JPMorgan chief Jimmy Dimon criticizes China’s ruling party

Jamie Dimon is a famous Wall Street wisdom writer, but telling jokes about China is tough even for the world’s top bank executive.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the CEO’s Club at Boston College, Damon quipped: ‘I was just in Hong Kong and made a joke that the Communist Party is celebrating its centenary. So is JP Morgan. I’ll bet we’ll last longer.

It didn’t stop there. I can’t say that in China. “They’re probably listening anyway,” the 65-year-old banker added.

Speech: JPMorgan President Jimmy Dimon (pictured) has twice apologized for remarks he made about China at the CEO Club at Boston College

Founded in 1895, J.P. Morgan has operated in China since 1921 – the same year the Chinese Communist Party was officially formed.

Obviously, the comments were met with howls of laughter, with those who know Damon familiar with his sense of humor.

But in a sign that even the King of Wall Street is wary of Beijing, he has since apologized — twice.

He first said: ‘I’m sorry and I shouldn’t have made that comment. I was trying to emphasize the strength and longevity of our company.

He added hours later: “I am really sorry for my last comment because it is never right to joke or defame any group of people, be it a country or its leadership or any part of a society and culture.

“Speaking in this way can move away from the constructive and deep dialogue in society, which is needed now more than ever.”

Damon has been seen – so far at least – as almost untouchable.

He served 16 years as the bank’s CEO, surviving the financial crisis and making JP Morgan the top performer on Wall Street.

His popularity in China betrays self-confidence – and indeed arrogance – in stark contrast to his British rival, HSBC, which has been accused of “blinding” to Beijing.

There is little sign of his willingness to step down. Despite turning 65, it is understood he wants to stay for another five years, telling Fox Business over the summer: “I won’t play golf and smell flowers.”

He survived throat cancer and underwent emergency heart surgery at the start of the epidemic.

He has outdone other giants who led their banks into the financial crisis, including Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein.

Powerful duo: Damon with his wife Judy, described by classmate Jeffrey Immelt ¿ later president of General Electric ¿ as 'by far the best-looking, sexiest and smartest girl in the class'

Powerful duo: Damon with his wife Judy, described by classmate Jeffrey Immelt – who later became president of General Electric – as ‘by far the best-looking, sexiest and smartest girl in the class’

Damon’s success is due to his sheer energy, and while he has a good sense of humor, this can quickly turn into a violent temper.

He gets up at 5 a.m. and is fully informed and in the office by 7.30 a.m., though he supposedly cut back on running and tennis.

He appears at the events alongside his wife, Judy, whom we acquired at Harvard and is described by classmate Jeffrey Immelt – who later became president of General Electric – as ‘the best-looking, sexiest, and smartest girl in the class’.

He is said to remember the names of every young man he meets but also has a list of those he owes favors to. He was never afraid to speak out and was even willing to clash openly with heads of state.

In 2011 he asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy to persuade the G-20 to avoid “excessive regulation” of banks.

But Sarkozy saw the red and launched an attack on bankers, saying that during the financial crisis they had taken steps that “defy common sense” and affected millions of people.

Unsurprisingly, Damon’s time at JPMorgan made him a very wealthy man. Last year, he earned £24m, which is the same as his wages in 2019.

But a big stain on his notebook was the 2012 London Whale scandal, which led to a Canary Wharf banker at JP Morgan losing a whopping £4.2 billion.

Damon initially dismissed the story as “a storm in a teapot,” which he soon regretted.

Later, he was more remorseful, describing the deals as “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored.” The bank eventually paid more than £1 billion in fines to settle US and UK regulatory investigations into the matter.

For a while, Dimon’s rock star status was under threat as regulators questioned whether banks were unable to control their employees after the financial crisis and whether bankers were still addicted to risk.

But if competitors think it’s Damon’s end, they’re wrong.

He knows how to retain power and has either fired or sidelined potential successors, including Bill Winters, who took over management of Standard Chartered, and Jes Staley, who went to Barclays.

However, question marks have grown over whether Damon could really last for another five years.

There has been grumbling that British banker Marian Lake, a University of Reading graduate and single mother of three, is close to taking the title.

Lake is responsible for managing the consumer lending arm of JPMorgan.

If Lake succeeds in achieving this, it will become the second major British CEO on Wall Street with Scottish-born Jane Fraser led by Citigroup. But for now, just like the Chinese Communist Party, Dimon appears well established.

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