JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon took the opportunity at Monday evening's Fortune 500 dinner to hail American business and trash its critics.
Speaking at the New York Stock Exchange event, Dimon bemoaned what he called the "constant attack on business" and suggested that the economy should have added twice as many jobs in the past two years.
"American business has added 4 million jobs in the last 24 months," Dimon said. "That's not government jobs, and I don’t think government policy had anything to do with it. It should have been 8 million."
Over a dinner of ahi tuna and seared fillet of beef, Fortune magazine marked the release of its latest Fortune 500 list. Dimon spoke on a panel joined by Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines, and Alex Gorsky, the new CEO of Johnson & Johnson.
"I don’t care if they attack me personally," Dimon said, but attacking the business community "denigrates the best things in America, and it hurts consumers’ business confidence." It wasn't entirely clear from Dimon's comments who, specifically, Dimon thought was making these attacks on business.
Dimon, who received an 11 percent raise last year to $23.1 million in total compensation, also saluted the American economy. "We have these serious problems and we've got to work hard," he said. But "we still have the royal straight flush. [Other countries are] not even close ... Businesses are in great shape. Consumers are in better shape."
Yet if businesses are doing so well, why aren't they hiring, asked Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer.
Business has been hiring, but there are other problems, Dimon said. "We’re four years after the crisis and haven't fixed the mortgage market. Everyone's scapegoating and finger pointing and ... totally misusing facts all the time for political purposes."
Dimon's comments came only days after he received an Executive of the Year Award at the University of Rochester's New York City Conference, where he similarly touted the efforts of American businesses and their employees and complained that critics -- including Occupy Wall Street protestors -- were vilifying all CEOs. "That's ridiculous; it’s another form of discrimination,” he complained then, according to Forbes.
Monday's dinner, which featured former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on another panel, also was designed to spotlight the employment challenges faced by returning members of the military and to present how some corporations take a proactive approach to veteran hiring. Dimon used the occasion to admit his company’s mistakes in prior business dealings with veterans.
“There’s no class we hold higher in America than the veterans of the armed forces,” Dimon said. But, "we were, believe it or not, foreclosing on active duty military people serving overseas," he said. In 2011, Chase executives apologized to Congress for what critics said was a violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. "You’re not allowed to do it," Dimon said. "There are a whole bunch of reasons we made the mistake. We admitted the mistake."
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