Jamie Dimon, the outspoken head of one of America’s biggest banks, said Thursday that the Occupy Wall Street protesters have some “legitimate complaints,” but that investment banking has a bright future and will remain a highly paid industry.
The chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. made the comments after receiving the Executive of the Year award presented to him by the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business at a hotel ballroom in midtown Manhattan. Dimon stuck around to answer a few questions.
Asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement against financial greed and economic inequality, Dimon acknowledged that the protesters have some “legitimate complaints.” He argued, however, that it’s unfair to paint all institutions with one brush: “It was everyone guilty. That’s another form of discrimination.”
He expressed optimism about his industry: “Investment banking is going to have a bright future. […] It will always be a highly paid industry.”
“When things go wrong, finance gets blamed,” just like blaming speculators for high oil prices, Dimon said. The remark was an apparent reference to President Barack Obama’s recent call for new measures to prevent manipulation of oil markets.
The J.P. Morgan CEO discussed a number of other pressing issues such as the euro-zone debt crisis, the U.S. fiscal situation, the potential for recovery in the U.S. housing market and the prospect for more quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve.
As usual, he was critical of attempts to regulate the saying the banks are getting rules from regulators in Washington, Brussels, London, Tokyo and Basel: “Honestly, no one is in charge,” he said, arguing that while J.P. Morgan will figure things out given its fleet of lawyers and other resources at its disposal, the regulations are “going to kill the smaller banks.”
Dimon’s sense of humor was on display throughout his appearance, eliciting occasional roars of laughter from the audience.
He took a question from a young man attending Browning, a private prep school for boys in New York City. “I went to Browning,” Dimon said, proceeding to tell a story about an award the school had given him some time ago.
“I was surprised [to get that award],” he said. “They didn’t like me that much when I was there.”