Every American With A Bank Account Should Understand What Jamie Dimon's Pay Raise Says About Wall Street

Jamie DimonReutersJ.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon (L) leaves the U.S. Justice Department after meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, in Washington September 26, 2013.

After heated debate, JP Morgan’s board voted to increase CEO Jamie Dimon’s pay after a tumultuous year of embarrassing lawsuits for the bank, reports The New York Times’ Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Susanne Craig.

For 2013, Dimon will take home $US20 million, compared to $US11.5 million the year before.

This says everything about what JP Morgan and its board considers “normal” in today’s Wall Street bank. Normal is not losing the bank’s own money on a terrible trade. Normal is paying out $US20 billion in fines over the course of one year for a variety of transgressions that touch on a variety of the bank’s businesses.

Just compare what happened the year Dimon’s pay was cut, to what happened in 2013.

You may recall the London Whale: the trader in JP Morgan’s Chief Investment Office who blew a $US6.2 billion hole in the bank’s balance sheet by trading JPM’s extra cash. Jamie Dimon called that “a tempest in a teapot” and for that mistake his 2012 pay was cut in half, to $US11.5 million from $US23 million the year before.

The board even threatened to split his dual positions as CEO and Chairman of the Board.

The message was clear: Always be vigilant, do not let traders lose money. For this, the CEO should be held accountable.

In 2013, it was not one trader that cost the bank billions, rather it was a variety of malfeasance that the Justice Department decided to take on all at once.

To name a few:

There was the $US410 million that the bank paid for manipulating electricity markets.

There was the $US1.7 billion fine JP Morgan paid for failing to do its due diligence with Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff’s accounts for decades. Oh, and for pulling $275 million of its own money from Madoff feeder funds before alerting the U.S. government of Madoff’s fraud.

And of course the $US13 billion the bank paid out to take care of charges of mortgage fraud dating back to the financial crisis. To be fair, some of that money was paid to take care of fraudulent activity at the now defunct Bear Sterns, which JP Morgan acquired in the financial crisis fire sale.

But hey, that’s part of the deal. You buy a venerable, almost hundred-year-old Wall Street bank for $US10 a share, lock, stock and barrel, and you take the bad with the good.

The way The NYT tells it, some board members wanted to keep Dimon’s pay flat. That could be because the bank paid out almost four times more in fines than it did in dividends this year — it paid out about $US5.4 billion in dividends to shareholders, and that’s even after the bank gave an $US0.08 bump to dividends per share in May.

Ultimately, though, the board decided to give Dimon his pay increase because of the way he handled the lawsuits. The report says that he was especially lauded for personally saving the mortgage lawsuit when it was going south. Dimon personally called Attorney General Eric Holder to keep the bank from facing criminal charges in Court.

So there’s that. Who wants to go to Court, right?

So. To review: Let a trader blow a $US6.2 billion hole in the bank’s balance sheet with the bank’s money — pay cut.

Pay out $US20 billion in lawsuits for various transgressions that took place at the bank under your watch — pay raise. You’re just $US3 million shy of what you got when JP Morgan was America’s golden bank, and you were America’s golden boy.

Mess with the bank’s money, you’re toast.

Mess with the bank’s customers — handle it well, and everything will be fine.


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