Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

JP Morgan’s $2 Billion Experiment With Truthiness

JPMorgan Chase & Co blames its $2 billion, and maybe much larger, trading loss on mistakes made in hedging the market. Bill Black, a finance criminologist, calls this “hedginess.”

“Hedginess” riffs on “truthiness,” the word the comedian Stephen Colbert invented in 2005. Truthiness means favoring versions of events that one wishes to be true, and acting as if they were true, while ignoring facts to the contrary that are staring you in the face. Fake hedges are to real hedges as “truthiness” is to truth. Hence “hedginess.” JPMorgan’s trades got around the Volcker rule, which tries to prevent banks from speculating in financial derivatives, by labeling as “hedges” bets that were clearly not hedges.

As Black puts it, JPMorgan is now defining as a hedge “something that performs in exactly the opposite fashion of a hedge.” A hedge is supposed to reduce risk, but according to Black, the losses came from deals that “dramatically increased risk by placing a second bet in the same direction, which compounded the risk.”

Actually, it isn’t quite as simple as Black says. While JPMorgan did not respond to my questions on its strategy, Reuters and others have reported that the trade began as a standard hedge. Subsequently, the reports say, it morphed into speculation as the bank layered bet on top of bet.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • So, the crooks get to continue being crooks and no one is going to do anything about. Just a lot of showy BS to make us think they are doing something. I don’t know how they sleep at night!!!!!!

    • jarheadgene

      They sleep just fine….they have seared their conciences. They have no more feelings for you or me or America or their own bank or customers. They have one agenda make themselves more money. They ignore the Bible that says, “…the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”

    • They sleep well with your money under their pillows!

  • cwalter711

    Having worked as a futures broker with hedging clients I am disturbed by the use of the term “Hedging” by the funds and the banks. For those who are not familiar with the futures markets there are two types of clients in the futures markets: hedgers and speculators. A speculator assumes risk with the expectation of a larger than normal return. A speculator can also lose his/her investment and then some. A hedger, on the other hand, uses the futures contract to transfer risk. A true hedger uses the markets as a form of price insurance to eliminate market risk. The classic example is a farmer with a corn crop. At planting time, when prices are seasonally high (corn supplies low) (good old supply and demand) he/she estimates the crop size and sell the appropriate number of contracts to lock in the price on the crop.

    Thus, he is long the cash and short the futures. When the harvest comes in the farmer knows what his income is from the crop. The difference between the cash crop which he is long and the futures.

    The hedger always has a physical position in the industry and the market. There are accounting rules for reporting a hedge. There has to be some event that terminates the hedge like selling one’s crop.

    Bond and stock portfolios can be hedged as well, but the net result will be that you have locked into a price on a stock or a bond.

    This so called “Hedge” loss appears like speculation to me which is assuming risk for a larger than expected return.

    This speculation may be the bread and butter of investment banks, but the rest of the banking system should not assume this type of behavior and the tax payer should not be placed at risk. The problem is that the investment banks have grown into an oligopoly which will destroy the economy when they fail. This places the government in a no win situation.

    Clearly the bankers have not learned their lessons. May be a solution would be to update the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 and break up the investment banks into smaller units that would compete. Given the international scale of these banks this would not be merely an American effort, but involve the rest of the world’s banking system.

  • Debbie, they sleep well at night because they have a No Lose Game going on.. Go for broke is their Motto.. and No One to Stop Them. You can`t lose when your backed by the taxpayer and goverment. Crooks All !

  • howa4x

    Jamie Dimon has done more to push for regulation of the big banks with this move than occupy could do in a life time. I don’t even know how Fox and Freinds can spin this one.

  • Has anything changed? As a Chase customer there goes my money (I know about FDIC) down the drain, because the US Government cannot control the Big Six Gambling casinos in the world!

    When Chase bought up WAMU, my large high paying interest paying account was converted to a NON INTEREST paying account. When asked about it Chase states that I had to manually change to their high interest paying accounts. Try that with five EFTS sources depositing money into my old WAMU account.

    Another example of how WALL STREET is screwing Main Street! Fire DIMON!

    Break these big six up into manageable entities and stop another financial meltdown as was done and supported by the Bush Administration.


    Great article. Mr. Johnston has accurately described the state of deregulation that we have today and the prospect that it will probably get worse, regardless of who wins the presidential election in November. Romney is openly saying that he wants to removec all regulation and Obama talks a good game, but does nothing.

    The smug attitudes of Jamie Dimon, Mittens Romney and the other financial pricks reminds me of a Thomas Nast cartoon showing New York City’s “Boss” Tweed rendered as the Tammany Tiger saying in response to public indignation “What are you going to do about it?”

    That’s really a good question. What are “we” going to do about it?

  • Don’t claim to know anything about basic economics but I do know that the 2 billion dollars did not just poof into thin air. Can someone tell me who/what corporation/country is 2 billion dollars richer? Some company/individuals out there are earning millions/billions of dollars from us taxpayers supporting bank bailouts and war.

    So glad that I refinanced my mortgage with my credit union and no longer have any ties with JPMorgan!

  • dljones

    ewalter711: You have provided a good 101 explanation of hedging and it’s difference with speculation.

    The banks exposure to risks are no more than a corporations risks. ie: Flushed on cash loading up on inventory, manufacturing expansion or over speculation on anticipated market share. The exception being should the company fail to recover, consequences are not the broad catastrophic devastation as for a Morgan Stanley.

    So do banks require an additional raft of regulations or was the two billion dollars the cost of doing business in the free enterprise? If so, I think it reprehensible to call the CEO of a bank to the hill and question the intent to profit opposed to fail.

    Jamie Dimon, the CEO of MS’s opinion states the loss should not be a vehicle for more regulations might be minus one important ingredient. Without warning from internal red flags, a single loss could “easily” compound by overextending the investment portfolio by many substantial losses. Do to their extent involving a variety of global services to the financial sector, they could quickly exhaust their ability to sufficiently recover and in the wake further devastate our already anemic economy.

    With that said, there seems lacking a monitor that prohibits the bank’s investments tied to a percentage to it’s liquid assets. This would serve to protect customer deposits and investments. Appears a might simple a solution but over zealous investing for bonuses and satisfying stockholders are dominating common sense.

    I am sure yourself as others experienced in managing investments of client portfolios have the benefit of contributing solutions.

  • patpa

    Truthiness? What ever happened to “truthfulness?” Is “truthiness even a word? I don’t think so. I think we have enough words and do not need more to express ourselves. We already have the most consise, presise language in the world. It does not need any help from “word creators”.

  • KEEPING IT THOUGHTFULLY HONEST: Based on today’s Senate Horse and pony show, no question that Mr. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan is a very smart guy! But I think Paul Volker is Smart, too! Today, he proved to be smarter than those many of those Senators; particularly Republicans that do not have a clue about this financial crisis yet talk about more de-regulations with less protections of American tax payers! As he stated, “my job is to protect my company!” Isn’t Senators job was supposed to protect their company (us taxpayers)?An Inconvenient Truth is: Banks are now too BIGGER TO FAIL AND TO BIGGER TO MANAGE!: Yet, according to Mr. Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan sits on the National Federal Reserve to regulate himself! Huh? He admitted everybody makes mistakes — sure, we lost $3 to 5 billion, but we’ll figure out this one ourselves! However, he admits now there is a need for further simple but smart regulations,” Maybe, these Senators on today’s panel are too busy collecting their campaign pay-offs from the Wall Street lobbyists that they and Jamie missed this movie Stagecoach where banker lectures “on the evils of big government, especially bank regulation — as if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks!” he exclaims. So during the film Mr. Gatewood is last seen skipping town with his satchel full of tax payer embezzled cash. The Second Inconvenient Truth is: Regardless of Dimon’s smart but conflict of interest arguments regarding JPM’s fiasco, it is clear to us that regulation such as the Volcker rule is exactly required to keep banks in check, or else they will once again destroy our financial system! Paul Krugman, Senator Bernie Sanders and among others such as Dylan Rattigan keep telling us how business is really conducted in Washington DC with Wall Street & De-Regulation (H.R. 5660 (106th): Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 , 106th Congress, 1999–2000: To reauthorize and amend the Commodity Exchange Act increase risk in markets for futures and over-the-counter derivatives that was Sponsored: Rep. Thomas Ewing, R-IL15, 1991-2000 Bill written for Wall Street and Introduced on Dec. 14, 2000!), continues to allow legalized crime by to take place at the expense of US tax payer! Hum….

  • the big banksters are crooks, plain and simple. when are some of them going to jail. if i break the law that is what would happen to me. if i did not pay my taxes i would go to jail. how come that does not apply to the rich.