JPMorgan loss led CIO rift as whale sought peace, call shows

Bruno Iksil, the JPMorgan Chase & Co. trader known as the London Whale, had an e-mail sent to about 20 colleagues last year estimating almost double the daily losses his book had shown thus far. Then the phone rang.

“Why did you do that?” his supervisor, Javier Martin- Artajo, said at the start of the March 20 call. The position was failing to recover, Iksil explained.

“Okay, Okay, listen you’ve done it,” Martin-Artajo said, according to a transcript. “You think that this is right. This is not what I would have done but you’ve done it so I’m okay with this.”

The exchange is among numerous snapshots of life inside JPMorgan as the London Whale trades unraveled, resulting in more than $6.2 billion in losses for the biggest U.S. bank. The conversations were revealed last week as the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a 301-page report on the botched derivatives bets, as well as almost 600 pages of e-mails, phone-call transcripts and other records.

While lawmakers used the documents to bolster their findings that the New York-based company and its executives misled investors and regulators, the tome also provides a rare look at how traders and their bosses grappled with stress and a growing sense that they wouldn’t be able to contain the damage.

“It doesn’t help us for the conversation for tomorrow,” Martin-Artajo responded to Iksil, referring to a meeting scheduled for March 21 with Ina Drew, 56, who was in charge of the bank’s chief investment office, and Achilles Macris, 51, who headed international CIO in Europe and Asia.

Joseph Evangelisti, a JPMorgan spokesman and Martin-Artajo’s attorney, Greg Campbell, declined to comment about the phone conversation. An attorney for Iksil didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

‘Stupid Quants’

The e-mail estimated a daily loss of $43 million in the synthetic credit portfolio, and a $600 million to $800 million “lag” -- the difference between the levels reported internally and actual mid-prices in the market.

“I know it’s embarrassing but--” Iksil said.

“Yea I don’t understand your logic, mate, I just don’t understand,” Martin-Artajo said. “Achilles, he told me that he didn’t want to show the loss until we know what we’re going to do tomorrow. But it doesn’t matter. I know that you have a problem, you want to be at peace with yourself, okay, it’s okay, Bruno.”

A spreadsheet detailing the bank’s comprehensive risk measure, or CRM, “just shows the problem,” Martin-Artajo told his trader. “It shows that that we have a book that has been reduced in terms a lot. It shows that these guys have been doing something with the model that is stupid, okay, because the CRM now, they just don’t know how to explain what we do, okay? They’re just stupid quants, really.”

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