Sunday, September 29, 2013

Alex Pareene's First and Last Appearance on CNBC

It is hard to believe that CNBC let Alex Pareene of Salon.com to come on. The result was Pareene hammered Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan.

Maria Bartiromo: Alex, to you first. Legal problems aside, JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today. You believe the leader of that bank should step down?

Alex Pareene: I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say “Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.”

Maria Bartiromo and Duff McDonald come to Dimon's rescue. McDonald goes as far as to say Dimon has a "great track record." Former IMF economist Simon Johnson would disagree. Johnson has called Dimon "the most dangerous man in America."

1. Big companies need big banks, operating across borders, with large balance sheets and the ability to execute a wide variety of transactions. This is simply not true – if we are discussing banking at the current and future proposed scale of JP Morgan Chase. We go through this in detail in 13 Bankers – in fact, refuting this point in detail, with all the evidence on the table, was a major motivation for writing the book. There is simply no evidence – and I mean absolutely none – that society gains from banks having a balance sheet larger than $100 billion. (JP Morgan Chase is roughly a $2 trillion bank, on its way to $3 trillion.)

2. The US banking system is not particularly concentrated relative to other OECD countries. This is true – although the degree of concentration in the US has increased dramatically over the past 15 years (again, details in 13 Bankers) and in key products, such as credit cards and mortgages, it is now high. But in any case, the comparison with other countries doesn’t help Mr. Dimon at all – because most other countries are struggling with the consequences of banks that became too large relative to their economies (e.g., in Europe; see Ireland as just one illustrative example).

3. Canada did fine during 2008-09 despite having a relatively concentrated financial system. Mr. Dimon would obviously like to move in the Canadian direction – and top people in the White House are also very much tempted. This is frightening. Not only does it represent a complete misunderstanding of the government guarantees behind banking in Canada (which we have clarified here recently), but this proposal – at its heart – would allow, in the US context, even more complete state capture than what we have observed under the stewardship of Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner. Place this question in the context of American history (as we do in Chapter 1 of 13 Bankers): If the US had just five banks left standing, would their political power and ideological sway be greater or less than it is today?

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