Buffett Supports Dimon, Dog Bites Man

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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Warren Buffett says he supports Jamie Dimon keeping his dual roles as chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. And his remarks have been getting a lot of attention in advance of JPMorgan's annual meeting on May 21 in Tampa, Florida.

"I'm 100 percent for Jamie," Buffett, 82, said in a Bloomberg Television interview on May 2. "I couldn't think of a better chairman." He made similar comments this morning on CNBC. (In my May 3 column, I made the case for why Dimon should give up the chairman's post.)

But really, what else is Buffett going to say? One of the directors on Berkshire's board is Stephen Burke, who also is on the board of JPMorgan. Buffett isn't a neutral observer here. Criticizing Dimon or JPMorgan could put one of Berkshire's own board members in a difficult spot, given that JPMorgan's board has been pressing so hard to convince shareholders that Dimon should keep both jobs.

Burke is executive vice president at the cable company Comcast Corp. and the CEO of NBCUniversal. He's been on Berkshire's board since 2009 and a member of JPMorgan's board since 2004. Burke and Dimon also are old friends, dating back to their days as classmates at Harvard Business School.

I don't doubt that Buffett believes what he said. Buffett also has said that he personally owns JPMorgan shares, so the question of whether JPMorgan should separate its chairman and CEO positions is one he'll get to vote on himself.

It's just not a surprise that Buffett would say nice things about the leader of a company whose board includes one of Berkshire's directors -- or, for that matter, that someone who is chairman and CEO of a public company would say it's fine for another public company to have a single person in both positions.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net