Here’s a good rule of thumb. When one bank buys a business from another bank, it’s almost always a case of regulatory arbitrage. It’s never really because of synergies or managerial talent or whatever other hokum the media relations churn out to their willing dupes in the press. It’s just about one bank being better able to take advantage of the rules.
So even though the rationale for JPMorgan Chase buying the over-the-counter commodities derivatives business of UBS remains mysterious, you can safely surmise this is regulatory arbitrage. Most likely, it’s got to do with capital requirements.
Umm maybe? I don’t know, this question seems a little over-determined; the thing is that pretty much everyone thinks that (1) JPMorgan is pretty good at running an investment bank, the occasional hiccup aside, and that (2) UBS is pretty crap at doing so. So are US regulators relatively more comfortable with JPM managing this portfolio than Swiss regulators are with UBS doing so? Sure, probably, but probably so are the respective shareholders, and counterparties, and senior managements, and anyone else you might ask. Really moving any portfolio of anything from UBS to JPMorgan is probably Pareto optimal.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fined JPMorgan $410mm today and you can see why JPMorgan would be okay with that. The details are in this marvelously complicated FERC order and settlement agreement,1 but the outlines of the story are simple. FERC built a terrible box, and the box had some buttons that were labeled “push here for money,” and JPMorgan pushed them and got money. You can understand the category mistake very easily:
FERC thought the box was for generating electricity at market prices but with a robust backup system to ensure reliable supply, and
JPMorgan thought the box was for dispensing money.
It’s a perfectly understandable mistake to make if you have spent your career building and operating boxes that dispense money, as JPMorgan global commodities head Blythe Masters has. What else could the box be for?
I suppose we should talk about how the box worked, because this is that sort of blog. Read more »
One of the pleasures of every JPMorgan quarterly earnings call is hearing Jamie Dimon’s, and now Marianne Lake’s, authoritative-sounding pronouncements on proposed regulations. You sometimes get the sense that regulations can’t be adopted without Dimon’s approval, so his views on these calls provide some sort of indicator of which of the proposals might actually happen. Plus, general amusing orneriness.
So how’d everyone do? Well, they think Nouveau Glass-Steagall is pretty silly, for one thing: in response to an analyst question about it, Lake said “we don’t spend much time thinking about it.”1 Oof! Get outta here with your Glass-Steagalls.
But the theme of the call was mostly “could you tell us more about your leverage ratio?” Here, JPMorgan is not so fond of the new Basel III leverage ratio proposals. The earnings deck walks through how JPMorgan will comply with the new U.S. leverage ratio rules, but it does not do any math on the effects of the new Basel proposals to do creepy things like disallow derivatives collateral netting. When asked to quantify the leverage under those proposals, Lake and Dimon declined, saying that there are “fundamental problems” with those proposals. So they have chosen to ignore them and, presumably, they will go away. Read more »
Dimon has also been a fierce critic of President Obama’s economic policies, including parts of the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill. Many union pension funds as well as public officials running large pension funds have vocally supported the president’s economic and regulatory policies, and the recent shareholder vote was designed to quash Dimon’s public criticism of these policies, people inside JP Morgan say.
That’s from Charlie Gasparino’s report today that the House Financial Services Subcommittee is going to hold a hearing “into whether proxy advisory firms are pushing political agendas rather than serving shareholder interests,” which I guess is no sillier a hearing than most other hearings. More things:
Executives at many companies have complained to Congress that such battles are fraught with politics, with advisory firms often pushing the political agendas of some of their biggest shareholder clients at union and public pension funds.
There’s much to unpack there1 but the basic questions are: Read more »