The chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, appeared this morning before the Senate banking committee, and while it had been touted as a chance for the senators to grill Mr. Dimon about the bank's London trading losses, in a weird way Mr. Dimon probably helped himself, and his bank, with the appearance.
He ingratiated himself with the Republicans by basically agreeing with their criticism of one of President Obama's signature pieces of legislation, the Dodd-Frank financial "reform" bill. He said it had created confusion and added compliance costs.
He ingratiated himself with senators from both parties by offering to pitch in with his colleagues from other banks on further financial reform, at one point suggesting that the bankers all get apartments in Washington to collaborate on fixing the problems that led to the financial crisis. He also told the senators that if they had any constituents with mortgage paperwork problems, the senators should let him or the JPMorgan Chase government relations staff know about the specific cases. This gives the senators more power — now they can not only pass laws, but they can help individuals with mortgage-related problems.
I'd prefer a world where you didn't need to go through a senator to get your mortgage straightened out, but the senators wouldn't necessarily prefer such a world.
The quote of the day came from Senator DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, who said, in reference to the reported $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, "We lose twice that every day in Washington and plan to continue to do that in Washington." Mr. DeMint said that if the Senate had a Wall Street style "clawback" compensation policy, "none of us would be getting paid here."
It was interesting to get some insight into Wall Street lingo. Mr. Dimon at least twice said his bank tried to be "open kimono" with regulators. "We try to be very open kimono," was the way he put it. The senators that gave him the hardest time were Menendez of New Jersey, Merkley of Oregon, and Kohl of Wisconsin.