Makes sense to me.
Jamie Dimon is “America’s least hated banker,” the financial writer Roger Lowenstein wrote in The New York Times Magazine at the end of 2010. But if JPMorgan Chase & Co. is the best of the bunch, then that speaks volumes about how horribly banks have acted in recent years.
Where to start?
There’s the $211 million fine JPMorgan paid in July to settle charges that it defrauded local governments in 31 states—along with the $130 million it returned to municipalities it was accused of duping.
There’s the $722 million in fines and restitution payments it made after JPMorgan confederates were caught paying off officials in Jefferson County, Alabama (home to Birmingham), to secure a municipal finance deal that nearly bankrupted the county.
There’s the fact the bank was in so great a rush to evict people from their homes that it admits that some of its people might have forged foreclosure documents—a problem so widespread that it felt compelled to suspend 56,000 foreclosures while it investigated its own behavior.
Or maybe the biggest sin is the central role JPMorgan has played—and continues to play—in the rise of what might be called the “poverty industry”: all those businesses that exploit the working poor, such as the payday-loan industry, where lenders charge 400 percent interest on short-term, small-denomination loans against a person’s next paycheck (or their Social Security or unemployment payments).
And don’t forget the Bernie Madoff connection. Perhaps it’s not fair to blame JPMorgan for Madoff’s sins just because the infamous fraudster used Chase to handle billions of dollars in investors’ cash. Nonetheless, Madoff trustee Irving Picard has pointed an accusing finger at the bank. He has sued the bank for $6 billion, claiming that not only should it have known about the fraud, it did know. In June 2007, 18 months before Madoff’s fraud was exposed, an officer in the bank wrote an email to colleagues reporting that another bank executive “just told me that there is a well-known cloud over the head of Madoff and that his returns are speculated to be part of a Ponzi scheme.” The bank, the suit contends, had withdrawn all but $35 million of the $276 million it had invested in Madoff-linked hedge funds by the time the fraud was revealed. A JPMorgan spokesman “vigorously” denied Picard’s charges—and Picard has responded by tripling damages to $19 billion.