Jamie Dimon’s Senate Testimony Puts Career on Line


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Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — When Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase, appears Wednesday before the Senate Banking Committee to field questions about his bank’s $2 billion-and-climbing trading loss, people who know him well say they have little doubt how he will respond.

He will display, they predict, the same traits — attractive and not-so — that have taken him, at age 56, to the pinnacle of the banking industry.

His lightning career has taken him from American Express to Citigroup (which he formed with his then-mentor, Sandy Weil, in 1998), to Banc One, where he became CEO in 2000.  In 2004, when Banc One was purchased by JPMorgan, he became president of the combined company, then later CEO.  On is watch, JPMorgan has grown to be the biggest U.S. bank in terms of market capitalization and assets under management.

In his prepared remarks, made available before the hearing, Dimon defended JPMorgan’s performance, even while admitting that the bank felt “terrible” for having lost some of its shareholders’ money.

As for what Dimon may say in response to questions, one woman who advised him early in his career predicts, “He will speak from the heart.”  He’ll be candid, she says, forthright.  He won’t mince words. “He’s not coachable, not in the sense that he will listen to experts and then do what they tell him to do.  He’s his own man.  I know that from my direct experience with him.”

Like other former Dimon colleagues interviewed for this story, she requested to be nameless.

Patricia Crisafulli, one of Dimon’s biographers, says, “He’s known as a straight talker — not just forthright but honest.”  Her book, The House of Dimon: How JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon Rose to the Top of the Financial World depicts him as nothing if not direct.  With Dimon, Crisafulli writes, what you see is what you get.

That sometimes can include cocksureness, petulance and temper.

“I think very highly of him,” says a Dimon colleague from the 1990s.  “There’s no bulls**t about him.  People respect that.  But he’s blunt to a fault — rough around the edges.  Sometimes, he’s too smart for his own good, finishing sentences for you, even when what he said wasn’t what you had in mind.  He jumps to conclusions.”

He jumped to a false one on April 13, when in a conference call with JPMorgan analysts, he peremptorily dismissed worries over trades made by JPMorgan’s London office as “a tempest in a teapot.”  That tempest, the Wall Street Journal reports, now stands to lash the bank with losses of $5 billion maybe more.

Dimon insists that the full magnitude of the London trading risk was not known to him and that he remained ignorant of key details until it was too late to prevent the loss.  

That surprises his 90s colleague, who thinks of Dimon as the ultimate detail guy: “What surprises me most in this whole debacle is that he really was a detail guy.  Nothing slipped by him.  My guess is he may have delegated too much and not have known.  If he had, I don’t see how it could have reached this level of loss.”

Says his former advisor, “He has a maniacal desire to have his hands on all the details. My guess is, he’s truly beating himself up for what went wrong.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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