JPMorgan Chance CEO Jamie Dimon didn't say much that was unexpected during his Senate testimony today, but like most people talking in front of cameras in Washington these days he probably hopes that a few of his words aren't someday used against him.
The Senate Banking Committee hearing on JPMorgan's $2 billion "London Whale" trading loss was a mostly predictable Washington affair, with Senators from both sides using the opportunity to push their own viewpoints and agenda, lobbing Dimon softballs or looking for the perfect question to nail him with. There was some debate about what makes a hedge trade a hedge trade (Dimon insisted that it's hard to draw a clear line between a bank hedging its risk and one making profitable proprietary bets) and he did admit that some of what JPMorgan had done at its Chief Investment Office was "indefensible."
Perhaps his most dramatic quote, however, came when the discussion to turned to the concept of "too big to fail" and if the government should prop up banks that get too reckless. Dimon stated emphatically that all banks (even his own) should be allowed to fail when things go bad, their investors should lose their money, institutions should be "dismantled," and "the name should be buried in disgrace." Check out video of his answer below:
Dimon called it "bankruptcy for big dumb banks," provided that it doesn't cost the taxpayers any money. We're not saying that there's any danger of that happening to JPMorgan Chase or that Dimon himself would come crawling before Congress begging for help if it did, but it did have the eerie feeling of a moment you might see replayed in some future political ad. Like the dark foreshadowing of some awful political thriller — or an Old Testament story — we hope this wasn't the pride that comes before the fall.