I've been a fierce critic of Wall Street and especially the Wall Street bailouts. If you study my writing over the years, there is one bank that gets off easy.
J.P. Morgan Chase.
When I look out of my Richmond Kentucky office, I see a branch of J.P. Morgan Chase sitting right on Main Street. I don't have that same issue with Goldman Sachs.
Even though the J.P. Morgan Chase branch is actually the result of a first rate local bank that has had four or five corporate owners since its first sale, I still see it as part of my downtown.
Not anymore. No one in Richmond Kentucky (or in New Orleans, the other city I live in now), could waltz into the office of the Attorney General of the United States and try to cut a sweetheart deal before litigation.
According to the Washington Post, that is exactly what Jamie Dimon did.
The Post said that JP Morgan executive Jamie Dimon personally met with Attorney General Eric Holder "as the nation's biggest bank attempts to end federal and state investigations into its liability for selling shoddy mortgage securities."
In case you don't know who Jamie Dimon is, he is a Wall Street hotshot that some people thought would be Obama's Secretary of the Treasury. This was before it came out that one JP Morgan trader known as "London Whale," lost $6.2 billion for the company. It was before the obvious truth has finally started coming out, that JP Morgan was selling worthless mortgage securities to unsuspecting suckers on Main Street and knew they were worthless. It was before federal probes into its debt collection practices and it was before federal probes into its manipulations of interest rate benchmarks.
Anyone who has had a Chase credit card or dealt with Chase on a business loan can tell you that customer service is not what they are about.
Whether their actions are criminal is one that prosecutors ought to put in front of a jury and the justice system does its thing.
Instead, the "too big to jail" philosophy of President Obama and Attorney General Holder will sweep JP Morgan's sins under a rug.
Holder and Obama will pat themselves on the back for collecting a fine and writing Jamie a really mean letter.
In the meantime, it has been pointed out over and over again that no one on Wall Street has traded their tailor made suits for jump suits.
No one on Wall Street ever thanked the American people for bailing them out either.
Wall Street has an entitled attitude but it has worked well for them so far. In fact, the only thing the Obama administration has focused on is making it harder for Main Street banks to exist.
I voted for President Obama the first time because I bought his line about bringing change to the financial world. I was wrong. (I voted the second time because I did not want Romney.)
The only change taking place is that every true Main Street bank is fighting to meet all the enhanced regulation and tougher lending requirements that Washington is imposing on them.
It's not hard for the "too big to jail" banks to deal with the regulations. Anytime they have a problem, they will truck on down to Washington, meet with the Attorney General and cut a deal.
I don't see my Kentucky banker friends doing that. They are hiring auditors and extra staff to comply with the laws as they are written.
Arianna Huffington promoted a concept called, "Move Your Money," with the idea of taking your money from Wall Street banks and putting it in Main Street banks. It's a philosophy I completely bought into and wrote about in a book called Wealth without Wall Street.
It's getting harder to do business with one of my Main Street banks. The staff has become a revolving door. Getting a loan is just about impossible, even if you have great credit. A huge proportion of their income is used to comply with new regulations and regulators and auditors seem to be visiting on a regular basis.
They all privately complain to me but know that no one in Washington is listening or really cares. All the bailout money in 2008 kept bad business people and bad business models alive on Wall Street and putting good people on Main Street out of business.
It's like telling the American people that crime pays and only suckers are honest.
Maybe that is what they are telling us. At the very least, they are playing us for chumps.
One last reason I have pulled my punches against Chase. I've had a toxic relationship with its predecessor Bank One. As bad as it has been under Obama, it made have actually been worse under George W. Bush. I filed a complaint against Bank One with the Comptroller of the Currency under Bush. I had Bank One dead to rights on a serious violation but all I got back was a form letter that basically said, "How dare you pick on one of our banks."
There are some good people in Washington who are investigating Chase. Holder and Obama will cut Jamie a deal but under Bush there was no investigation at all.
I don't know if Jamie deserves to spend some time in the big house but I feel like he lied to me. During the financial crisis, Jamie testified in front of Congress that if anyone had a problem, to write to him personally and he would personally handle it.
I took him up on the offer.
I sent all the stuff in my complaint to the Comptroller of the Currency to Jamie's office in New York via Overnight mail. I went to great lengths to make sure I had the proper address.
It's been five years. I'm still sitting by the phone waiting for him to call.
Maybe I should have sent the package to Eric Holder's office instead and asked him to hand it to Jamie the next time they had tea.
At least I know it would have gotten there.
At this point, the problem with JP Morgan is personal with me. It's personal that I had my own problems with them and it's personal that no one dealt with them. It's personal that I see a branch in my hometown but I don't know any people in that branch who are selling worthless mortgages or calling Washington for special favors.
Most of all, it's personal when I see Wall Street can get away with things that those of us on Main Street cannot.
We don't get bailed out, we don't get a break from regulation and if things go around, we don't meet face to face with the Attorney General of the United States of America.
I want thriving Main Street banks that I can move my money to. Most of all, I want the financial system to be honest. I want the good people to win and the bad people to be shut down and locked up.
I want America to act like a place where justice is not doled out on something equally a level playing field.
I hope President Obama and Eric Holder understand there are a lot of people on Main Street who want the same thing.
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the author of seven bestselling books, including Wealth without Wall Street. He can be reached at www.donmcnay.com