Thus, I had close contact with then-Chairman Bill Butcher and President Tom Labrecque. Particularly the latter, as a long-running project necessitated periodic contact with him over several years.
Between my personal interactions with the senior managers of the bank, and its performance during the period, I would say that these were not particularly effective managers. Nor, outside of their original respective areas of competence, did they give any evidence of being smart about managing a large company, let alone a bank.
Butcher had been a corporate lending officer. A salesman. He had no particular expertise in management.
Labrecque had been an accountant at the bank. Apparently judged unsuitable for credit training, he was never a line lending officer, but, rather, a bean counter in a then-obscure funding unit engaged in trading Treasuries. His rise had much to do with some accidents which left positions above him unexpectedly open. And the rise of importance of his unit, as Fed Chairman Paul Volcker took the lid off of interest rates during the Carter era.
My point is, just because a person is the CEO or Chairman of Chase (Manhattan) Bank, or its successor banks, is absolutely no reason, alone, to accord him credibility beyond his actual, original area of business training or practice. Neither Butcher, nor Labrecque were, in the event, smart men when it came to operating one of the nation's largest money center banks.
On Friday, I heard a news story on CNBC alleging that Jamie had come out explicitly in favor of 'mark to market' as a valuation methodology.
Many have claimed this approach, mandated, in its simplest sense, by the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, in a fit of post-Enron pique, is largely responsible for the rapid evaporation of value from the balance sheets of US financial institutions in the past 15 months. In various posts on this blog, I have argued as much, too.
Let's recall from whence Jamie hails, professionally. As I wrote in this post, nearly a year ago,
"If you are familiar with Dimon's mentor, Sandy Weill's origins, then none of this should surprise you. Weill was the original low-cost consolidator of the brokerage industry wire houses in the 1970s and '80s. He was never an investment banker. Rather, his specialty was combining commodity-like retail brokers, combining back offices, sometimes improving technology, and reaping the improved margins. Eventually, he ran out of wire houses to buy and consolidate, so he sold out to American Express.
By the time he was ousted from Citigroup, Weill had demonstrated that he had learned no new tricks since he lost control of ShearsonLehmanBrothers to Amex. Citi's topsy-turvy growth and increased complexity resulted in serious lapses in risk management and attention to business details. Significant growth was not something Citi achieved, sans acquisition, under Weill.
Personally, I doubt that Dimon knows much that he did not learn from Weill. His signal achievement since being tossed out of Citigroup consisted of giving BancOne the "Weill treatment." It is not yet clear he's done anything more at Chase, nor that he is capable of more, either."
Lofty current title notwithstanding, Dimon is, in reality, little more than a fixer's fixer. Sandy Weill's erstwhile young bagman/apprentice.
I believe no credibility whatsoever should be accorded Dimon's pronouncements about anything beyond Chase's next quarter's performance, if that.
He's no leading light of finance, much less business in general. There is absolutely nothing in Dimon's background to suggest or give evidence that he is capable of uttering any sensible words on the concept of valuation and 'mark to market' rules thereof.