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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

J.P. Morgan was recently socked in the wallet by financial regulators who levied yet another multi-billion-dollar fine against the Wall Street baron for massive illegalities.

Well, not a fine against John Pierpont Morgan, the man. This 19th-century robber baron was born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the “King of American Finance.” During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered the U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation’s gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.

From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a Union general for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers’ thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.

That seems to have set a pattern for his lifetime of antitrust violations, union busting and other over-the-edge profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges — but of course, he never did any jail time.

Moving the clock forward, we come to JPMorgan Chase, today’s financial powerhouse bearing J.P.’s name. The bank also inherited his pattern of committing multiple illegalities — and walking away scot-free.

Oh, sure, the bank was hit with big fines, but not a single one of the top bankers who committed gross wrongdoings were charged or even fired — much less sent to jail.

With this long history of crime-does-pay for America’s largest Wall Street empire, you have to wonder why Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, is so P.O.’d. He’s fed up to the tippy-top of his $100 haircut with all of this populist attitude that’s sweeping the country, and he’s not going to take it anymore!

Dimon recently bleated to reporters that “banks are under assault.” Well, he really doesn’t mean or care about most banks — just his bank. Government regulators, snarls Jamie, are pandering to grassroots populist anger at Wall Street excesses by squeezing the life out of the JP Morgan casino.

But wait — didn’t JPMorgan score a $22 billion profit last year, a 20 percent increase over 2013 and the highest in its history? And didn’t those Big Bad Oppressive Government Regulators provide a $25 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008 to save Jamie’s conglomerate from its own reckless excess? And isn’t his Wall Street Highness raking in some $20 million in personal pay to suffer the indignity of this “assault” on his bank. Yes, yes and yes.

Still, Jamie says that regulators and bank industry analysts are piling on JPMorgan Chase: “In the old days,” he whined, “you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue. Now it’s five or six. You should all ask the question about how American that is,” the $20-million-a-year man lectured reporters, “how fair that is.”

Well, golly, one reason Chase has half a dozen regulators on its case is because it doesn’t have “an issue” of illegality, but beaucoup illegalities, including deceiving its own investors, cheating more than two million of its credit card customers, gaming the rules to overcharge electricity users in California and the Midwest, overcharging active-duty military families on their mortgages, illegally foreclosing on troubled homeowners and… well, so much more.

So Jamie, you should ask yourself the question about “how fair” is all of the above. Then you should shut up, count your millions and be grateful you’re not in jail.

From John Pierpont Morgan to Jamie Dimon, the legacy continues. Banks don’t commit crimes. Bankers do. And they won’t ever stop if they don’t have to pay for their crimes.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page

Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons

  • JSquercia

    Just recently I myself found myself paying more charges for overdrawing my checking account . I was guilty of it but that is my fault and I agree I should pay for it (Just not twice)
    The deal is that by ordering transactions processed on the same day so that the highest hit first the bank causes Multiple overcharges .In my case there were 3 checks Two for 20 dollars and third for 200 . By processing the 200 dollar one FIRST the two twenty Dollar checks both were overdrawn ; whereas had the processed the two twenty dollar checks first only the two hundred dollar one would have been overdrawn . Both 20 checks were held for over 6 months prior to cashing , while the third check is a reoccurring automatic withdrawal .

    • kingartie1

      Case by case, that’s small ball. But it’s a blatant example of gaming the system. A legalized rip-off, but just pocket change, right?
      Now multiply it by the millions of others they have done this to. And they made $22 billion by being ethical darlings? It’s pilfering, it’s fraud, it’s part of their corporate strategy, and it’s a form of rape. And it’s a matter you should refer to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There’s a complaint section. I’d bet any amount of Chase’s money that you are not the first person to protest this form of robbery.

  • latebloomingrandma

    He should be glad that his bank is not surrounded by people bearing pitchforks.

    • CPAinNewYork

      Interesting that you mention pitchforks.

      Obama is credited with saying “We’re the only thing between you and the pitchforks” at a meeting with the renegade bankers a while back.

      I guess that he hadn’t figured on the reluctance of his Attorney General to prosecute the bankers for their crimes.

      Just to be fair, let me say that I think Jamie Dimon and Eric Holder are both pieces of crap that should have been prosecuted or, better still, lynched and hanged, Dimon for his crimes and Holder for refusing to do his job.

  • adler56

    Throw that whiny wuss in prison for life. A real man wouldn’t be named Jamie.

  • browninghipower

    Good article as usual from Mr. Hightower. But one tiny correction. It’s Junius P. Morgan, not John.

  • jamesowens

    they are criminals and should be prosecuted – allowing this to go on unchecked is the fault of the attorney general –as big a fan i am of the PRESIDENT i think this is his biggest mistake by not pressing for prosecution as it gives the conservatives food for their lies and and makes it look like the banks own the dems

  • idamag

    The same way I would pity the burglar who robbed my house.