JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon will testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday regarding Chase’s multibillion-dollar trading losses stemming from hedged bets on parts of the JPM portfolio. The congressional committee has been following Chase’s loss, counting it as part of its oversight of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Committee Chairman Tim Johnson had said he intended to call Dimon in late May to testify, but the hearings were delayed to accommodate Dimon’s schedule. After all, he is a very busy guy — and the rescheduling provided relief from a possible subpoena.
All of this seems normal enough. In typical D.C. style, everyone and his uncle has decided to weigh in on this massive screw-up, including the heads of the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as well as every member of Congress trying to make a political point about either too much regulation or “too big too fail” being the cause or the effect.
Dimon has been as honest as is possible about the trading losses, calling them sloppy, stupid and results of bad judgment. Still, his “gosh darnit” mea culpas aside, he has avoided any details on the “hows” and “whys” of his company’s actions.
Last week, Aaron Ross Sorkin, The New York Times’ brilliant columnist, provided a list of intricate, in-depth and thought-provoking questions for committee members to ask Dimon.
Of course, there’s a couple problems with Sorkin’s approach. For one, no respectful member of the committee will ever ask a question that he or she does not even understand. Also, Dimon’s leverage in this hearing is his ability — based on the size on JPM and the banking industry’s campaign contributions history — to invoke that age-old playground retort, “… and the horse you rode in on,” instead of his Fifth Amendment right.
What we the people really need at this hearing is a voice of the people. We need questions that people who think deep thoughts — like, say the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz — might come up with on short notice. Though I’m not a particularly thoughtful guy, here is what I want to know:
- Why didn’t Rupert Murdoch’s phone-tapping program in the U.K. alert you to the problems in your London offices? Everyone knows something about someone over there, don’t they?
- I always thought “The Whale” was Moby Dick. That being the case, who in this dumpster fire of a mess is your Ahab? What about your Ishmael?
- How’s your Internet service? It’s always possible a glitch in the system caused your system to shut down, resulting in the loss of an email titled “We Are In Deep Trouble.”
- Will Glenn Close or Tilda Swinton get to play former Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew in the movie version of this fiasco? Close is just perfect in Damages, but Swinton’s star turn in Michael Clayton seems much more topical. As an aside, who would you like to see play your role?
- For the smartest guy in the room — and we acknowledge that might truly be the case today — you weren’t very smart in this one. It’s hard to quantify just how many people will see the axe for the rest of the year, but it’s unlikely you will be one of them. Why do you get to keep your job while others at the bank are losing theirs?
The questions we actually will hear Wednesday probably won’t be as hard-hitting.
But we can dream, can’t we?
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com.