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On Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon released his annual letter to shareholders and, like every year, it’s more of a manifesto than a greeting card. As big banking’s longest-tenured chief executive and the only leader who knew life at the helm before the 2008 financial crisis, Dimon unsurprisingly had plenty to say — and fingers to point — about the banking industry’s current turmoil. Consider this the SparkNotes.
Screamin’ and Yellen
So who does Dimon blame for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and Credit Suisse? Well, not the banks, exactly. Nor their panicky, wealthy depositors, either. Sure, banks failed to adjust for The Fed’s (none-too-surprising) rate-hiking adventure, leaving their large portfolios of US treasury bonds exposed and plummeting in value as money got more expensive. But regulators encouraged such behavior, Dimon insists, and conducted annual stress tests that failed to account for the implications of rate hikes. “This is not to absolve bank management — it’s just to make clear that this wasn’t the finest hour for many players,” Dimon wrote.
Ominously, “America’s Banker” claimed that the crisis is “not yet over.” But that’s just one man’s take. Actual Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also made public remarks about the banking mess on Tuesday, inadvertently placing her and the elder Wall Street statesmen at loggerheads:
- “We should not aim for a regulatory regime that eliminates all failure but one that reduces the chance of failure and the odds of contagion,” Dimon wrote, adding that increased or knee-jerk regulations could exacerbate big banks’ shrinking appetite for more democratic consumer services, like home mortgage lending.
- Yellen took a different tack, claiming “matters are stabilizing,” and adding that officials “need to decide what regulatory and supervisory changes need to be put in place that maybe this episode has highlighted. But we don’t have a weak banking system.”
Sunday Nights on HBO: Succession is on everyone’s minds these days, including the 67-year-old Dimon. He assured in his letter that the question of his eventual replacement “is on the agenda every time board members meet — both when they are with me and when I am not in the room.” It’s a question that is now almost a decade old.
Frankly, My Dear: Perhaps explaining why Dimon’s note was particularly prickly this year is a certain arraignment that occurred in Lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon when the Department of Justice charged Charlie Javice, founder of college financial planning platform Frank, with defrauding JPMorgan of $175 million when the bank acquired the start-up in 2021. Oh, did you think we were talking about a different arraignment?