Friday, November 14, 2008
Jamie Dimon for Treasury?
Well, what the heck.
Since we here at NotMakingThisUp already endorsed one candidate for an important financial post in the new administration (see “Jaimie Caruana for Fed Chairman!”), let’s do another: Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, for Treasury Secretary.
Now, this idea actually has a shot—Dimon has been giving advice to Obama himself; consequently, Dimon's name has been tossed around as a candidate for Treasury, along with one even bigger name: Warren Buffett.
Buffett, I suspect, would rather stick needles in his eyes than take a political position reporting to the Senator Foreheads of the world. Can anybody seriously imagine Warren Buffett explaining financial markets to “Friend of Angelo” Chris Dodd?
(I recently bet a woman at a book signing that Buffett would never take the job. Actually, she bet me. She asked if I thought Buffett would be the next Treasury Secretary. I said something to the effect of “Not a chance,” and she immediately bet five bucks. I’ve already spent the money.)
But Jamie Dimon is something else. Speaking at a recent Merrill Lynch conference, Dimon gave perhaps the best explanation for the financial freeze-up I’ve ever seen, and it didn’t involve charts or graphs.
“Let’s do a little interactive questionnaire right here,” Dimon said, breaking off an attempt to answer a question about when lending will start to ease up. “How many of you have moved money from riskier assets to risk-free assets, to protect your investors’ capital?”About half the hands in the room went up.
“You’re the problem,” he said, smiling, but making the point. “You’ve made the right decision for your business, but until people start moving money the other way, we’re stuck.” [Those are not all exact quotes, but quite the gist of his comments.]
Even Chris Dodd could have understood him.
Dimon also gave a rousing windup to his talk, saying that anybody betting against the U.S. was making a huge mistake. He defended Bernanke and Paulson—“They’re making decisions on the fly,” he pointed out, adding that despite all the talk about how slowly the administration is moving, his counterparts in Asia are impressed with how swift the actions have been in comparison to past history.
Now, my dog Charles will be Treasury Secretary before Warren Buffett.
Not that Charles has anything on Buffett, brain-cell-wise, if you get the drift. It’s just that Buffett has a company with over a quarter-million employees, over $100 billion in sales, and nearly 80 companies—every one of which he purchased—not to mention some serious financial derivatives now on the books in the form of S&P Index puts and CDOs.
He’s not going to turn all that over to some blind trust and start schmoozing Congresspersons who wouldn’t know a CDO from a CD.
But Jamie Dimon? I wouldn’t bet against it.
I Am Not Making This Up
© 2008 NotMakingThisUp, LLC
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Posted by Jeff Matthews at 8:49 AM