Weil on Finance: JPMorgan’s Justice Talks
Good morning, View fans. On to today’s breakfast reading, with annotated links. Have a great day.
What did Eric Holder and Jamie Dimon talk about yesterday?
Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase & Co., met with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss settling multiple Justice Department investigations. The number getting bandied about is $11 billion. The Washington Post said “the discussion centered partly on whether the bank could avoid criminal prosecution if it paid the fine and whether it would have to admit guilt.” This seemed like a strange thing to read in print, because the odds that JPMorgan would be criminally prosecuted in the U.S. are about zero. Or at least that has long been the conventional wisdom. It’s hard to see that changing. But I suppose Holder has to go through the motions after his Kinsley gaffe earlier this year when he told Congress that some banks had become too big to prosecute.
Off to the races again for leveraged-buyout loans
Christine Idzelis of Bloomberg News reports that “private-equity firms are obtaining buyout loans at the fastest pace in six years.” She quotes Gerry Murray, head of JPMorgan’s North America leveraged finance business, saying: “You could raise around $20 billion given where markets are today.” Murray said the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision last week to not reduce its stimulus “gave a shot of adrenaline into the leveraged markets.” So the Fed is pumping asset values and getting investors to take on more risk. Then again, fueling an LBO boom might not exactly help with the “maximize employment” part of the Fed’s dual mandate, given that private-equity firms’ business model tends to revolve around firing employees.
Paul Krugman on Robert Benmosche’s outrageously stupid comments
Recall that the American International Group Inc. chief recently compared the furor over AIG’s bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South. Krugman in his New York Times column writes: “Stuff like this is surely what the Masters of the Universe say to each other all the time, to nods of agreement and approval. It’s just that sometimes they forget that they’re not supposed to say such things where the rabble might learn about it.” Fear the wrath of the 0.1 percent, he says (sort of kiddingly, but not really).
How the Basel Committee wound up ruling the world
Stefan Ingves, chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, gave a speech in which he explained the history of how the organization evolved from an information-sharing group for central bankers into a global standard setter. It’s a good nutshell version for anyone who ever wondered how these folks got to be in charge of so much when it comes to the rules on bank capital.
Seymour Hersh on government surveillance and the news media
The Guardian has a fun interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who exposed the My Lai massacre. Hersh says the press is afraid to pick on President Barack Obama. As for Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency, he says: “I don't know if it's going to mean anything in the long (run) because the polls I see in America –- the president can still say to voters 'al-Qaida, al-Qaida' and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic."
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)