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Jamie Dimon's Throat Cancer Highlights JPMorgan Leadership Gap

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Jamie Dimon is currently both chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase without a succession plan. You may also recall that prior to the London Whale debacle, JPMorgan Chase had no treasurer for several months.

Lymph Nodes Involved

In a letter to colleagues and shareholders excerpted below, Dimon announced:

I have just been diagnosed with throat cancer. The good news is that the prognosis from my doctors is excellent, the cancer was caught quickly, and my condition is curable...the cancer is confined to the original site and the adjacent lymph nodes [Emphasis added] on the right side of my neck.

My evaluation and treatment plan are still being finalized, but at this time it appears I will begin radiation and chemotherapy treatment shortly at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, which should take approximately eight weeks...I will be able to continue to be actively involved in our business...Our Board has been fully briefed and is totally supportive.

According to Texas Oncology:

"Early stage cancers of the throat are small, localized, and highly curable when treated with surgery and/or radiation therapy. Early stage disease includes stage I, II, and some stage III cancers. Stage I cancer is no more than 2 centimeters in size (about 1 inch) and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area. Stage II cancer is more than 2 centimeters, but less than 4 centimeters (less than 2 inches) and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area. Stage III cancer can be considered 'early' if it is small and involves only a single lymph node, which can be surgically removed or treated with radiation with a high probability of cure." [Emphasis added.]

Dimon and Alcohol Use: Negative Implication for Throat Cancer Prognosis

Risk factors that may make a prognosis more negative are alcohol and smoking. Jamie does drink alcohol.

London Whale: Disclosure Issues and Recklessness

JPMorgan was recently fined $900 million by the SEC and admitted wrongdoing after the London Whale debacle, and the SEC said JPMorgan's officers made misleading disclosures to the Board.

It's astounding something like the London Whale debacle could happen after the global financial crisis. To have trades so skewed against the bank and in such huge size (especially after problems with an unauthorized outsized coal trade) was simply reckless.

Questionable Corporate Governance Practice

There seems to be a failure on the part of the Federal Reserve Bank and JPMorgan's Board of Directors in allowing poor corporate governance to fester.

Given the financial crisis, it's remarkable that a bank of the size and systemic importance of JPMorgan finds itself in a position of having one man as both chairman and CEO, and Jamie Dimon's recent news highlights the risk in that folly.

See also: "A Risk Manager's Impossibility?": A reconsideration of the London Whale, JPMorgan's risk management, Jamie Dimon's oversight - and their implications for other financial institutions.