Thursday, January 24, 2013

JPMorgan Chief Whines About Banking Regulation

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon doesn't like the rules his bank has to follow.   That's too darn bad.  
His straw man analogy about not knowing how aircraft engines work is hilarious.  Any aviation mechanic with a high school diploma can explain how an aircraft engine functions.  Mr. Dimon's audience at Davos may readily accept such an argument; they're the type of crowd that tends not to get their hands dirty fixing things.

Let's brighten Mr. Dimon's day by reminding him just how much worse things could be for U.S. banks.  Tax code changes could require tax payments for unrealized gains on derivatives if they are marked to market.  This would probably destroy much of JPM's business model.  I don't expect such a tax treatment to be enacted in the final version of a reform bill because the finance sector would successfully lobby against it, but as a legislative tactic it scores points for making corrupt bankers squirm.

If bank CEOs don't like being taxed on their derivatives book, maybe they'll like Europe's financial transaction tax.  Big banks like JPM can get around it by trading in London while smaller, single-country banks will be forced to pay that tax.  JPM should count the blessings its size confers rather than complain.

Mr. Dimon should be especially pleased that regulators have been super-slow to coordinate regulatory reforms required under Dodd-Frank.  Bureaucratic lethargy is a gift to bankers who continue to trade for their proprietary books in the absence of the Volcker rule.  JPM's own London whale knew that quite well.

I have no sympathy for bank CEOs whose lax approach to risk engendered fraud.  They deserve a much tougher approach to regulation than what Dodd-Frank delivers.  Complaining about regulatory reform at a high-minded event is meaningless when said reform is delayed, fragmented, and watered down.

Full disclosure:  No position in JPM at this time.