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LEGAL TEMPEST HASN'T JARRED JPMORGAN CEO

NEW YORK - Despite mounting legal problems at JPMorgan Chase, including a new, $13 billion settlement to end federal investigations into questionable mortgage practices, chief executive Jamie Dimon appears solidly ensconced atop the nation's largest bank, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing several unnamed bank executives.

Only last week, the head of the board audit committee, Laban P. Jackson Jr., publicly endorsed Dimon at a conference. Dimon's role in negotiating the new settlement, costly as it is, has only cemented the board's support, said the executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal bank discussions.

To many ordinary Americans, such confidence might seem bewildering. After all, more than a half dozen Wall Street chiefs were ousted by the financial crisis of 2008.

The difference is that JPMorgan's legal travails have not truly threatened the bank financially. While other CEOs stumbled during the crisis, Dimon never did, emerging more powerful, as his bank went on to report record profits. So far this year, even as its legal troubles have worsened, the bank's share price has gained roughly 23 percent.

By the logic of Wall Street, putting the bank's legal problems aside is seen as a win for Dimon, even though those problems arose on his watch. The share price rose recently on news that JPMorgan would set aside $23 billion for its legal headaches.

Whether Dimon could maintain his grip on the bank should JPMorgan face criminal charges is uncertain. The Justice Department, while agreeing to settle civil claims, has so far refused to agree to a so-called nonprosecution agreement for its criminal investigation.

At a meeting in September, in which the board discussed a series of looming problems, directors reiterated their support for Dimon's approach with the government, according to people briefed on the meeting.

More compelling, these people say, is Dimon's record for delivering where it counts: at the bottom line. This month, the bank reported its first quarterly loss ever under Dimon.

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