Jamie Dimon, the infamous CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is back to doing what he does best: defending the bankers of the 1% against the petulant 99%. "Acting like everyone who's been successful is bad and because you're rich you're bad, I just don't get it," he said at a recent investors conference. "Sometimes there's a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole."Dimon says this as if he's not one of the baddest apples in the barrel. Let's review a few of his misdeeds:
- Under his leadership, JPMorgan Chase "misled" investors (that's "defrauded," in plain English) on mortgage sales to help spur the financial crisis. The company then successfully lobbied for a $25 billion bailout and $391 billion in virtually interest-free loans.
- He leaked false information about Washington Mutual's finances so he could buy the company at a bargain price.
- JPMorgan Chase was part of the "robo-signing" scandal in which banks foreclosed on homes without verifying that such action was legal and justified.
- He hid the fact that one of JPMorgan Chase's risky derivatives deals, known as "Squared," was actually designed in part by a hedge fund that bet against a good chunk of the deal.
- JPMorgan Chase recently engaged in bid-rigging and made illegal payments to win bond deals from municipal governments across the country.
- Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs touted mortgage assets to clients while privately betting $10 billion they'd fail -- fostering the kind of excessive risk-taking that caused the financial meltdown. Oh, and then he lied to Congress about it.
- Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial deceived investors into buying risky "subprime" mortgages, leading to thousands of foreclosures. He kept the law off his back by allowing key senators to take out mortgages for which the usual fees and rules didn't apply.
- Brian Moynihan of Bank of America overcharged customers for overdraft fees and kicked up to 10,000 people out of their homes illegally.
- Darrell Issa, a Congressman from California who's worth between $240-500 million, pressured federal regulators to back off a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs while holding millions in company assets. He also intervened in Congress on behalf of Merrill Lynch while being a major customer of the firm.
- Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, has established a virtual monopoly on the food supply by putting his company's patented, genetically modified seed in about 95% of U.S. soybeans, 80% of U.S. corn, and massive amounts of other crops. Indeed, his company is helping destroy the American heartland by intimidating small farmers with frivolous lawsuits and intense pressure not to work with Monsanto's competitors. (The ideal of "competitive markets" is invoked only when a company is trying to avoid regulation.)
After all, the so-called "bad apples" actually reflect a systemic problem: those who use their wealth for destructive purposes are rewarded instead of punished, even when their tactics are illegal. Wealth doesn't always come from making products that people enjoy or investing in small companies à la George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. Things really are worse for the 99% because of a rigged system that allows certain rich people to play by different rules than everyone else.
So, Jamie Dimon, are you bad just because you're successful? No. You're bad because your success comes at everyone else's expense. You're right about one thing, though: you just don't get it.