Recovery Begins When Addiction Ends: An Open Letter to Jamie Dimon

Dear Jamie Dimon:

We, the Alternative Banking Working Group of Occupy Wall Street, are staging an intervention on your behalf. Unlike many in the financial industry and press, we will not be deceived by attempts at misdirection and we are not intimidated by complexity. Your days of gambling with taxpayers’ money and pressuring the regulators to let business go on as usual are over. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for us, and it’s not good for our country.

It’s been a good ride, and we’ve been impressed with how long you have managed to keep it up. The incredible complexity of the financial system helped, of course, just as it helped obscure countless other crimes and frauds.

It’s truly a work of art how you and your enablers have created a system that nobody fully understands. It’s the perfect cover for your continuing addiction to risk, power, and money, and it keeps everyone confused just long enough, well past any statute of limitation for criminal prosecution.

Now your addiction is out of control. Rather than quitting while you and JPMorgan Chase were ahead (if you ever were), you’ve been driven to inhale every last dollar, no matter the risks involved for you and for all of us. What has really worked for you personally, and has allowed you to remain credible for so long, is your intense denial as to the underlying question of what year it is.

You seem to live in a time warp where it is still 2004, the housing market is booming, along with the associated securities market, and you and your friends are printing money with no downside in sight. But it turns out that ’04 model was a bit of a lemon — or, to borrow your words, “poorly conceived, poorly vetted, and poorly executed.”

Here is some sobering news: You are, in fact, living in 2012, leading an enormous, too-big-to-fail bank, which is being continuously bailed out by the Fed’s unlimited loans at 0% interest, on the taxpayers’ dime. In a reasonable world, under these conditions, JPMorgan Chase would be a utility bank focused on the public good, and you would be merely its custodian. You would not be incentivized to take crazy risks to chase yield. Your job would be incredibly boring and your bank only very mildly profitable.

But, sadly, the addiction is still doing the talking. So we’re here to say “no more.” It’s time to put down that fifth drink and walk away from the baccarat table, because no matter how many martinis you have and no matter how much money you lose, you’re still a glorified accountant, not a secret agent. And that’s fine. There’s nothing that JPMorgan Chase, and the world economy for that matter, needs more than a very good accountant.

Perhaps you will protest that you don’t need this intervention. In fact, over the past few days you have repeatedly acknowledged your sloppiness, stupidity, and bad judgment. And though that sounds compelling and humble, as we know you expect it to, you haven’t gone far enough to demonstrate that you understand just how deeply in trouble you are. And don’t claim stupidity – “stupid” isn’t a word associated with Jamie Dimon. You need to admit that you are powerless over your addiction and that your bank has become unmanageable.

Here is what we ask of you:

First, stop gambling with our money and our futures. Stop lobbying for deregulation — we are way past that now. Stop lying to us all by doing silly things like pushing proprietary trading into the treasury office and renaming it, or by pretending that there are no losses when there very clearly are, to the tune of $2,000,000,000 and growing. And, please, stop trying to convince us that nobody at JPMorgan Chase saw this coming. Ina Drew was offering to resign in April but you kept telling the world that nothing serious was amiss, a lie which could get you serious jail time.

Second, admit that your bank is too big to take risks that neither you nor anyone in your bank understands or is able to handle, and that the only thing that will stop you from misbehaving is strong, enforced, and uncompromised regulation.

Third, resign as Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It is inappropriate, and dangerous to us, for you to oversee the banking system or the economy when you have proven incompetent at overseeing your own bank — particularly since the Federal Reserve is investigating your bank and your behavior.

Because this in an intervention, you’re going to need to get used to a lot of new folks who will challenge the bad decisions that have become habit for you. The SEC should be facilitating the first step by getting you into a full in-patient rehab program, where the Fed, the FDIC, and every other regulator who has an interest in your bank’s good health can help you make a searching and fearless moral inventory of your bank and its choices. Although the “revolving door” connecting Wall Street to the Beltway has turned our regulatory agencies into the Keystone Kops of the 21st century, your crisis should serve as a wake-up call and put an end to their denial as well.

When you reach your twelfth step, you can help the regulators write tougher regulations based on the knowledge you acquired during your efforts to undermine them.

After all, if you can’t manage the risk, then nobody can. And you’ve taken the first step by admitting that you can’t. Now take the other eleven.

Best regards,
The Alternative Banking Working Group