Jessica Silver-Greenberg is the New York Times business reporter who covers banks. She was interviewed at NPR yesterday afternoon about JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon and his appearance yesterday before the Senate Banking Committee. The NPR interviewer suggested that Dimon was "treated with a pretty gentle hand before the Senate Banking Committee today. Is it a sign, do you think, of a favored son of Washington exerting his clout?"
SILVER-GREENBERG: I think so. We were all a little bit surprised at the nature of the questions that were lobbed at him today. He was deferred to, I thought, by many of the members of the Senate Banking Committee. At one point, I think a couple of members of Congress actually asked him, you know, how would you best regulate the banking industry? And he was given, I think, a wide range of questions that deferred to his kind of - his expertise within the banking industry.
BLOCK: Well, let's talk about how he wields his political influence in Washington. He's called government relations JPMorgan's seventh line of business. So what does he do? How does he work that?
SILVER-GREENBERG: Well, so first, it's the talent that he marshals. So he has Naomi Camper. She's currently the co-head of the bank's federal government relations group, and she was an aide for the committee chair, Tim Johnson, so the chair of the Senate Banking Committee. That's one element is that he definitely marshals the talent of people who have real sway and connections throughout Washington and brings them, you know, to work for him. Then JPMorgan Chase has also been a very generous contributor to the campaigns of many of the members of the Senate Banking Committee that we heard ask him questions today.
So in 2010, for instance, JPMorgan topped the industry in terms of lobbying dollars. I think they spent something like upwards of $7 million in lobbying in one year alone. So far this year, I believe JPMorgan has spent about 1.9 million on lobbying, and much of that has been directed at trying to influence the writing of regulations, specifically the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill because Jamie has been a very vociferous critic of the elements of that bill.
BLOCK: What about ties also with the Obama administration apart from Congress?
SILVER-GREENBERG: Right. So I think one of the more notable examples is that he was so well regarded within the Obama administration that Rahm Emanuel was tapped to appear at the bank's annual meeting in 2009. The appearance was eventually scuttled, but you can see that that's the level of kind of comfort, coziness that Jamie Dimon and also JPMorgan Chase has with regulators and the administration in Washington.
BLOCK: Rahm Emanuel, then White House chief of staff.
BLOCK: What about the tone of Jamie Dimon that you heard before the committee today? Did you hear any changes from what you've heard from him before, specifically, say, about regulation and his opposition to it?
SILVER-GREENBERG: No. I think there was actually - what was notable is that even despite, you know, this $2 billion trading loss that could reach upwards of $5 billion when all is said and done, he really has not changed his tone. ...NPR
For all that, the Senate -- at least the Republican senators -- didn't get much satisfaction out of the encounter, according to Dana Milbank.
Republicans found the head of the country’s largest bank to be alarmingly off-message.
Dimon had little interest in joining Republicans in complaining that President Obama’s regulations destroyed capitalism as they knew it. In fact, he even had some kind words for the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. And the banker’s most passionate plea to the lawmakers was one that Republicans most emphatically don’t want to hear: Enact the Simpson-Bowles debt proposal, a package of spending cuts and — gulp — increased tax revenue that was largely scuttled by House Republicans.
“If we had done something remotely like Simpson-Bowles,” Dimon said in response to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) at the end of the hearing, “you would have increased confidence in America. You would have shown a real fix of the long-term fiscal problem. I think you would have had . . . a more effective tax system that is conducive to economic growth.”
In fact, he said, not enacting such a plan “helped cause a downturn last year.” ...Milbank, WaPo
Truth be told, it's the Republicans who are (as usual) deeply into the porn of the encounter. See the shivers running down this Republican senator's spine.
... Who could keep pace with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who said, “We can hardly sit in judgment of your losing $2 billion”? The apparently awestruck senator stammered: “I — I — I think we do need to recognize that you are a very big bank, the biggest in the world.”
Despite all the affirmations of how very big and large and huge and great and powerful Dimon is, he declined to join their all-out assault on the Wall Street reforms. ...Milbank, WaPo
Republicans tried to get a little special love from Dimon and ...failed.