Dear Mr. CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Mr. Jamie Dimon: There you are sitting with egg on your face and $2 billion plus going deep into the red on bad bets. You, the guy who fought for less and not more regulation is now in the middle of a major mess. You, the guy who hates the Volker rule named after ex-Fed Chief, Paul Volker, and says it went too far and that “if you want to be trading, you have to have a lawyer and a psychiatrist sitting next to you determining what ‘was your intent’ every time you did something.” That was some expensive exaggeration, wouldn’t you say?
Well, you may need that psychiatrist this time, Mr. Dimon, and a good lawyer, unless you can find enough people to blame and fire or shuffle around to cover the blunders you describe were made. Yet, as CEO, you should have known what was going on, no? This is one of the reasons the Dodd-Frank regulators, now writing the rules for Dodd-Frank, in particular the Volcker Rule, are restricting banks from “trading” with their own money and losing it; they are not just “hedging” it, as you claimed, to make money. And when they lose, they steal it back from somewhere.
And so, JPM’s Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew made the decision to retire after thirty years of service to JPMorgan Chase, and after the firm’s $2 billion loss on derivatives trades. And as rapidly, Matt Zammes, currently head of Global Fixed Income and head of Capital Markets within the Mortgage Bank will succeed Ina Drew as the firm’s Chief Investment Officer and continue in his mortgage-related responsibilities. So hell must be breaking loose at the firm. The report came as you, Mr. CEO Jamie Dimon, admitted that the stunning loss had jeopardized the bank’s credibility and given the resented regulators a fresh opportunity to target Wall Street.
Also, Zammes will join the firm-wide Operating Committee. Daniel Pinto, currently co-head of Global Fixed Income with Zammes, will become sole head of the group. Pinto will also remain CEO of Europe, Middle East and Africa region, based in London. I can smell somebody, somewhere at JPM Chase being groomed for your job. Can’t you?
As per the firm’s May 14 press release, “Mike Cavanagh, CEO of the firm’s Treasury & Security Services (TSS) group, will lead a dedicated team of senior executives from across the company to oversee and coordinate the firm-wide response to the recent losses in the Chief Investment Office. As part of this effort, Cavanagh will ensure that best practices and lessons learned are carried across the firm. Cavanagh will continue to oversee (TSS) but will be largely dedicated to this project for the near future.”
“Ina Drew,” Dimon said, “has been a great partner over her many years with our firm. Despite our recent losses in the CIO, Ina’s vast contributions to our company should not be overshadows by these events.” That was you, Mr. Dimon, who said that yourself. You added, “Matt Zammes is a world class risk manager and executive—highly regarded for his judgment and integrity. And Daniel Pinto is an outstanding leader as well, who has managed markets businesses successfully around the world and is helping us drive our international growth agenda.”
Dimon added, “I’m also pleased that Mike Cavanagh is leading our team focused on challenges related to our investment losses. Mike was previously CFO of our firm, with great experience managing business and control functions around the company.” You concluded, Mr. Dimon, by saying “It’s important to remember that our company is very strong and well capitalized, with leading franchises across our businesses. We maintain our fortress balance sheet and capital strength to withstand setbacks like this, and we will learn from our mistakes and remain diligently focused on our clients, who count on us every day.” Great, terrific, but those are just words. Let’s see if JPMorgan Chase’s actions change for the better.
After all, “JPMorgan Chase is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.3 trillion and operations worldwide. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers, small business and commercial banking, financial transaction processing, asset management and private equity. It services millions of consumers in the U.S. and many of the world’s most prominent corporate banking and private equity.” You could say it’s one a one-stop shopping super-market in finance, exactly what makes it a too-big-to-fail bank and why it should be cut down to size, via Glass Steagall or the Volcker rule, so that JPMorgan Chase, like the Lehman Brothers crash doesn’t happen again and bring the U.S. financial system down with it.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “The two other high-ranking executives were set to leave during the week: Achilles Macris, who heads the London-based desk that placed the trades, and trader Javier Martin-Artajo, a managing director on Macris’s team.” Adios, caballeros!
Drew had offered to retire since the true extent of the loss became apparent in late April, but you, Mr. Dimon, had refused to accept her retirement until now, according to the reports. Also, London-based trader Bruno Michel Iksil, nicknamed “The London Whale” for the large positions he took in credit markets, is also likely to leave, though at present he still remains submerged in the depths of JPM Chase. Perhaps you can lure him to the surface for air then swim away.
In a contrite, but unshaken, appearance, Mr. Dimon, you told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the major loss absorbed by the New York-based bank triggered a slide in banking shares last Friday that was “stupid” and “damaging,” but not bad enough to stop the company from making a profit this quarter. Not to worry about the stiffs waiting in the wings to get fired.
You sir, Mr. Dimon have led U.S. banks in fighting the proposed Volcker Rule, mentioned earlier, which would ban so-called proprietary trading, that is, when banks trade on their own accounts. Banks are also resisting curbs on their hedging activities. The sky’s the limit given what they have gotten away with so far, particularly JPMorgan Chase. You think you would have learned. And that is part of the real problem. No one has really been punished. You yourself ought to be behind bars like Blankfein and Corzine and scads of others, but you’re not. You’re sitting pretty, blaming others for making bad decisions. But here’s the $64 billion dollar question: where were you when the bad decisions were being executed? You could have called a halt to it all before, not after it all went down. And why aren’t you being castigated for your bad judgment? Is Zammes being groomed for your job?
Asked if JPMorgan’s losses had given regulators new reasons to clamp down on Wall Street after the US government spent billions to bail out financial institutions during the 2008 crisis, you, Jamey Dimon replied: “Yes, absolutely. This is a very unfortunate and inopportune time to have had this kind of mistake.” You denied that the company’s so-called hedging scheme—designed to lower investment risk, instead spectacularly backfired—is killing its future.
You said, “It’s a question of size. This is not a risk that is life-threatening to JPMorgan,” also saying late Thursday to analysts that the loss could increase to $3 billion through the end of June due to market volatility. “This is a stupid thing that we should never have done, but we’re still going to earn a lot of money this quarter. So, it isn’t like the company is jeopardized.” The losses, however, could prompt some unexpected consequences.
“We hurt ourselves and our credibility yes, and we’ve got to fully expect and pay the price for that,” the JPMorgan’s CEO added. The interview, aired Sunday, was conducted Friday after JPMorgan shares closed down 9.3 percent, wiping off $14 billion more the company’s market value; piece of cake, right?
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that JPMorgan told traders several months ago to make bets aimed at shielding the bank from the market fallout of Europe’s deepening crisis, sort of like MF Global. But instead of shrinking the risk, their complicated bets backfired into losses of as much as $200 million a day in late April and early May, the paper said. Like MF Global losing $1.6 billion of supposedly sequestered investor’s money.
The shock of the loss came over the past six weeks in JPMorgan’s risk management unit, the Chief Investment Office and involved trading in credit default swaps, a so-called “synthetic hedge,” like synthetic truth, which is bullshit. The losses were a humiliation for you, Mr. Dimon—one of the US financial industry’s biggest figures—and for the bank, after it proudly came through the 2008 crisis in far better shape than many of its rivals. Politicians who want tighter regulatory controls on banks have now seized on JPMorgan’s losses and pounced on them.
Given the criminal mentality that guides JPMorgan Chase, like Goldman Sachs and other big investment cum savings banks, it couldn’t have happened to worse people.
Four years on from the initial crisis though, with profits booming once more, the banking industry, and particularly you, Mr. Dimon, has said the Volcker Rule would amount to a cumbersome block on its freedom to conduct business. It’s a cumbersome block? What a flare for understatement, Mr. Dimon. You lose $3 billion and wipe out another $14 billion of the company’s market value, and you don’t want to have your style blocked? You have to be kidding? How about a set of handcuffs? Would that block your style?
Senator Carl Levin, who drafted the Volcker legislation, said it wouldn’t be known by July if banks were going to face tougher rules, or if the law would be undermined by a “massive lobbying effort from Wall Street.” I’ll tell you Senator Levin, if they don’t face tougher rules, and prison sentences for individuals who break the rules or create new derivatives of mass destruction, the country and economy is going to drown in bankruptcy. It’s as plain and simple as that.
Your feelings, Mr. Dimon, may just have to be hurt, and similarly all your cronies. Maybe spending some time in orange jumpsuits behind bars will help. Then, you’ll really see some market—and Fed—patterns of behavior change. There’s nothing like a good vacation in the joint to make a felon see the light.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.