Puritan Success

citybeyoPuritan Success

Lynn Parramore: Jamie Dimon’s Ultra-American Rise and Fall: The Great Gatsby Meets Moby Dick

Australians have an old joke about their country’s founding elements: Sure, we got the criminals, but America got the Puritans, which is much worse.

The folks who arrived on our shores from Europe four centuries ago brought with them some peculiar notions. The Puritans believed in the Calvinist “Doctrine of the Elect,” a depressing divine plan whereby God pre-selected those destined for heaven and damned everybody else to hell. You could never know who was on the A-list and who was in for a fiery eternity. At least that’s what old John Calvin had taught.

But mere mortals could never be content with so mysterious a system, so they became obsessed with finding out who was elect. Material possessions, they concluded, must be a sign. Didn’t people who worked hard and kept up their prayers often amass more stuff than others? Hard work was godly, and since it often resulted in riches, they must be godly, too. Wealthiness was next to godliness.

In an essay on The Great Gatsby, America’s great literary ode to our distinguishing love of wealth, John A. Pidgeon notes that the striving for money became a means of salvation. Take the Puritan reverence of riches, add in equal parts transcendentalism and rugged individualism, and you’ve got the American Dream in all its shining glory: If you work hard, if you believe fervently enough, you can make yourself a fortune. You, too, can join the ranks of the elect.

Lynn Parramore: Jamie Dimon’s Ultra-American Rise and Fall: The Great Gatsby Meets Moby Dick


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Corporate Governance and JPMorgan Chase


An American Fable
An American Fable

Corporate Governance and JPMorgan Chase

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase

You’d think shareholders would be up in arms at Dimon and the Board of Directors for mismanaging their bank so badly. And yet they’re all still in their seats, thanks in part to the way large corporations are allowed to manipulate their own corporate governance.  Dimon is both CEO and Board Chair, an extraordinarily privileged position he was not asked to give up after the London Whale scandal.

And about that scandal: There are four things worth knowing about the Whale:

  1. The trades were illegal, according to all the evidence.
  2. Despite the bank’s bragging about its risk management model — which it publicized widely as a lure to investors — that model wasn’t followed by the London office.
  3. Jamie Dimon’s publicists and politician friends have burnished his reputation as “America’s best banker” – and he bypassed his bank’s org chart so that the London unit reported directly to him.
  4. His friends and publicists have also burnished his reputation as the country’s most ethical banker. As Henny Youngman used to say, How do ya like me now?

We’ve been all over JPMorgan Chase and Jamie Dimon for a long time. (See below for a partial listing), so we’re glad to see the public tide finally turning against the bank and its leader. One of the triggers for that shift was the Senate’s report on the bank’s trade, which is as damning in its own way as Rosner’s.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase


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JPMorgan chief gets $17 million pay package (vis U.S. Business on MSNBC)

From the article

Jamie Dimon (picture from Business Week)

After posting a $17.4 billion profit for 2010, JPMorgan Chase & Co. awarded Chief Executive Jamie Dimon restricted stock and options that could be worth $17 million.

The award is a large part of overall compensation for Dimon, who runs the second-largest U.S. bank by assets. It includes a grant of about $12 million worth of restricted stock, plus options worth about $5 million based on a commonly used valuation method.

I could comment on this but I found a far more eloquent body of thought on this subject than anything I could say by myself.

I want you to go to the comments.

When I started writing this, there were 272 comments. By the time I had finished there were 292.

There are some vigorous thoughts expressed in that section. I don’t recommend you stay too long. We probably should avoid that level of strong emotion for more than limited periods of time. Many of us have high blood pressure or are simply in need of exercise.

I also recommend that you read some of the comments, save the link and go back tomorrow. I bet there will be more than a thousand by then.

Have a good read!

James Pilant

CEO of JP Morgan “tired” of Villification

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan says –

“We do not have change-of-control agreements, special executive retirement plans, golden parachutes, special severance packages or merger bonuses,” he told a JP Morgan healthcare conference, adding that many of company’s employees are in client-facing jobs and work hard with small and mid-size businesses. “I am a little tired of the constant vilification of these people,” he said.

I am going to do my best to make this gentleman even more tired.

When I was a young man a very long time ago, there was all this talk of people refusing responsiblity. Usually there would be a seedy hippie sitting on the witness stand in a court room full of dignified justified middle class citizens. He would have done some readily apparent crime and would claim that it was society’s fault that he had committed this act to the derision of all concerned. I never really saw much of this actually taking place, old as I am.

But here I am in 2010 looking at the “villification” of these financial workers. These huge financial institutions through a form of complex transactions that essentially mimic gambling at a casino did damage to this country that will take decades to repair. My favorite part of his defense is that his obvious claim that most of his workers are innocent and shouldn’t be villified. We of the general public have a difficult time perceiving on a case by case basis who destroyed much of the American economy and therefore wind up distrustful of the entire industry. He is surprised by this.

The villification has just begun. You see I do not believe this economic crisis is over and I definitely do not believe the damage done by these institutions is going to stop or abate.

James Pilant