Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dimon Says US Banks Should Dictate to Regulators « naked capitalism

Dimon Says US Banks Should Dictate to Regulators « naked capitalism
Now that Steve Jobs has retired from Apple, Jamie Dimon seems determined to assume his role as the CEO with the most effective reality distortion sphere. You can infer that from the magnitude of the whoppers he is telling and the size of the audience he is trying to bamboozle.
But while Jobs’ Svengali tendencies have gotten more than occasional mention, they weren’t a major failing. Jobs not only saved Apple, but he spearheaded the development of important new product categories. By contrast, Dimon has long been a bully, a smart and capable bully, but a bully nevertheless (I have reports going back to his first year at Harvard Business School, and it takes some doing to be memorably obnoxious by dint of the competition in that category).
Now on the surface, Dimon’s latest brazen remark isn’t quite as gross as my headline suggests. He is merely saying that US banks should not be subject to the new incoming international bank rules, known as Basel III. That might seem to be a narrower statement, but as we show, when you parse his logic, it amounts to banking uber alles.
Here is the relevant section of an interview published today in the Financial Times:
New international bank capital rules are “anti-American” and the US should consider pulling out of the Basel group of global regulators, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, has said….
The Basel III capital rules are designed to make the financial system safer by making banks build up risk-absorbent “core tier one” capital to at least 7 per cent of risk-weighted assets. The biggest, including JPMorgan, have to reach 9.5 per cent.
“I’m very close to thinking the United States shouldn’t be in Basel any more. I would not have agreed to rules that are blatantly anti-American,” he said. “Our regulators should go there and say: ‘If it’s not in the interests of the United States, we’re not doing it’.”
Mr Dimon also criticised global liquidity rules, arguing that regulations that viewed covered bonds – a European market feature – as highly liquid but discounted government-backed mortgage-backed securities in the US were unfair and that other details hit investment banking activity core to US banks hardest.
Regulators say all countries compromised on agreeing the rules, which put eight banks – five from outside the US – in the top level of capital. But Mr Dimon said there was a threat that Asian banks, in particular, could take US market share because of the combination of US domestic and global rules.
“I think any American president, secretary of Treasury, regulator or other leader would want strong, healthy global financial firms and not think that somehow we should give up that position in the world and that would be good for your country,” said Mr Dimon. “If they think that’s good for the country then we have a different view on how the economy operates, how the world operates.”
Let’s start with some background. Treasury secretary Geithner said repeatedly during the Dodd Frank process that the shortcomings in the legislation didn’t matter all that much, since having banks carry larger capital buffers would do the trick, and that was coming with Basel III. In other words, Geithner argued the higher capital requirements to be imposed by international rulemaking process was where the critical banking regulatory fix would happen. And this is what Dimon is now, loudly, out to undermine.
Let’s go to the Dimon argument, such as it is. What about “international” does he not understand? If you want to play outside America’s borders, you can expect to be subject to different rules. The Eurozone, much to the consternation of US and UK players, has basically told the Anglo private equity firms to go to hell. They are forbidden both from doing deals in EU countries and from raising funds there unless they register and obey local rules. The Eurozone has gotten sick of rapacious foreign players buying decent European companies, cutting jobs, saddling them with lots of debt, and shrugging their shoulders when they miscalculate (often) and the rent extraction kills the company. The EU rules, among other things, will restrict how much a PE firm could lever up a portfolio company.

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