JPMorgan CEO Maintains Close Ties In Washington

Jun 13, 2012
Originally published on June 13, 2012 6:32 pm
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For more about the man we just heard referred to as Washington's favorite banker, Jamie Dimon, I'm joined by Jessica Silver-Greenberg. She covers banking for The New York Times. Jessica, welcome.


BLOCK: Jamie Dimon seems like he was treated with a pretty gentle hand before the Senate Banking Committee today. Is it a sign, do you think, of a favored son of Washington exerting his clout?

SILVER-GREENBERG: I think so. We were all a little bit surprised at the nature of the questions that were lobbed at him today. He was deferred to, I thought, by many of the members of the Senate Banking Committee. At one point, I think a couple of members of Congress actually asked him, you know, how would you best regulate the banking industry? And he was given, I think, a wide range of questions that deferred to his kind of - his expertise within the banking industry.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about how he wields his political influence in Washington. He's called government relations JPMorgan's seventh line of business. So what does he do? How does he work that?

SILVER-GREENBERG: Well, so first, it's the talent that he marshals. So he has Naomi Camper. She's currently the co-head of the bank's federal government relations group, and she was an aide for the committee chair, Tim Johnson, so the chair of the Senate Banking Committee. That's one element is that he definitely marshals the talent of people who have real sway and connections throughout Washington and brings them, you know, to work for him. Then JPMorgan Chase has also been a very generous contributor to the campaigns of many of the members of the Senate Banking Committee that we heard ask him questions today.

So in 2010, for instance, JPMorgan topped the industry in terms of lobbying dollars. I think they spent something like upwards of $7 million in lobbying in one year alone. So far this year, I believe JPMorgan has spent about 1.9 million on lobbying, and much of that has been directed at trying to influence the writing of regulations, specifically the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill because Jamie has been a very vociferous critic of the elements of that bill.

BLOCK: What about ties also with the Obama administration apart from Congress?

SILVER-GREENBERG: Right. So I think one of the more notable examples is that he was so well regarded within the Obama administration that Rahm Emanuel was tapped to appear at the bank's annual meeting in 2009. The appearance was eventually scuttled, but you can see that that's the level of kind of comfort, coziness that Jamie Dimon and also JPMorgan Chase has with regulators and the administration in Washington.

BLOCK: Rahm Emanuel, then White House chief of staff.


BLOCK: What about the tone of Jamie Dimon that you heard before the committee today? Did you hear any changes from what you've heard from him before, specifically, say, about regulation and his opposition to it?

SILVER-GREENBERG: No. I think there was actually - what was notable is that even despite, you know, this $2 billion trading loss that could reach upwards of $5 billion when all is said and done, he really has not changed his tone. He's still a very vocal critic of the regulations, and he's maintained that the proposed regulations, specifically the Volcker rule which would restrict - put pretty harsh restrictions on what banks can do with federally insured deposits, so taxpayer money, the bets that they can make, he's still been very oppositional about that.

And he's maintained, I think, you know, even today that this loss was an isolated event, and that it does not have broader repercussions for customers or taxpayers. So while he's been a little conciliatory in admitting that he's been wrong and the trade was ill-conceived, he certainly has not gone so far as to say that, you know, banks need tighter regulation.

BLOCK: Jessica Silver-Greenberg is a business reporter for The New York Times. Jessica, thanks so much.

SILVER-GREENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.