Jamie Dimon hits final stage of grief: acceptance

By Rob Cox
April 10, 2014

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In coping with the tragedy of the financial crisis, no Wall Street executive has exhibited the five stages of grief like Jamie Dimon. The JPMorgan chief executive has passed through phases of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. His latest annual letter to shareholders finally shows a desire to accept what’s happened and move on.

Not everyone experiences all of the five stages outlined by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” Nor do people pass through them in any prescribed order. Dimon, however, offers a classic case study.

From the start of the troubles in 2008, Dimon denied that JPMorgan needed any government help, accepting bailout money only to take one for the team. He did grab some assistance from Washington in acquiring first Bear Stearns and later Washington Mutual, but he remained confident these deals would not damage what he dubbed JPMorgan’s “fortress balance sheet.” They have since cost the firm billions in losses and legal costs.

When legislators began the passage of more stringent regulations in the wake of the crisis, Dimon flashed anger. He even publicly challenged the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Then came the bargaining: Dimon’s 2012 shareholders’ letter devoted plenty of space to reforms the bank disagreed with, including the Volcker rule. He fired this line at those writing the rules: “The result of financial reform has not been intelligent design.”

Last year’s letter read more like the confessions of a depressed financier. There was contrition and lament over JPMorgan’s “whale trade” debacle, whose severity Dimon initially dismissed. Before the 2013 annual meeting, Dimon threatened to walk if stripped of his chairman’s title, according to news reports.

All of which leads to Dimon’s just-released 2014 missive. There is no lambasting of watchdogs. Though Dimon ticks through the costs of compliance with regulations and the attendant risks for investors and clients, he concludes that “in the end, all these efforts will make us a better and stronger company” and that as a whole, the new regulatory system has “made the global banking system safer, more transparent and more accountable.” That sounds a lot like Kübler-Ross’s final stage of grief: acceptance.


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Thanks for the article, Rob.

I would just like to point out that, although you seem able to “identify” all of the stages in Dimon’s behavior, it’s important to keep in mind that it is nothing but that–identification.

As I hope many understand, when we are given a set of tools through which we evaluate the environment or certain behaviors, we tend to always make the connection between them, even if they are not necessarily explicit or don’t really hold any meaning.

Most CEOs would first begin by defending the honor of their company and, once matters settle, proceed to optimistically reflect upon the past and nurture the future. This isn’t exactly a demonstrable case of a set of “predictable” stages, but a logical behavior that almost “could not have been otherwise.”

This being the case, my sole point is to make the observation that, while the article seems to make a fair point about Jamie Dimon and a big crisis he seemed eager to reject, it doesn’t necessarily say much about him as a human being or professional. Such assumption would be far from reality.

Posted by BPhJ | Report as abusive

Grief??? Have you seen how much Jamie Dimon has paid himself for gambling with Other People’s Money and letting his minions be the fall guys for the rare slap on the wrist?

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

Bah humbug – JPM will continue to be banksters. The lip service is purely to prevent forced breakup and ‘real regulation’ which is what would be better for main street America.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

Slightly more transparent and accountable is more like it. The trajectory has shifted but not even close to good enough, tic tock! L.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive