Jamie Dimon – For sale, one petard, hardly used

Today JPMorgan, America’s biggest bank and one of the monsters of the 2008 bailout season ($25 billion), ‘revealed a surprise trading loss of $2bn (£1.2bn) on complex investments made by its traders’ (BBC, today)

Fortunately JPMorgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon (for whose name Microsoft’s spellchecker corrects to ‘Demon’), is a man of principle. To be precise, his principle is this:

I don’t think just because someone’s underwater they say I don’t have to stay there. But they’re supposed to pay the mortgage, and we should teach the American people, you’re supposed to meet your obligations, not run from them. Because you have a mortgage doesn’t mean you should run away as it goes down. (quoted in the Huffington Post online, 21/03/09)

Well, that seems clear enough – not only will Mr Dimon not be looking for yet another bailout, but he would apparently recommend that no one gives him one if he did. And given his status as one of the financial luminaries of our day, who are we to gainsay his wisdom?

He’s pretty stiff with the authors of the bank’s distress – well, with some of them:

There were many errors, sloppiness and bad judgement. These were egregious mistakes… They were self-inflicted and this is not how we want to run a business. (quoted by the BBC)

And again, speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday, the Great Man said:

We made a terrible, egregious mistake. There’s almost no excuse for it.

(‘Almost’ no excuse? I wonder who he’s thinking of excusing.)

Only one omission, really – the man who led them to all this, the man whose capacity to control his bank is so feeble that he has been exposed yet again, the man who in April described concerns about the bank’s problems as a ‘tempest in a teapot’, and the man whose hypocrisy is so vast that he could, without the least sign of a blush, say the above about American mortgage-holders after being bailed out on a truly staggering scale by those very same mortgage-holders.

So what is the solution? The Beeb also quotes Mark Williams, a professor at Boston University and a former regulator at the Fed, who observed that:

Taxpayers ultimately have to bail out these ‘too big to fail’ banks. And that’s what JP Morgan is – it is too big to fail.

Given that these banks are structurally integral to the US and global economies, this is probably true. But there is nothing in the need to protect the integrity of the banking and economic systems that obliges us to let the likes of Mr Dimon and the many colleagues who were also party to this and previous disasters continue running our major economic institutions. Or the shareholders to own it, for that matter – they are supposed to carry the can when the bank fails. We just need the institution, its employees and its deposits and contracts.

Way to go, Jamie, as they say on your side of the Pond. And the way to go is – out. Bye…

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