Why am I writing about a Chairman, President & CEO of the largest financial institution in the world? Well, let me count the ways. Let me tell you how many lives he has destroyed because of his governing of this mega-corporation. Let me tell you how many mortages his company has foreclosed on. Let me tell you exactly who are his friends are both in the business world and the U.S. Government. Better yet, read the following interview and decide for yourself. This is tragic. That's the only word that comes to my mind. Tragic.
James L. "Jamie" Dimon (born March 13, 1956) is the current Chairman, President & CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co as well as a Class A director of the Board of Directors of the New York Federal Reserve, a three year term which started January 2007. How convenient is that? Upon his graduation in 1982, Sandy Weill (Mr. Weill was the CEO of Citigroup until October 1, 2003.) convinced Dimon to turn down offers from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to join him as an assistant at American Express. Through a series of unprecedented mergers and acquisitions, in 1998 Dimon and Weill were able to form the largest financial services conglomerate the world had ever seen, Citigroup. In March 2000 Dimon became CEO of Bank One, then the nation's fifth largest bank. He became president of J.P. Morgan Chase in mid-2004 when it acquired Bank One.
After his Presidential victory in the Fall of 2008, and the acquisition of Washington Mutual by JPMorganChase, President Obama had this to say about Dimon's handling of the real-estate crash, credit crisis, and the banking collapse affecting corporations nationwide, including major financial institutions like Bank Of America, Citibank, and Wachovia.: "You know, keep in mind, though. There are a lot of banks that are actually pretty well managed; JPMorgan being a good example." Lest we forget. Under Dimons' leadership and acquisitions, JPMorganChase is now the leading major U.S. Bank in domestic assets under management, market capitalization value, and publicly traded stock value. JPMorganChase is also the #1 credit card provider in the United States. This is just a bit of history behind Mr. Dimons' background.
Now, let's hear what was said in an interview on "The Journal" between interviewer Bill Moyers, Marcy Kaptur the progressive Representative from Ohio, who has a Masters from the University of Michigan, did graduate study at M.I.T. and still lives in the same house in the Toledo working class neighborhood where she grew up. She's in her 14th term in Congress, the longest-serving Democratic woman in the history of the House, and she's an outspoken financial watchdog on three important Committees: Appropriations, Budget and Oversight and Government Reform and Simon Johnson the former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund who now teaches Global Economics and Management at M.I.T.'s Sloan School of Management.
BILL MOYERS: Let's look at this story that I just read from the Associated Press this week about how Treasury Secretary Geithner is on the phone several times a day with a select group of very powerful Wall Street bankers, especially Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs. He will talk to them when Members of Congress have to leave a message on the answering machine. And these are the bankers who helped bring on this calamity and who are now benefiting from it. What does that say to you?
MARCY KAPTUR: That says to me that Wall Street and Washington is a circuit. And because Mr.Geithner headed the New York Fed that that historic relationship, unfortunately, continues. And it gives them special access and special power to influence policy.
SIMON JOHNSON: Well, I think it really tells you how the system works. The system is based on access and is based on what on Wall Street shaping Washington's view of what's important. It's the people who are very close to Mr. Geithner before when he was the head of the New York Fed. Before he became Treasury Secretary. These people have unparalleled access. And in a crisis, when everything is up for grabs, you don't know what's going on, the people who will take your phone calls, right, in government and people who are going to be standing in the oval office, making the key decisions. That's the heart of the system. That's the heart of how you get your agenda through, by changing their worldview.
MARCY KAPTUR: And they also move people. In other words, Mr. Geithner came from the New York Fed, he came from Wall Street, and he becomes Secretary of the Treasury. His predecessor, Mr. Paulson, came from Goldman Sachs, and he becomes Secretary of Treasury. You can go back decades, and you will see that there's this revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. And I recently asked Chairman Bernanke of the Federal Reserve, 'Let me ask you a question. Would you be willing to consider a reform where the Cleveland Fed would have equal power to the New York Fed, in terms of how the Fed is run?' And his answer was, 'No.'
BILL MOYERS: And why did you ask that question?
MARCY KAPTUR: Because I think we need to democratize the Fed. I think that my region of the country, which is suffering so heavily from these decisions that were made by Wall Street and Washington, we need to have voice. And our bankers, who didn't do the bad things, our community bankers, who are having to pay higher fees shouldn't be treated this way. Why should the people who did it right be penalized for those that did it wrong?
SIMON JOHNSON: Remember Wall Street convinced us that trading derivatives without any regulation, that all these kind of crazy housing loans, which are very dangerous for consumers. That all of this was sensible. All of this was a good way to sustain growth. That was wrong. That wasn't it. That wasn't that's not the end of the story. In the crisis, when things got bad, they also convinced the key people in Washington that they, the bankers, the big bankers, the Wall Street bankers, who are really responsible for all of these problems, they should be saved. Not just their banks, but they individually and should be saved. Their jobs, their pensions, all their perks. It's an extraordinary moment.
BILL MOYERS: You asked on your blog, just this week, a question I want to put to you now, and to both of you. You asked, 'Does this crisis reflect something about the disproportionate influence of a few incompetent investment bankers or a deeper breakdown of capitalism?'' What's your answer to your own question?
SIMON JOHNSON: Well, definitely, this disproportionate influence of some fairly incompetent bankers, that's for sure. That's what we're seeing today. That's what we've seen over the past few months. I think on the issue on the issue of capitalism, we have to take this very seriously. To me, at least, the financial part of our capitalism is very seriously broken.
SIMON JOHNSON: They persuaded us to allow them to take incredible risks. And then they pushed all the downside, all those losses onto us, the taxpayer, at the same time as really hammering hard all the people who were duped, essentially, into taking out loans. People lost their houses. It's an absolute tragedy. This combination cannot go on. And yet, the opportunity for real reform has already passed. And there is not going to be not only is there not going to be change, but I'll go further. I'll say it's going to be worse, what comes out of this, in terms of the financial system, its power, and what it can get away with.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
SIMON JOHNSON: Well, there's four we used to have a dozen or so substantial big banks, now we're down to four. Now we're down to four big banks that have a lot more market power and a lot more political power. They make the campaign contributions. They shape agendas in ways that are that are really quite scary. If you look, for example, at derivatives. And the debate on whether or not derivatives should be regulated in a sensible manner. And at this point, actually, the Obama Administration has is leaning in a better direction. But the big financial players are absolutely against any kind of sensible regulation. And I think they're going to win.
MARCY KAPTUR: Let me give you a reality from ground zero in Toledo, Ohio. Our foreclosures have gone up 94 percent. A few months ago, I met with our realtors. And I said, 'What should I know?' They said, 'Well, first of all, you should know the worst companies that are doing this to us. I said, 'Well, give me the top one.' They said, 'J.P. Morgan Chase.' I went back to Washington that night. And one of my colleagues said, 'You want to come to dinner?' I said, 'Well, what is it?' He said, 'Well, it's a meeting with Jamie Dimon, the head of J.P. Morgan Chase.' I said, 'Wow, yes. I really do.' So, I go to this meeting in a fancy hotel, fancy dinner, and everyone is complimenting him. I mean, it was just like a love fest. They finally got to me, and my point to ask a question. I said, 'Well, I don't want to speak out of turn here, Mr. Dimon.' I said, 'But your company is the largest forecloser in my district. And our Realtors just said to me this morning that your people don't return phone calls.' I said, 'We can't do work outs.' And he looked at me, he said, 'Do you know that I talk to your Governor all the time?' He said, 'Our company employs 10,000 people in Ohio. And I'm thinking, 'What is that? A threat?' And he said, 'I speak to the Mayor of Columbus.' I said, 'Why don't you come further north?' I said, 'Toledo, Cleveland, where the foreclosures are just skyrocketing.' He said, 'Well, we'll have someone call you.' And he gave me a card. And they never did. For two weeks, we tried to reach them. And finally, I was on a national news show. And I told this story. They called within ten minutes. And they said, 'Oh, we'll work with you. We'll try to do some workouts in your area.' We planned the first one after working with them for weeks and weeks and weeks. Their people never showed up. And it was a Friday. Our people had taken off work. They'd driven from all these locations to come. We kept calling J.P. Morgan Chase saying, 'Where's your person? Where's your person?' And they finally sent somebody down from Detroit by 3:00 in the afternoon. But out people had been waiting all morning and a lot of people that's how they treat our people.
BILL MOYERS: You did a remarkable thing on the floor of the House recently where you urged people to break the law by staying in their homes instead of vacating.
MARCY KAPTUR: So why should any American citizen be kicked out of their homes in this cold weather? In Ohio it is going to be 10 or 20 below zero. Don't leave your home. Because you know what? When those companies say they have your mortgage, unless you have a lawyer that can put his or her finger on that mortgage, you don't have that mortgage, and you are going to find they can't find the paper up there on Wall Street. So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don't you leave. In Ohio and Michigan and Indiana and Illinois and all these other places our people are being treated like chattel, and this Congress is stymied.
BILL MOYERS: Wow. You are urging them to resist the law when the Sheriff shows up to throw them out of their home?
MARCY KAPTUR: I'm saying that they deserve justice, too. And that the scales of justice in front of the Supreme Court are supposed to be balanced, and they're not. And that possession is 90 percent of the law. And that you have legal rights, as a home owner. You have a right to legal representation. You have a right before the judge to have the mortgage note produced by whomever in the system has it. Judge Boyko of Cleveland threw out six cases, because when the foreclosures came up, the financial institutions couldn't produce the note. Our people deserve their day in court.
BILL MOYERS: What's your explanation as an economist. And a student of this financial system as to why the banks are taking so long to help the homeowners when Congress has allocated funds for that purpose?
SIMON JOHNSON: I'm afraid that it's pretty obvious and it's very tragic. That they have no interest in helping the homeowners. They make money with what they're doing. Bill, they'll expected a lot of these mortgages they made to default, okay? It was in their models. A high default rate. Now, they didn't expect house prices to come down so much. That's where they got their losses. But they absolutely made these loans expecting they would have to foreclose on people. And figuring they would make money on that.
Part Two of this interview tomorrow. Please, your comments are important.