Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jamie Dimon, Superhero

J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is not cooperating.

He wants to repay the TARP money before President Obama is willing to accept it. "We could pay it back tomorrow," he said on Thursday, "We have the money."

And he just sold $3 billion in debt without the backing of the FDIC.

And he said his company would not participate in the new Public-Private Investment Program that the Treasury Department insists is the only way to deal with the problem of "toxic assets" on bank balance sheets.

"We manage and control our own assets," he said on a conference call.

Jamie Dimon doesn't want the government's help, or its input, or its stigma, or its grandstanding statements denouncing the banks for trying to hold customers to the contracts they signed.

"He has privately grumbled that it isn't fair or accurate to paint J.P. Morgan with the same brush as weaker banks," the Wall Street Journal reported. "He has been particularly irritated when customers demand financial breaks because the bank is operating with taxpayer money."

No reasonable person could blame him.

Every day, in congressional hearings and public statements, another government official expresses outrage on behalf of people who are finding it tough to pay their credit card debt or their mortgages or their car loans. The latest to join the chorus was White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, who said Sunday that President Obama will be "very focused, in a very near term, on a whole set of issues having to do with credit card abuses, having to do with the way people have been deceived into paying extraordinarily high rates that they wouldn't have paid if they knew what they were getting themselves into."

The president plans to support congressional efforts to "stop the marketing of credit in ways that addicts people to it," Summers said.

That kind of language makes the banks sound like evil drug dealers, ruthlessly corrupting your children with a free taste of pleasant poison.

It's no accident. It's part of a concerted attempt to divert public anger over government bailouts [Pennsylvania Democrat Paul Kanjorski said last fall the calls to his office were coming in fifty-fifty: half "no" and half "Hell, no"] into anger at bankers, anger which officials believe they can use to strong-arm banks into voluntarily agreeing to policies and practices that have never been signed into law. "My administration," President Obama told the nation's top bankers at a meeting in the White House state dining room late last month, "is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."

At the start of that meeting, Jamie Dimon handed a $25 billion check to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in an attempt to repay the TARP money.

He was joking, ABC News reported.

They're never joking.

Jamie Dimon is not cooperating.

He refuses to feel guilty. He will not give the government what Ayn Rand called "the sanction of the victim." If President Obama wants to force the banks to keep TARP money so he can tell them who will get credit and on what terms, Jamie Dimon will not help him conceal the truth from voters, or from history.

America Wants To Know is Jamie Dimon's fan for life. In the interests of full disclosure, we'll tell you that we own a little bit of his stock, all his albums, and every issue of Tiger Beat magazine that ever had his picture on the cover.

Copyright 2009

Editor's note: You might be interested in the earlier posts, "And the Emmy for best villain goes to...." and "Hank Paulson's casting call." You might also enjoy the chapter, "How to Lose Money with Credit Cards" in our friend Babe Lincoln's new book, "How to Make Money and Lose Weight." Use's "Search Inside the Book" program to look it up at this link.