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Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and Brave New Films founder and president.

December 21st, 2011 4:00 PM

Why Jamie Dimon Just Doesn't Get It

JPMorgan Chase's CEO defends the bankers who brought the economy down

Jamie Dimon, the infamous CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is back to doing what he does best: defending the bankers of the 1% against the petulant 99%. "Acting like everyone who's been successful is bad and because you're rich you're bad, I just don't get it," he said at a recent investors conference. "Sometimes there's a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole." Dimon says this as if he's not one of the baddest apples in the barrel.

 Let's review a few of his misdeeds:

  • Under his leadership, JPMorgan Chase "misled" investors (that's "defrauded," in plain English) on mortgage sales to help spur the financial crisis. The company then successfully lobbied for a $25 billion bailout and $391 billion in virtually interest-free loans.
  • He leaked false information about Washington Mutual's finances so he could buy the company at a bargain price.
  • JPMorgan Chase was part of the "robo-signing" scandal in which banks foreclosed on homes without verifying that such action was legal and justified.
  • He hid the fact that one of JPMorgan Chase's risky derivatives deals, known as "Squared," was actually designed in part by a hedge fund that bet against a good chunk of the deal.
  • JPMorgan Chase recently engaged in bid-rigging and made illegal payments to win bond deals from municipal governments across the country.

This staggering lack of self-awareness is not limited to Dimon. A spate of one-percenters have been defending their tarnished image by insisting that they're the ones who create jobs and allow the economy to succeed. They're calling their critics "imbeciles" and saying an attack on them is an attack on "the very productive." 

Let's forget, for a moment, that jobs are actually created when middle-class and lower-income consumers have enough money in their pockets to drive up demand. Let's just look at what some of worst of the 1% have done to exploit the 99% and make our economy worse, not better.

  • Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs touted mortgage assets to clients while privately betting $10 billion they'd fail -- fostering the kind of excessive risk-taking that caused the financial meltdown. Oh, and then he lied to Congress about it.
  • Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial deceived investors into buying risky "subprime" mortgages, leading to thousands of foreclosures. He kept the law off his back by allowing key senators to take out mortgages for which the usual fees and rules didn't apply.
  • Brian Moynihan of Bank of America overcharged customers for overdraft fees and kicked up to 10,000 people out of their homes illegally.
  • Darrell Issa, a Congressman from California who's worth between $240-500 million, pressured federal regulators to back off a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs while holding millions in company assets. He also intervened in Congress on behalf of Merrill Lynch while being a major customer of the firm.
  • Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, has established a virtual monopoly on the food supply by putting his company's patented, genetically modified seed in about 95% of U.S. soybeans, 80% of U.S. corn, and massive amounts of other crops. Indeed, his company is helping destroy the American heartland by intimidating small farmers with frivolous lawsuits and intense pressure not to work with Monsanto's competitors. (The ideal of "competitive markets" is invoked only when a company is trying to avoid regulation.)

This list could go on, of course -- and it does, at the Who Are the 1 Percent website, where people are voting to determine which corporate bad guys I'll make videos exposing. We started this vote, which will close by Christmas, to fight those who are making their fortunes on the backs of the 99%. Jamie Dimon is one of our nominees, and those who visit the site can rate him and many others on a scale of "ho-hum" to "pure evil." 

After all, the so-called "bad apples" actually reflect a systemic problem: those who use their wealth for destructive purposes are rewarded instead of punished, even when their tactics are illegal. Wealth doesn't always come from making products that people enjoy or investing in small companies à la George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. Things really are worse for the 99% because of a rigged system that allows certain rich people to play by different rules than everyone else. 

So, Jamie Dimon, are you bad just because you're successful? No. You're bad because your success comes at everyone else's expense. You're right about one thing, though: you just don't get it.

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