As far as one could tell the financial press and its many commentators were absent. Yet on January 20 the Huffington Post printed on its web site "Our Banks Becoming Casinos While Washington Yawns". The post dealt with the advanced negotiations between JP Morgan and RBS Sempra a commodities trading firm active in oil, gas, agricultural commodities, base metals and on. It would have been a classic extension by a chartered bank (JPMorgan) using government protected deposits and myriad Fed programs including near zero cost money, to up the ante in plunging ever more deeply into casino like proprietary trading. The post questioned why our regulators were allowing it to happen.
The next day, coincidently, the yawning stopped. President Obama made known in a major policy pronouncement that henceforward it would become government policy to limit the risk taking of banks. JP Morgan was not mentioned by name, but the focus of the President's pronouncement was exactly aimed at such steps that JPMorgan was taking to expand its exposure to the proprietary trading field by taking over RBS Sempra.
Undeterred by the President's stance JPMorgan proceeded in its negotiations permitting Reuters to report on Monday January 25th that JP Morgan was about to close on the Sempra deal by paying $4 Billion to the Royal Bank of Scotland (European Regulators had forced RBS to divest itself of the Sempra trading subsidiary).
Early the next morning the following post was found on Huffington, "JP Morgan Chase Throws Down The Gauntlet at President Obama" citing JP Morgan's pending purchase of Sempra a "blatant disregard of President Obama's interdiction".
Later that day Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase had lunch with President Obama, a meeting labeled as "ongoing dialogue with the business community" by White House spokesmen. Today, February 2nd the Wall Street Journal European edition carried the following article datelined London,
"J.P. Morgan changes its approach to Sempra".
The article went on to report, "J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is withdrawing its interest in the North American operations of RBS Sempra Commodities... The decision resulted from new proposals by U.S. President Barack Obama that would force institutions to choose between commercial banking and proprietary trading".
The article went on to inform that JP Morgan would continue in talks to buy Sempra's metal business headquartered in London as well as its European oil, power and gas divisions. How clever. As though, the relevant government agencies and President Obama were born yesterday. As though, in this interconnected world, trading out of London was in essence at variance than executing trades out of Wall Street. That the money to which the bank had access through myriad US government programs wasn't fungible.
And by the way, where was the divsion headquartered whose trading in insurance/derivatives contracts did more than any other division to bring down all of AIG, but for the US Government's bailout? I'm sure you know the answer. London.
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