As JPMorgan Releases Earnings, All Eyes on Dimon

Photo: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. JPMorgan will release their quarterly earnings tomorrow.

JPMorgan Chase this morning revealed better-than-expected earnings of $2.1 billion and, in a conference call with analysts, CEO Jamie Dimon stayed true to his pull-no-punches reputation, reiterating his disdain for the federal assistance he's said his bank was forced to take last year as the government sought to shore up the country's ailing banking system and JPMorgan's competitors.

The government's $25 billion investment of taxpayer funds into bank titan JPMorgan has been a "scarlet letter" and no bank competitor "should be able to pay it back faster than we do," Dimon said.

"We can pay it back tomorrow. We have the money," he said, adding that the bank was awaiting government guidance on when to repay the funds.

Dimon also announced that JPMorgan would not participate in the Treasury Department's Public Private Investment Partnership, which was designed to relieve banks of their troubled assets.

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The Treasury program, he said, "could be helpful in general to the system," but it's "basically irrelevant to JPMorgan Chase."

"We manage and control our own assets -- if we want to sell them, we'll sell them," Dimon said.

The bank's balance sheet, Dimon said, is "a fortress."

The Art of Survival

As JPMorgan has continued to maneuver around some of the worst of the financial crisis, all eyes have been on Dimon, the bank's straight-shooting, fast-talking CEO.

Dimon's eyes, meanwhile, have often been focused on a folded piece of paper he keeps handy in his pocket, a note the 52-year-old has sometimes called "the stuff people owe me" list.

Plenty of people owe Dimon a lot: Under his tenure, JPMorgan has gone from being simply known as a powerful global bank to becoming one of the most-heralded survivors of this recession.

Dimon's ability to avoid much -- albeit not all -- of the financial sinkholes that swallowed others, left JPMorgan strong enough to purchase two failing banking giants: investment house Bear Stearns and commercial bank Washington Mutual.

Dimon: Not Afraid to Offend

But Dimon's tough negotiations and deft financial crisis maneuvering hasn't left the baby-faced New York native without a sense of humor: Late last month, as talk swelled of big banks possibly returning the billions the federal government loaned them under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Dimon handed a fake check to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at a White House meeting.

Geithner didn't smile as he handed the check back to Dimon.

Dimon, however, likely wasn't worried about offending the secretary -- he's known for candor with anyone and everyone, and his rhetoric during the financial crisis has been no exception.

During a conference call last March, as the Bear Stearns deal came together, Dimon blasted his Citigroup counterpart, Vikram Pandit, after growing annoyed when Pandit asked a highly technical question, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Stop being such a jerk," Dimon said, later adding that Citigroup -- the banking behemoth widely regarded as among the firms hardest hit by the crisis -- "should thank" JPMorgan for staving off more trouble on Wall Street.

Dimon's tough talk isn't just bluster -- in his efforts to find the best managers when he joined JPMorgan, he "fired people left and right who he felt didn't meet his standards," said Dick Bove, a banking analyst at Rochdale Securities, who has followed Dimon for some two decades.

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