JAMIE DIMON, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, showed good judgment in his abject apology for the firm’s $2 billion loss on risky trades. “We know we were sloppy, we know we were stupid, we know there was bad judgment. . . . Of course regulators should look at something like this,” he told David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” He then, almost immediately, showed terrible judgment in bemoaning political attacks “on work ethic and successful people.” Actually, the attacks aren’t aimed at those who are successful, but those who are sloppy, stupid, and use bad judgment.
JPMorgan Chase’s trading loss comes amid a battle over the so-called Volcker rule, which bans banks from making proprietary trades. It was included in the Dodd-Frank bill but has yet to take effect. Dimon, as it happens, was a leader in opposing the measure, which he feels would unnecessarily tie the hands of US banks. Supporters say the rule is essential to avoiding bailouts of “too big to fail” institutions.
But Dimon’s own career disproves the idea that supporters of greater financial regulation are merely lashing out at the rich and successful. When Dimon’s bank skated through the financial crisis in far better shape than its peers, he was widely celebrated. As a full recipient of the businessman-hero treatment — magazine covers, photo layouts, A-list party invitations — Dimon made an odd spokesman for those who feel that business leaders have been gratuitously demonized. The broader popular culture honored Dimon when he was up and, even now, is treating him with respect. His willingness to invite an investigation of his firm attests to his instincts; but he shouldn’t tar his critics by suggesting they resent his successes. It’s his failures, and his company’s, that get under their skin.