing to do business with him.
On June 15, 2007, an evidently high-level risk management officer for Chase’s investment bank sent a lunchtime e-mail to colleagues to report that another bank executive “just told me that there is a well-known cloud over the head of Madoff and that his returns are speculated to be part of a Ponzi scheme.”
Despite those suspicions and many more, the bank allowed Mr. Madoff to move billions of dollars of investors’ cash in and out of his Chase bank accounts right until the day of his arrest in December 2008 — although by then, the bank had withdrawn all but $35 million of the $276 million it had invested in Madoff-linked hedge funds, according to the litigation.
Bill Clinton weighs in on Dimon’s side (somewhat) in this Reuters article, also from this morning:
Bill Clinton says the “jury may still be out” on whether behemoth banks like JPMorgan Chase are good for America.
But the former president said he remains a fan of Jamie Dimon, largely because the JPMorgan chief executive is one of the few top bankers willing to speak his mind and admit mistakes.
“I know that Jamie Dimon did not like everything in the financial reform bill, but he supported higher capital requirements for banks,” said the former president, during a half-hour phone conversation last month. “He has been more forthright than a lot of (bankers).”
And just so folks don’t think I’m picking only on Dimon and JP Morgan Chase, there’s this from Sunday’s NY Times Magazine with an interview with Goldman Sachs partner Abby Joseph Cohen showing that Dimon is far from being the only clueless feck on Wall Street.
Do you think it’s ethically justifiable that certain bankers earn $50 million or $60 million a year at a time when unemployment is nearly 10 percent and income inequality is widening in this country?
The income inequality that you refer to is apparent in many different places. You see it in athletics; you see it in entertainment; you see it in your industry as well. You take a look at the compensation of C.E.O.’s of major corporations, recognizing that those corporations have become much larger —they do business in many different parts around the world — and it’s very difficult to know how to properly benchmark the compensation.
Do you feel any responsibility for the economic meltdown of 2008, which you failed to foresee?
That’s an odd question to be asking me.
I did not think that was part of what we were going to be talking about.
Uh, Ms Cohen? Athletes and entertainers didn’t destroy the global economy, bankers did.