Carter: Senators avoid hard questions as they smooch up Wall Street’s big guy

June 14, 2012

Banking & Finance, Politics

Mississippi’s Sen. Roger Wicker apparently never saw it coming. The Republican from Tupelo tossed a soft, slow one smack over the plate to JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon Wednesday only to have the banker drill a hard shot back his way that left the  junior senator ducking for cover.

Just moments before, Wicker was thrilled that the investment banker who had recently overseen a more than $2 billion loss at his Wall Street bank would be willing to help lend his expertise to the banking regulation issue. Specifically, Dimon indicated he’s up for developing a strategy to stop proposed regulations of precisely the type of transactions that just cost his bank so much money.

That being said, Dimon apparently is not a full fellow-traveler with those in Congress who want to roll back the regulations enacted to prevent another Wall Street fiasco that has our economy in a tailspin even today.

Wicker apparently had not been paying close attention a short time before when Dimon stipulated the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill had made banks such as his much safer than they were in 2007, before the financial sector collapse.

So Wicker tossed what he expected to be the softball of the day: Could he paraphrase Dimon’s answer as “the financial system is safer today, and you can’t say that Dodd-Frank has helped at all.”

Dimon repeated his admission that “Dodd-Frank and other things made it safer,” The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Next, according to the Post, Dimon sent Wicker’s pitch rifling back through the mound with an acknowledgment that the “Volcker rule,” a proposed regulation that would sharply limit banks’ trading, “may very well have stopped parts” of Morgan’s losing bets.

Dimon conceded that regulators have made “improvements in companies, including JPMorgan.”

Wicker and members of both parties on the Senate Banking Committee had spent the previous portion of the hearing fawning over the JP Morgan CEO and the immensity of his global banking empire.

Never mind that Dimon had just come off a losing streak that would have gotten any head football coach in the SEC canned faster than you can say “Houston Nutt.”

At times, the expressions of awe became hard to bear:

Here’s a Post account of remarks by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb) to Dimon:

“Mr. Dimon,” it “occurs to me that an enterprise as big and powerful as yours, you’ve got a lot of firepower and you’re — you’re just huge.”

Sen Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republic joined in with a yoda man, Jamie.

‘You’re obviously renowned, rightfully so, I think,” said Corker, “as being one of the most, you know, one of the best CEOs in the country.”

But the Post said the stroking award went to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who said, “We can hardly sit in judgment of your losing $2 billion”?

Why is that, senator?

The Post said DeMint stammered out his answer: “I — I — I think we do need to recognize that you are a very big bank, the biggest in the world.”

Democrats, no doubt because both Dimon and JPMorgan Chase donate generously to pols of both parties, had to get some stroking in: Let it be known throughout the land, declared Bob Menendez of New Jersey, JPMorgan Chase is “one of the nation’s finest,” though he neglected to mention taxpayers had to inject nearly $95 billion into its bottom line to keep the investment bank alive.

Sen. Jon Tester is in a tough re-election campaign back home in Montana and could probably use a little do-re-mi from JP. So he figured maybe a quick smooch wouldn’t hurt: “You guys know the industry better than anybody sitting up here,” he declared, with a twinkle in his eye.

So what did we learn about how we can keep the nation’s financial system from tumbling down after a few more bad throws of the dice from the likes of Dimon?

You need not be the brightest kid in summer school to know the lesson here is that some in Congress want to keep the casino open and let Dimon and company play on with house money.

 

 

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