StanChart’s Reverse Ferret and the Indomitable Dimon

So Standard Chartered did launder Iranian money. After huffing, puffing, denying, blaming jealous Americans, and even having the British government argue on their behalf, they were quick to pull a reverse ferret and cut a $340 million check to make their legal problems go away. It’s extraordinary, and rather dispiriting, how rarely banks fight for their innocence.

A reversing ferret

(The ferret term comes from Fleet Street. Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of The Sun used to refer to pursuing a public figure as putting a ferret up their trouser leg. When the attack had to be recalled, he’d shout across the newsroom “reverse ferret!”).

More amusingly, Jessica Pressler has a great interview with Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase in the latest New York magazine. Whatever you think of Dimon, he makes good copy. Some highlights:

“There are huge benefits to size,” he says instead, a distinct air of tired-of-this-shit creeping into his voice. “We bank Caterpillar in like 40 countries. We can do a $20 billion bridge loan overnight for a company that’s about to do a major acquisition. Size lets us build a $500 million data center that speeds up transactions and invest billions of dollars in products like ATMs and apps that allow your iPhone to deposit checks. We move $2 trillion a day, and you can see it by account, by company. These aren’t, like, little things. And they accrue to the customer. That’s what capitalism is.”

“Everyone is talking about the culture, the culture, and all that, and it’s just not true,” Dimon says. “Most bankers are decent, honorable people. We’re wrapped up in all this crap right now. We made a mistake. We’re sorry. It doesn’t detract from all the good things we’ve done. I am not responsible for the financial crisis,” he adds. “I hate to tell you. We were a port of safety in the storm. I find it unbelievable that that is the general theme—that you have to walk in a room and act like you are responsible for things you are not responsible for.”

“I’m an outspoken defender of the truth,” he corrects me. “Everyone is afraid of retaliation and retribution. We recently had an event with a hundred small bankers here, and 85 percent of them said they can’t challenge the regulation because of the potential retribution. That’s a terrible thing. Okay? This is not the Soviet Union. This is the United States of America. That’s what I remember. Guess what,” he says, almost shouting now. “It’s a free. Fucking. Country.

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