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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jamie Dimon, screwup and overlord

Chase Bank has suddenly announced that it lost $2 billion since March by gambling in the derivatives market. The president of that bank, Jamie Dimon, broke the news the other day in a press conference. Dimon, who made $23 million last year, is the ultimate schmoozer and a one-time best pal of the supposed change agent currently occupying the White House.

The Obama administration had substantial leverage that it could have used to impose a sensible regulatory framework. Citigroup and Bank of America could not have survived without public largess, and AIG was a ward of the government. The administration could have attached stiff conditions to the next capital infusion, while threatening to withhold it. It could have demanded serious rules on derivatives. It could have required that too-big-to-fail institutions be broken into smaller pieces. It could have pushed for updated incentive structures at banks, with rules threatening executives with surrendering their compensation when their companies took undue risks and failed.

But the Obama administration didn't do any of these things. It just handed over the money, while buying into the same perverse logic that had allowed the financial crisis to gather force: The guys on Wall Street must always be made happy, or terrible consequences result.

If Obama loses in November, he will have no one to blame but himself. He already does the bankers' bidding -- maybe next year they'll give him a job. Dealing with the Romney Supreme Court will be the kids' problem.

Comments (21)

It's not like Obama couldn't have seen this coming. My gosh, the corruption at Chase has continued since it first became a company. As I recall the 1929 Chase (M) president sold the company stock short to make millions just before the big crash. Their investment strategies haven’t changed much over the years.

At least Romney would never put up with any of this. Any shenanigans and he and his boys would have held that bank pres down and cut all his little blonde hair off.

Oy, what are we in for?

Relax, everybody. JP Morgan Chase only has a derivative exposure of $70.151 Trillion dollars. What could possibly go wrong?

Just go back to making condescending, snotty remarks about the Occupy movement. Incidentally, they had the good sense to protest when this obnoxious Jamie Dimon clown rolled through Portland last November.

Then go right into repeating things you've heard from talk radio and your TV sets. You know like, "TARP has been paid back." Of course it isn't true. In fact, many institutions paid back the government by borrowing more money from the government, but that shouldn't matter to you.

You're pro-business and, as Jamie Dimon says, criticizing business is anti-American. He actually has the temerity to cop an attitude about how banks have been treated. Better not dwell here too long, or you might start to think.

Just go back to how bad the protesters are. After all, the Occupy movement is made up of clueless kids in tents - they should just take a shower and get a job, right?

Repeat steps until America collapses.

Too bad he doesn't pull a Google and skate past them and handle his own IPO. Of course, the usual Wall Street thieves will still hold all the stock.
(The reason I used FLIR as an example is the wonderful rounding error in the calculations -- Bialystock & Bloom comes to mind.)

Who is to say this isn't the tip of another iceberg. That is, was Chase was the only bank sticking its neck out?

This is why the too big to fail thing is so destructive. If the company/person responsible took the hit, that would be the end of them, and others would learn from their mistakes and not take those risks. But the way it is, we punish the folks who do take bear the burden of the housing bubble and loosing everything, while the banks and the wall street boys collect their millions in bonuses and just keep on playing with other people's money and financial security, and our children's future.

Bill, besides Occupy (the good ones)being clueless about the national front, they should hone in on the local. Why aren't they demonstrating against the Education URA, the misuse of Urban Renewal, the loss of bus service, TriMet, the so-called Affordable Housing that isn't affordable.... ?

Thanks, but I'll keep making snotty remarks about the ineffectual movement known as occupy, and also about the corrupt greedy bankers. Pinning hopes for change on the tent trash I saw downtown this winter will only re-enforce Wall Street that they are indeed very safe to do as they please.

Glass Steagal never should have been repealed. Put it back in place. And the system of banking oversight should be tilted once again to favor small regional and community banks, so the large banks can gradually fade in importance. Of course, you would have to elect a president who actually understands something about banking, finance and economics to get any leadership on these issues, a president who doesn't hire right out of the box Larry Summers, who led the Glass Steagal repeal effort for the Clinton administration. Sadly, Romney is far too much of a social engineer and a believer in government bureaucracy to impose the necessary structural changes either.

Mark Mason,
The tip of another iceberg doesn't begin to capture the vastness of the derivatives nightmare.
The global exposure is over 10 times the size of the world's economy.
Our 9 Biggest Banks’ Derivative Exposure is $228.72 Trillion.

Compare them to bets on your beloved 49ers (and good work getting LaMichael James by the way.)

Imagine betting 50 trillion you didn't have on the 49ers schedule. That's how crazy this is. Bank of America sits at around 50 trillion in exposure. If 1 out of 10 of its bets goes bad, that's 5 trillion it can't possibly pay back.

Then the defaults trigger more defaults in what has been described as an economic tsunami. You take care of Greece, or pretend to take care of it, and Spain starts to go. And on and on.

I used to wonder why we could be going into debt so quickly. A trillion here, a trillion there. When you see the size of the derivatives sweater, you immediately realize that a trillion here or there is barely enough to keep the yarn from unraveling in one spot temporarily. A trillion is chump change when you're betting 700 trillion dollars.

Ever since I first read about derivatives I've watched the various factions screaming about what's gone wrong. You take the derivatives problem away and the rest of it is a joke. The Iraq War was no joke, but economically even the Iraq War at 2 or 3 trillion was a small expenditure compared to these bankers numbers.

The reason I get mad at the Occupy criticism is that the banks are the ones threatening the world. Not some kids in tents.

Derivatives are the worst idea in history.

Well what do we expect from the company that invented mortgage securities.

Bill, you are completely correct. Dangerous times indeed.

Bill: aren't half of those derivatives the other side of the trade...doesn't that cut the total exposure in half?

On top of Romney's S.Ct. list is 9th Cir. GWBush-appointee Judge Milan Smith, Gordo's brother, no doubt --

I think the next bailout should just go to me personally. Seriously. I'd spend it much more wisely.

First I'd hire the newly reunited Van Halen to play my birthday. Second I'd buy a car.

I'd just do random stuff like that for as long as the money lasted. Stimulating the economy where ever I went.

You think that's silly, and it is, but it would be a far more beneficial use of money.

Re: "This is why the too big to fail thing is so destructive."


From last October, here's another suggestion of the potential destructiveness of the gambling called derivatives and the inadequacy of governmental regulation of the TBTFs:

"Bank of America Corp. has $75 trillion worth of derivatives on the books. It is now transferring derivatives from one of its holdings, Merrill Lynch, not guaranteed by the taxpayers, to Bank of America, that is backed by the FDIC [the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation]. That means the people with accounts in Bank of America -- accounts the bank is apparently not letting them close -- will soon be in line behind covering the derivatives as they clean out the assets of the bank. Then the taxpayers will have to make these depositors whole again, through the FDIC, amounting to a sort of permanent bailout."


"The gross world product (GWP) is the combined gross national product of all the countries in the world. This also equals the total global gross domestic product (GDP). In 2011, the GWP totalled approximately US$78.95 trillion in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), while the per capita GWP was approximately US$11,800.[ In nominal terms, the total 2011 GWP was around US$70.16 trillion."

Remember that during his appearance before the FCIC in January, 2010, Mr Dimon proffered a suggestion of how the public should react to news such as Thursday's from JPM:

"Reflecting on the volatility that has rocked the markets, [Dimon] recalled, 'My daughter called me from school one day and said, "Dad, what’s a financial crisis?" And, without trying to be funny, I said, "This type of thing happens every five to seven years." And she said, "Why is everyone so surprised?"'"

Civil penalties are not a problem for TBTFs: they are factored into the cost of doing especially risky business. JPM, for example, routinely pays negligible fines and modest settlements. Why, indeed, should anyone be surprised?

It's well past time to move on to criminal prosecutions to try to alter the nature of the game the TBTF players are unwilling or unable to change. And even that might prove insufficient to forestall the macroeconomic outcome from such wagering.

I don't think these are bets like a football game where someone always wins and loses. That was not my best analogy.
These are like insurance policies based on bets. For example, let's say you drive a car. I offer to pay up if it crashes, and I get revenue now, just like an insurance company gets a premium. Then I insure your car with somebody else, and they insure it with somebody else. Let's say there are 10 or 15 companies that have to pay each other if you crash the car.
What we have allowed here - through the efforts of people like Henry Paulson, by the way - is for banks to tear down the firewalls between their insurance policies and their assets. In other words to gamble more that you wont crash your car.
These insurance premiums were so lucrative, and the bonuses at the end of the year, were so enticing, that these financial types, went absolutely crazy with what they would insure.
They took riskier and riskier gambles and more of them.
They sliced and diced your car insurance in with a basket of others and insured all of those together, endless different ways.

Incidentally, the value of having insurance on your car, was realized with the first deal. All the other deals that went round and round the world, added nothing of value to the planet. They just generated money for the banks. They just made a few thousand people very wealthy, and that was the whole point.

The greedfest was now ready to explode. Let's say you didn't crash your car, but somewhere lots of really bad drivers who never should have been behind the wheel, and insured in the first place, have crashed.

Suddenly the ratio of cash on hand to promises made, is completely unrealistic. One company can't pay what it has agreed to and that's where the financial exposure comes in. The number 50 trillion, would be if all the insurance policies had to be paid off. But it's obvious that only a small fraction would have to be paid for the bank to reach a point where it can't meet it's obligations.

Then we get a meltdown. Then we get 2008, where these banks either go out of business, or are propped up by having the taxpayers of America buy up the toxic insurance policies, and try and keep the party going.

Now if fundamental changes had been made at this point, you could argue that it was the price of correcting a bad problem. But they weren't. Wall Street has managed to continue acting as before. Too big to fail has gotten even bigger.

The real problem is that there is an unlimited amount that governments can do to pull money out of the thin air, before their currency is destroyed, and the country collapses.

Then you get cries for austerity measures, like it's the People's fault this has happened. Then you get the desperation selling. You get the financial community - often the same ones who caused the problem - swooping in to buy pieces of what's left of the country.

In Greece whole islands have been sold off. Governments are so strapped that to keep from defaulting big sections of what belonged to the country are sold.

And still it isn't enough to get us past this derivatives exposure. There's simply no way these numbers can be dealt with. They exist in the sense that they are real obligations, but there isn't enough money in the entire world economy to pay off a tenth of them.

That's the part we're in now.

Mr. McDonald, Jennifer is essentially right. You are describing a very small portion of the derivatives market.

Most derivatives are plain vanilla investments, like a June, July or August futures contract on the S&P 500 index, an ETF reflecting a stock index in another country such as Sweden, Brazil or South Africa, or oil futures (monthly going out a decade or more). Serious can problems with derivatives arise when they become unbalanced and/or aren't disclosed. If there are any evil people who ought to be punished for the financial meltdown, the first target ought to be the lawyers and accountants who helped AIG cover up the existence, risk and exposure of the credit default swaps it stood behind in its unregulated subsidiary. JPM and Bank of America (prior to taking over Merrill Lynch) actually did a pretty good jobs of staying balanced or near balanced, limiting risk and exposure.

The lawyers and accountants were hired to do exactly what they did, and will likely become the scape goats.

This might be ignorant thinking, and perhaps destructive, but if I were the new Greek parliament I would just tell foreign creditors to take a hike. The debt will never be paid, it's politically impossible to do it and probably mathematically impossible. Besides, paying the debt is wrecking it's economy and society. Auctioning off your country is just stupid.

Leave the Euro. Renounce all prior debts and move on. Do your best to take care of your people, focus on food and basic services, but just move on. The investors took a risk and lost, so did Greece. Cut your losses and move on.

What is the realistic alternative? Foreclose on the entire nation?

In most regular bets, someone wins the money and someone loses. Here, the 700 trillion doesn't exist. However the pain and suffering when the obligations are not met is very real.

"If Obama loses in November, he will have no one to blame but himself."

He looks exactly the same as Romney to me now (outside of a few litmus items).

Still looks like the banks think they can do what they want and have DC bail them out (aka moral hazard). So they get the upside and we get the downside risk.

I did forget one thing - Dimon is on the oversight board of the Fed.

Have a good night.

This may be a pro forma exercise but perhaps it will determine whether any laws were broken, regarding which Mr Dimon expressed -- why shouldn't he -- doubts:

"The FBI has opened a probe into Chase & Co's $2 billion trading loss, several media sites are reporting citing a source.

The source says the investigation is in the 'preliminary stage.'

The Los Angeles Times reported this from an anonymous source:

'"We are aware of the matter and are looking into it," said a Justice Department official who has been briefed on the probe but was not authorized to speak publicly. "This is a preliminary look at what if anything might have taken place."

The inquiry by the FBI's financial crimes squad in New York is in a "preliminary infancy stage," the official said Tuesday, and federal law enforcement agents are pursuing the matter "because of the company and the dollar amounts involved here."'"

Of course, apparent criminal violations by the TBTF/Ps have not led to anything weighty so far -- nothing that would alter the rules of the game for the remaining, prominent banksters.


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