Vanity Fair on Dimon
In first announcing the trading losses, at a hastily convened conference call for analysts and the media on May 10, Dimon knew he would get skewered. “It plays right into the hands of a bunch of pundits out there,” he said at the time. “But that’s life…. We have egg on our face. We deserve any criticism we get.” After spending much of July 13 again explaining the trading loss to the media and to research analysts—including making the stunning admission that the traders in London may have intentionally mismarked the trades to make them look less egregious, a potential illegality that the Justice Department is still investigating—the exhausted Dimon got an unexpected call from Tom Brady, the star quarterback of the New England Patriots. (Jimmy Lee, a legendary sports fan, had arranged for it.) Brady reminded Dimon that even Super Bowl champs have bad days and told him “to hang in there.” “I was surprised he even knew who I was, to tell you the truth,” Dimon says.
On the bus tour, Dimon might have hoped for a respite from the trading blunder. Unfortunately, the logo on the Vineyard Vines polo shirts that the JPMorgan Chase executives were wearing through the heartland was a whale, and so, there it was—on the sleeve of every corporate shirt—the very symbol of Dimon’s singular management failure. The subject of the disastrous bet came up at each stop, and each time Dimon had his pat response ready: “The London Whale drama has been harpooned, beached, eviscerated, cremated, and killed. So help me God! It’s fish food.”
But it’s not that simple. Dimon was supposed to be “the port in the storm” (his words), and JPMorgan Chase was the bank that didn’t need a bailout (as he repeatedly says), the one that saved Bear Stearns in March 2008 and then preserved some 30,000 jobs at Washington Mutual by taking it over when no other institution would. He’s the C.E.O. who didn’t allow his firm to make some of the risky mortgage-related bets that every other firm did, and the one who pores over the details of one financial report after another until he understands every last iota about his mega-bank, which has some $2.3 trillion in assets—one-sixth of the total in the U.S. banking sector. But Bill Daley, who served as JPMorgan’s Midwest chairman before he became Obama’s chief of staff, from 2011 until earlier this year, says in Dimon’s defense, “This wasn’t so much about the details as it was the fact that the man viewed as Mr. Details didn’t seem to have the details.”
Which raises the crucial question: How did one of the most anal, numbers-oriented C.E.O.’s on Wall Street allow a bunch of traders in London to make such a huge, concentrated—and losing—bet and not know about it until it was too late?
Full article here.