Congress Didn't Ask, and Jamie Dimon Didn't Tell

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By Jonathan Weil

For those of you who didn’t have the chance to watch Jamie Dimon’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee this morning, here’s a quick rundown of the new details that emerged at today’s hearing about the $2 billion trading loss in JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chief investment office:

OK. So there weren’t any.

The committee’s chairman,  Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota, began the hearing by saying “a full accounting of these events will help this committee better understand the policy implications for a safer and a stronger financial system going forward.”

Undoubtedly he is correct that it would. Unfortunately, understanding is not what the committee’s members pursued or received. It makes you wonder: What’s the point of having a hearing to discuss a trading loss when no one is willing to talk about the actual trading loss?

Not that the hearing, which lasted all of two hours, was pointless. The senators got their camera time. Dimon got a kid-gloves session where the questions ranged from fawning to harmless. The news media  covering the event got their daily fix. And neither the public nor the senators know anything more of substance about the actual loss today than they did before.

Instead we had exchanges like this one, between Dimon and Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat from North Carolina, who asked simply: “How big was the position?” Dimon declined to answer, saying that “my first job is protect my company and to manage it.” To that, Hagan responded: “I certainly wouldn’t ask anything to put the process in jeopardy.” An investigation, this clearly was not.

Maybe someday there will be a full accounting of JPMorgan's mysterious trading loss. Just don't expect it to come from Congress.

(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)


-0- Jun/13/2012 19:06 GMT