There are a lot of things that, if you wanted to, you could legitimately blame on former JP Morgan employee London P. Whale. The $6.2 billion trading loss the bank incurred over the summer. Ina Drew getting fired. This awkward phone call. Some stuff you can’t pin on him, though many have tried: male pattern baldness, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Apple Maps, Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, tempting as it may be. Read more »
Mike Mayo: I think what I hear UBS saying in their presentation is, if I’m an affluent customer, I’ll feel a lot better going to UBS if they have a 13 percent capital ratio than another big bank with a 10 percent ratio, do you agree with that or disagree? Jamie Dimon: So you would go to UBS and not JPMorgan? Mike Mayo: I didn’t say that, that’s their argument. Jamie Dimon: That’s why I’m richer than you. [BloombergTV]
Is JPMorgan too big to manage the quantity of public confusion about its operations? Maybe? This Reuters story about how JPMorgan was betting against its own Whale trades is a bit silly: the fact that JPMorgan’s investment bank dealer desk may have been long (short) some of the instruments that JPMorgan’s Chief Investment Office was short (long) is not all that noteworthy. JPMorgan contains multitudes; the dealer desk and the CIO sit in different places and do different things and generally might have similar, offsetting, or entirely unrelated positions.1 In fact if you assume that the positions at issue here were mainly the Whale’s massive CDX NA IG position – he was very very long index credit, among other trades – you could imagine that the dealer desk would sort of naturally be short the same thing. A big part of a dealer’s job is to (1) write single-name CDS to people who want to short particular names and (2) buy index CDS to hedge.2 So it would naturally be looking to buy index protection, and if a certain whale of its acquaintance was selling – why not?
Still there is a piece of news here, which is this:
Two people familiar with Iksil and his boss, Javier Martin-Artajo, said the two CIO employees complained about the investment bank’s actions in the spring of 2012, accusing its traders of deliberately trying to move the market against the CIO by leaking information on its position to hedge funds. Iksil made his complaint to a member of JPMorgan’s compliance department, one of the people said. But those same sources said they had not seen any evidence to support that claim …
So, maybe news? There’s no evidence to support it; perhaps it’s just the Whale’s (retrospectively justified?) persecution complex. Still: the Whale crew thought that the investment bank were trying to make them take losses. Imagine that it’s true! Why would it be true? Read more »
I’m mesmerized by this JPMorgan research chart showing that big banks shouldn’t be broken up because they lend so much more to businesses and consumers than small banks do. See:
Basically for every dollar of normalized capital, JPMorgan has extended $12 of credit between March 2010 and September 2012, according to this note by JPM’s Michael Cembalest. Whereas the small banks have loaned out only about $2. Get with the program, small banks!
The trick here – besides “normalized capital”1 – is that “credit extended” means (1) “changes in commercial and consumer loan balances” plus (2) syndicated loan, corporate bond, muni bond, etc. underwriting. That is, if you stand between a company looking for money and the market that provides it, you get, um, credit for extending credit, whether you do that standing-between in traditional banking ways (take deposit, make loans) or in traditional investment banking ways (match bond buyer with bond issuer). “See, we’re lending,” says JPMorgan. “We’re just not lending our money.”2
As a rhetorical move, I say: A+. Read more »
Financial innovation gets kind of a bad rap, and one of my favorite parts of this job is when I get to celebrate it just for being itself. Sometimes this means breathtaking magic like the derivative on its derivatives that Credit Suisse sold to itself, or elegant executions of classic ideas like the Coke shares that SunTrust sold for regulatory purposes but not for tax purposes. Other times it’s a more prosaic combination of already-existing building blocks to allow people who were comfortably doing something to keep comfortably doing it in the face of regulations designed to make it more uncomfortable.
Yesterday a reader pointed me to a Bond Buyer article that, while perhaps neither all that scandalous nor all that beautiful, is sort of cozy. It’s about a new issue of callable commercial paper issued by a Florida municipal financing commission, and here’s the joke:
JPMorgan came up with the new product as a solution for variable-rate municipal issuers facing impending Basel III regulatory problems. The proposed regulations would require banks to have a certain higher value of highly liquid assets to be available to turn into cash to meet liquidity commitments that could be drawn within 30 days. Maintaining higher liquidity would be expensive for banks, which may try to pass on costs to its issuers, according to an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. “What we did, starting over a year ago, is ask what we can do to change the product that will still work for all the players, including issuers, investors, and the rating agencies,” Lansing said. “And the ultimate result was this product.” The new product allows banks to continue to support variable-rate products after the regulations are implemented. The paper has a variable length of maturity, but always at least 30 days. Several days before the paper would have 30 days left to its maturity, the issuer calls the paper.
The joke isn’t that funny, though I giggled at the phrase “a solution for variable-rate municipal issuers facing impending Basel III regulatory problems.” Municipal issuers face no Basel III problems: municipalities are not subject to Basel III. Read more »
Do you have an opinion on whether JPMorgan is too big to manage and should be broken into its constituent bits? You do? Hey, that’s great, good for you. Here’s what you can do about it, in roughly descending order of effectiveness:
- Be Jamie Dimon, do what you want.
- Be a board member, try to convince others to do what you want.
- Be a big activist1 hedge fund, call up the board and management and try to make them do what you want.1
- Be a sell-side analyst, regulator, politician, former bank CEO, pundit, blogger, or person; write down what you want JPMorgan to do and why you want them to do it; and hope that they read it.
- Same, but with Twitter.
- Keep it to yourself and go about your business like a human.
- Be a troublemaking shareholder activist2 and submit a shareholder proposal asking the board to include in the proxy an advisory vote on whether JPMorgan should form a committee to look into doing the thing you want or something else like it or not like it.