Jamie Dimon Lets Smaller Rival Grab His Pulpit

Agenda-Setting Financial Insight.
April 5 2012 5:29 PM

Jamie Dimon Lets Smaller Rival Grab His Pulpit

108429276
JPMorgan Chase published its annual report on April 4, including a 38-page letter to shareholders from Chief Executive Jamie Dimon.

Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images

Step aside Jamie Dimon. The JPMorgan chief can usually be relied on for a feisty and fresh letter to his bank’s shareholders - one that has come to be more closely watched than others written by his peers. Even Warren Buffett has showered praise on Dimon’s epistles. This year, though, his efforts fall a bit flat. That clears the way for the pen of Robert Wilmers. The boss of regional bank M&T has a take on the state of financial markets that makes it the must-read missive of the season. 

That doesn’t mean investors should crumple or disregard Dimon’s letter. His 38-page opus covers plenty of important ground. The sections explaining market-making and share buybacks are informative - but aren’t necessarily new either. In fact, many of Dimon’s musings rehash old ground, including his gripes about the Durbin Amendment, Basel III being anti-American and other regulation he has attacked in the past. 

For those who like Dimon’s traditional brand of fire, however, Wilmers is the place to turn in 2012. What makes the M&T chief’s 22-page dispatch stand out is a thoughtful and at times blunt assessment of the industry - and beyond. 

For one, Wilmers offers a sound defense of U.S. regional banks that will strike a chord in the era of too big to fail. He’s no fan of Wall Street, deriding almost three decades of “a pattern of investing in areas where they possessed little knowledge,” appearing to “seek dominance at the expense of leadership” and stating that they “continue to distort our economy.” He even dug up some provocative figures to support his case. Take this one: the top six banks, presumably JPMorgan included, have been fined $47.6 billion for at least 207 transgressions since 2002. 

The letter does at times read like a litany of complaints. Accounting, rating agencies, government-sponsored enterprises and regulators all come in for his scorn. But it all manages to come together as a well-made argument that greed and incompetence have undermined both trust and decent leadership in the financial sector. Dimon might not agree with all the points Wilmers makes. But he’ll be hard-pressed to find fault with the tone.

Read more at Reuters Breakingviews.

Antony Currie has more than a decade of experience as a financial journalist, having worked with Euromoney since 1996, most recently as a US editor. He has worked on assignments in the major financial centres of Europe and the US and written stories on capital markets, global economies and the investment banking industry.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.