Jamie Dimon on banking: ‘It’s a free. F**king. Country’

Geoffrey Malloy Contributor
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JP Morgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon vigorously defended the size and practices of his bank and other financial institutions in a recent interview published in New York Magazine, at one point nearly yelling, “It’s a free. Fucking. Country.”

In the interview, Dimon argued that financial regulation most hurt small banks that lacked the resources to comply with the regulations. “Everyone is afraid of retaliation and retribution,” he said.

“We recently had an event with a hundred small bankers here, and 85 percent of them said they can’t challenge the regulation because of the potential retribution. That’s a terrible thing, okay? This is not the Soviet Union — this is the United States of America. That’s what I remember. Guess what,” he said, nearly yelling, “It’s a free. Fucking. Country.”

Dimon charged that critics of the size of financial institutions did not understand the benefits to being big.

“There are huge benefits to size,” he argued. “We bank [machinery and engine company] Caterpillar in like 40 countries. We can do a $20 billion bridge loan overnight for a company that’s about to do a major acquisition. Size lets us build a $500 million data center that speeds up transactions, and invest billions of dollars in products like ATMs and apps that allow your iPhone to deposit checks. We move $2 trillion a day, and you can see it by account, by company. These aren’t, like, little things. And they accrue to the customer. That’s what capitalism is.”

Dimon regretted the culture of blaming the country’s economic problems on Wall Street, charging that, “The whole world has become crazy. Businesses get attacked every time they do something.”

“I am not responsible for the financial crisis,” he contended. “I hate to tell you. We were a port of safety in the storm. I find it unbelievable that that is the general theme — that you have to walk in a room and act like you are responsible for things you are not responsible for.”

Dimon also addressed the approximately $6 billion loss JP Morgan took in the spring when Bruno Iksil, a London-based JP Morgan trader, took bad positions in the credit market. Referring to Iksil, he said, “The whale has been harpooned.”  Isksil left JP Morgan’s London office after the debacle.

Dimon explained that JP Morgan was off to a great year in spite of the massive loss. “It’s such a large number, but if you put it in perspective a little bit, if you had a $100 million market-cap bank that made something like $3 million that quarter and lost $3 million, you wouldn’t even talk about it. That’s what this was. We didn’t even lose money this quarter. We earned $5 billion. The analysts estimate us having a record year.”

When asked if he regretted being known as an outspoken defender of the banking industry, Dimon replied, “I’m an outspoken defender of the truth.”

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Geoffrey Malloy