What Not to Ask Jamie Dimon

The following article is brought to you by Matthias Rieker at WSJ.Com

After a year of Whaling, James Dimon has had it with questions about fishy transactions.

The J.P. Morgan Chase chief tried to convey as much during a Morgan Stanley financial-services conference in New York Tuesday. When asked yet again about the “London Whale” trading debacle that cost the bank more than $6 billion, Mr. Dimon said, “I don’t know what more I can say.”(CHASEHOMEFINANCESUX RESPONSE: Maybe The Truth For Once, Would Be Nice, But I Don’t Think You Know How.)

Mr. Dimon then lived up to his reputation for loquaciousness, launching into a monologue about the problem that besmirched the bank’s reputation. “Well, yeah, so there is an email from a trader saying we have a problem. But they thought it was a $300 million dollar problem, okay, not a $6 billion problem. That’s not semantics,” he said. Mr. Dimon then bemoaned Wall Street’s “obsession” with models, particularly value-at-risk, which he has never thought much of. “Yes, the model got changed and it got changed back. I mean, even today the facts are moving” about “which one is more accurate.”

Nor was there ever any intention but to do the right thing. “I sat in those meetings myself and said: Believe that the Pope is over here and the chairman of the securities commission is over here, what is the right thing to do? And that’s what we are going to do.” And no, “There was no hiding, there was no lying, there’s no bullshitting period, okay?”

At a brief break, the host, Morgan Stanley analyst Betsy Graseck, said calmly, “I think we answered that question.” The audience laughed.

But Mr. Dimon wasn’t finished. “By the way, just so you know, I asked at the time: Why don’t we just go ask the [Securities and Exchange Commission] for guidance?” But “there were still people saying, ‘Well, it’s immaterial’.” Besides, times have changed, and guidance is out of favor. “You can’t do that anymore. It’s more fun to second-guess.”

Some advice for anyone meeting with Mr. Dimon: Don’t mention the Whale.

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