Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kiss Off

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s treatment by the GOP on Capitol Hill was just short of “get a room, guys.”

Despite the controversy plaguing the bank, Mr. Dimon on Wednesday seemed to solidify his status as Washington’s favorite banker. Clad in a dark suit and striped tie, he navigated the hearing with relative ease, deflecting tough questions and fielding softball inquiries.

He received a particularly warm welcome from Republican senators, who praised JPMorgan and allowed the chief executive to offer criticisms of forthcoming financial rules. Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, asked Mr. Dimon about the Volcker Rule, an element of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul meant to clamp down on banks’ trading for their own account. Mr. Vitter asked if there was a version of the Volcker Rule that “makes sense.” Mr. Dimon, who is not a big fan of the extensive regulation, responded, “I thought it was unnecessary when it was added on top of other stuff.”

Some lawmakers used their five-minute question periods to compliment Mr. Dimon and ask his advice on fixing the economy. At one point, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said, “I think a lot of us are frustrated bank managers and want to manage your business for you,” before praising JPMorgan for being in better financial shape than the country as a whole.

As Morgan Housel tweeted, cumulative shareholder returns under his tenure are -21%. Which, in layman’s turns, mean they suck. But as long as he’s against some kind of regulation, he’s a hero to the GOP:

“We can hardly sit in judgement of your losing $2 billion,” the junior senator from South Carolina explained. “We lose twice that every day here in Washington and plan to continue to do that every day. It’s comforting to know that even with a $2 billion loss in a trade last year, your company still, I think, had a $19 billion profit. During that same period, we lost over a trillion dollars.”

Yes, the next time we have a budget surplus, instead of defense and infrastructure and rebuilding after hurricanes, we should all just go to Vegas.