Jamie Dimon’s 2013: “Difficult and nerve-wracking”

Relax, buddy. Jamie’s had a tough year.
Relax, buddy. Jamie’s had a tough year.
Image: Reuters/Larry Downing
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It wasn’t an easy year to be a master of the universe.

Ask Jamie Dimon, who, in his annual letter to shareholders, says that wading through the bank’s legal morass in 2013 was the most difficult moment of his professional career. All told, JPMorgan made some $8.6 billion in legal settlements (after taxes) during 2013. Here’s a excerpt of the JPMorgan honcho’s 31-page missive to shareholders:

The most painful, difficult and nerve-wracking experience that I have ever dealt with professionally was trying to resolve the legal issues we had this past year with multiple government agencies and regulators as we tried to get many large and risky legal issues behind us, including the Chief Investment Office (CIO) situation (that happened in 2012) and mortgage-related matters (that happened primarily in 2005-2008, a significant portion of which occurred at heritage Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual (WaMu).

The fact that he’s referring to the legal travails he personally experienced last year as the most “nerve-wracking” in his career is saying something. The 58-year -old grand panjandrum has seen a lot in his more than three decades on Wall Street. It almost makes you wonder if Dimon is overlooking some pretty harrowing episodes he’s gone through as a promising banker.

  • For example, was dragging himself down to Washington to tangle with Attorney General Eric Holder more nerve-wracking than attending a meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to discuss(paywall) the perilous state of the entire banking system with other CEOs back in 2008?
  • Accepting the resignation of close colleague Ina Drew over the “London whale” $6 billion trading fiasco in 2012 must have been tough too.
  • How about the whole London whale situation? That must have been a fairly jittery time. The bank was forced to restate earnings and record a whopping $2 billion loss (paywall), after referring to media reports about the trading scandal as a “tempest in a teapot?” The total amount of losses was closer to four times the original estimates.
  • And then there was that time when Dimon’s mentor, former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weillunceremoniously ousted Dimon in 1998.

Whatever the case, it’s all water under the bridge now. Jamie still managed to score $20 million in compensation in 2013, according to the bank’s proxy statement.

It’s not clear that 2014 is going to be markedly better in terms of financial results for the bank. (First-quarter results at most institutions aren’t expected to dazzle the markets.) Regulators are tightening the screws on the banking system in the form of tougher limits on bank borrowing. As Dimon puts it in his letter, the bank “will spend a lot of energy in 2014 adapting, adjusting and navigating to the new financial architecture.”