“Money Honey” Maria Baritomo, back when she was hosting at CNBC, called it a “witch hunt.” Godfather Jamie Dimon himself said, “Banks are under assault,” from regulators, as he longed for the good old days when he could go about his illegal activities without anyone bothering him.
“In the old days, you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue, maybe two, and now it’s five or six. You all should ask the question about how American that is,” he said on Wednesday as his company stashed away another $1.1 billion in legal reserves for alleged foreign exchange market manipulation.
What he meant was that probably big banks could deal with regulators like they did with Carmen Segara at the New York Fed, who was fired after climbing too far up the flagpole, complaining about Wall Street’s dirty business. But is that fair? or American?
Those “good old days” are indeed over and the government wants at least a cut of the banks’ profits. Although it leaves upper management completely untouched.
JP Morgan alone had to pay $25.6 billion in legal charges over the last five years settling suits over electricity trading, Bernie Madoff, the London Whale, robosigning and so on and so on. No guilt admitted of course, but anybody who cares to revisit the evidence for each case will see that the banks and JP Morgan were in fact guilty of defrauding their customers, counterparties, and the taxpayer.
Worldwide legal claims for all banks have risen to $178 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2014, according to Boston Consulting Group.
So if all these illegal activities did in fact take place, and even without an official guilty verdict from a jury—let’s just assume they did and still are taking place—then what is Dimon complaining about?
That he got a 74 percent pay-rise to $20 million at the beginning of 2014 for scoring the country’s biggest corporate fine in history for misleading investors on toxic mortgages?
Or is he complaining about the $4.9 billion in net income his company just reported for the fourth quarter of 2014? About the billions in TARP money his company received, or the trillions in Fed loans at zero interest rates at the height of the financial crisis? The stock price, which is up almost 100 percent since the end of 2011? Hardly.
Dimon is complaining about overregulation, which is indeed costly, often ineffective. So to ease Dimon’s worries and instead of creating monsters of legislation such as Dodd-Frank, regulators should try a much simpler approach: let the market set interest rates and let big banks fail—fair and American.