The Golden Rule of government, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules,” was on full display in Washington over the past week as JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon appeared at hearings held in both the Senate and the House to answer questions about the bank’s recently reported trading loss.
I am in full agreement with the argument that it is actually none of the government’s business when the shareholders of a private bank lose money due to the bad decisions of management, as long as the loss was incurred legally and does not threaten the integrity of the financial system.
However, the Congressmen and Senators missed an excellent opportunity to ask Mr. Dimon about any number of financial scandals (Madoff, Jefferson County, robo-signing, etc.) in which JPMorgan Chase has been involved, including the on-going MF Global scandal.
In our representative democracy, where Senators and Congressmen are supposed to serve the public interest, not the interests of big campaign bundlers, it is sad to report that not one member of Congress had the courage to ask Jamie Dimon the following questions:
1) It is reassuring to hear that JP Morgan has more than enough of its own capital to cover the trading losses that triggered this hearing. But suppose for the moment that under some circumstances the size of the loss were to grow to a substantially larger amount than you now anticipate. If you didn’t have enough capital to cover the loss, would you ever consider taking money from your customers’ accounts to cover the losses? That would be illegal, wouldn’t it?
Permit me to ask you one more not-so hypothetical question: If you were standing in the lobby of a JPMorgan Chase branch, and you saw through the window that one of your customers was robbing the candy store across the street, and the customer then ran into your bank with a bag of cash, would you let that guy pay off his car loan with the cash in his bag?
Isn’t that in essence exactly what happened last October with your customer, MF Global? According to the very detailed report released on June 6 by Trustee Giddens, the infamous transfer of $175 million from MF Global to your bank on October 28 to pay off an overdraft was a transfer entirely between JPMorgan accounts: From the segregated customer trust account to the MF Global Treasury house account to a JPMorgan London account. All of these moves were completely transparent on your blotter.