Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, would like to make it clear that he is not that kind of banker.
"I've disagreed right from the beginning of this blanket blame of all banks," Dimon said in an interview with Charlie Gasparino of the Fox Business Network Tuesday. "I don't like that. I think that's just a form of discrimination that should be stopped."
Dimon, who has been CEO of JPMorgan Chase since 2005, didn't get specific about whom he'd rather not be lumped in with. He seemed, though, to be trying to draw a distinction between his own company -- which accepted a bailout from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, but is generally seen as having weathered the financial crisis better than many other major firms -- and banks that needed a greater degree of government assistance during and after the meltdown.
But Dimon's critics may not be persuaded by his argument. After all, JPMorgan Chase received $25 billion through the U.S. Treasury under TARP and at least $3 billion from the Federal Reserve in 2008 -- the same year that Dimon took home about $19.7 million in salary, stock and options. Dimon's compensation later climbed to $23 million in 2010 and 2011, as JPMorgan overtook Bank of America to become the nation's largest bank by assets.
Pay packages on that scale are unlikely to endear Dimon to his detractors, of which he has many. The Occupy Wall Street movement has demonstrated at Dimon's speaking events and organized marches outside JPMorgan Chase buildings. Politicians -- including President Obama -- have said that the lopsided concentration of wealth in America is contributing to the country's economic woes.
Even so, when Gasparino brought up the Occupy movement, Dimon struck a diplomatic tone, discussing the protests in language that was almost identical to comments he made in November.
"There are parts I agree with and there are parts I don't," Dimon told Gasparino. "It is fair for the average American to say that the major institutions of America let me down. That's true. And it is fair, generically, to say that it was predominantly Wall Street and Washington... I think once you go beyond that, and say all politicians, all banks, all bankers -- that's terrible. I don't accept that."
The interview was taped shortly before Dimon left for the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, where Dimon said he will be speaking with other attendees about financial regulation. At last year's Davos summit, Dimon made similar remarks pushing back against the vilification of the banking industry, calling it "a really unproductive and unfair way of treating people."
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