The controversial head of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, is no stranger to colourful language. In his latest outburst, he may have surpassed himself, describing the political atmosphere in relation to banking regulation as reminiscent of the Soviet Union and protesting that the United States is a 'free fucking country'.
In an interview with New York magazine, Dimon, who famously described the bank's trading problems in London as a "tempest in a teapot" before the full extent of the losses became clear, said he now thinks that comment was "stupid".
But in the article – his first in-depth interview since the bank's $5.8bn trading loss emerged – he makes a new set of strongly-worded remarks and characterises himself as an "outspoken defender of the truth".
"Everyone is afraid of retaliation and retribution," he said. "We recently had an event with a hundred small bankers here, and 85% of them said they can't challenge the regulation because of the potential retribution. That's a terrible thing. Okay? This is not the Soviet Union. This is the United States of America. That's what I remember." The magazine reports that his voice rises to a near shout, when he says: "Guess what. It's a free. Fucking. Country."
JP Morgan emerged from the credit crisis far less battle-scarred than its rivals. Before the London losses Dimon was the most respected banker on Wall Street and had used his position to push back against tighter regulation.
Dimon, president and chief operating officer of JP Morgan, had initially dismissed talks of the "London whale" and mounting losses at the bank as a tempest in a teapot. As their true size emerged he had to backtrack. "This was perfect for everyone who was pushing for more regulation," he said. "We handed it to them on a silver platter. And then I made that stupid comment about a tempest in a teapot."
Dimon told the magazine he had been told "a whole bunch of stuff that made me think it was a tempest in a teapot". When he first laid eyes on the positions built up by his London team, he said: "There was a moment of, I can't believe what we have."
"I saw it all pass in front of my eyes," he said. "I saw the headlines, the investigations, the uproar, the breathlessness. 'Dimon Loses Luster', 'Dimon in the Rough.' I told everyone: 'this is going to be bad, it's going to go on, and we can't get out of it. So put your jerseys on: we're going to wrestle this thing down and fix it.' "
JP Morgan fired Bruno Iskil, the trader known as the London Whale, in the wake of the scandal. In the New York magazine interview, Dimon said the Whale was not just dead, but "harpooned. Dessicated. Cremated".
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