By Simon Johnson. This is a long blog post, about 2,800 words.
On the “PBS NewsHour” in late May, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated that the continued presence of Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, on the board on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York creates a perception problem that should be addressed. He used the diplomatic language favored by finance ministers, but the message was loud and clear: Mr. Dimon should resign from the board of the New York Fed.
Mr. Dimon has been an effective opponent of financial reform over the past four years. He remains an outspoken advocate of the view that global mega-banks can manage their own risks, and he has stated publicly that the new international and national rules on capital requirements are “Anti-American.”
Mr. Dimon now finds himself at the center of a number of official investigations into how his bank could have lost so much money so quickly in its London-based trading operation – including whether adverse material information was disclosed to regulators and to markets in a timely manner.
(The Wall Street Journal reported this week that serious concerns about the London trading operation had been raised – but not made public – two years ago; the New York Times has reported similar concerns. On Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee interviewed Mr. Dimon; the event was inconclusive, perhaps because JPMorgan Chase is a major donor to some members of the committee.)
On Monday, Lee Bollinger, chairman of the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and president of Columbia University, weighed in to contradict Mr. Geithner in no uncertain terms. The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Bollinger’s view: Mr. Dimon should stay on the New York Fed’s board, and critics attacking the Fed have a “false understanding” of how it works. (Please note the correction to the original Wall Street Journal story, with an important change to the reporting of what Mr. Bollinger said.) This is a remarkable statement in part because Mr. Geithner is himself a former president of the New York Fed, so it is hard to see how he would have a false understanding of how the Fed works.