If you want to understand Wall Street, this little clip will explain it quite well. Alex Pareene somehow landed on a CNBC segment with Maria Bartiromo and Duff McDonald. The ensuing hilarity is, on some level, not hilarious but instead pathetic.
What's instructive about this segment is the disconnect between the Wall Streeters and the rest of us. Pareene laid it out quite well at the beginning of the segment where he said Jamie Dimon should be fired from JP Morgan simply on the basis of the fines and regulatory levies against the bank. McDonald and Bartiromo were shocked -- SHOCKED -- because...profits.
Maria Bartiromo: Alex, to you first. Legal problems aside, JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today. You believe the leader of that bank should step down?
Alex Pareene: I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say “Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.”
This is a very strong point by Pareene — and it’s a point which was well taken by Barclays. When the UK bank was fined $450 million last year for its role in the Libor scandal, its CEO duly resigned. After all, a $450 million fine is prima facie evidence that the CEO really isn’t in control of his bank.
But $450 million is a rounding error with respect to the kind of fines that Dimon is now talking about paying — $4 billion, $11 billion, $20 billion, who knows where this will stop. Tim Fernholzhas a good roundup of all the various things that JP Morgan is in trouble for; Libor manipulation is at #5 on his list of seven oustanding investigations — on top of another four settled investigations. If Libor manipulation alone was enough to mean the end of Bob Diamond, it’s hard to see how Jamie Dimon should be able to survive this tsunami of litigation.
But...but Alex? PROFITS!!! One of the most hilarious moments in the entire segment came after Duff (old boy) and Maria both agreed that there couldn't possibly be an adequate replacement for Dimon because...profits.
Duff McDonald: It’s preposterous. The stock’s touching a ten-year high. It’s a cash-generating machine.
Maria Bartiromo: Should we talk about the financial strength of JP Morgan? The company continues to churn out tens of billions of dollars in earnings and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. How do you criticize that?
Pareene quite reasonably suggested that the corruption inside JP Morgan should probably mean it's better off simply disbanding or breaking up. The ensuing wails were hilarious, with Bartiromo saying Pareene shouldn't come on CNBC and spout off lies with no facts, and by the way, Mr. Pareene, name that corruption.
So he did. Hiring children of Chinese officials in order to get your deals done? Yes, that's corrupt.
Bloomberg reported on it back in August:
A probe of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s (JPM) hiring practices in China has uncovered red flags across Asia, including an internal spreadsheet that linked appointments to specific deals pursued by the bank, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The Justice Department has joined the Securities and Exchange Commission in examining whether JPMorgan hired people so that their family members in government and elsewhere would steer business to the firm, possibly violating bribery laws, said one of the people, all of whom asked to not be named because the inquiry isn’t public. The bank has opened an internal investigation that has flagged more than 200 hires for review, said two people with knowledge of the examination, results of which JPMorgan is sharing with regulators.
Facts did not stop Maria from outright calling Pareene a liar and fabricator, even though the corruption is but a Google search away from her fingertips.
If you want to understand how Wall Street thinks, this clip illustrates it perfectly. Profits matter more than morals. In fact, morals matter not at all, because as long as it's a cash machine churning out millions and billions for investors, who cares about a few corrupt activities in China, or big fines here in the states, or the fact that JP Morgan was one of the key players in our economic meltdown?
Because profits. And cash machines.
Try as he might, Pareene couldn't pierce that tiny bubble they occupy, not even with facts and strong arguments. Because nothing speaks louder than profits.