Making Sense of the Credit Debacle

Dimon in the Rough
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
March 2 2009 2:24 PM

Making Sense of the Credit Debacle

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I think what I'll say will likely echo most of Gillian's sentiments. In researching my book on Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, I've been confronted by the question of just how this one bank came to avoid many of the pitfalls that its competitors fell into. Where collateralized debt obligations are concerned, the chiefs of investment banking at JPM (Bill Winters and Steve Black) seemed to figure out, long before the competition, that the risk-reward trade-off of underwriting CDOs with the likelihood that you might end up holding a portion on your own books was not worth the risk. Why the others did not figure this out is simple: The fees were too easy, and they were too lazy to realize those fees weren't worth the risk. Did JPMorgan dodge the total bullet? Of course not. They've been hung out to dry on their leveraged loan exposure and are about to suffer the effects of being a bank in a down economy—bad mortgages, bad car loans, bad credit cards. But that's the business of being a bank. Dimon would tell you that himself.

Duff McDonald is a contributing editor at New York and Portfolio and is completing a biography of Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.

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