JPMorgan CEO Made A China Joke. Then Came The Big Damage Control

JPMorgan Chase & Co chief Jamie Dimon knew the financial institution must engineer a hasty retreat. (File)

JPMorgan Chase & Co chief Jamie Dimon knew as quickly because the phrases got here out of his mouth that the joke about China might land him in sizzling water.

“I was just in Hong Kong, I made a joke that the Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year. So is JPMorgan. And I’ll make you a bet we last longer,” he stated on Tuesday at a Boston occasion. Then he added: “I can’t say that in China. They probably are listening anyway.”

Dimon, no stranger to brashness, additionally knew the financial institution must engineer a hasty retreat. Soon, members of the agency’s government-relations workforce and China workplaces have been corralled to debate the remarks and determine whether or not to acknowledge them or allow them to lie. Some 18 hours later, when it grew to become clear that the feedback attracted world consideration, Dimon issued a press release of remorse.

“Hundreds of individuals, companies and organizations have apologized for hurting the feelings of the Chinese Communist Party,” stated Isaac Stone Fish, founding father of Strategy Risks, which focuses on company relationships with China. The method Dimon stated that he regrets his remark “is a smarter way to do it.”

Dimon’s remarks, made throughout a go to to the Boston College Chief Executives Club, observe a slew of home and worldwide journeys as JPMorgan’s chief government officer continues to tout a US financial growth that is additionally put him on the entrance of Wall Street’s return-to-office push. But his current journey efforts have been considerably problematic — the quarantine exemption he earned for his Hong Kong go to, a dispensation additionally afforded to actress Nicole Kidman, garnered a lot native criticism.

Now he is having to downplay his Boston feedback — and it is not the primary time. Dimon has a historical past of provocative remarks that he is been compelled to stroll again. In 2018, he vowed at a philanthropy occasion that he might beat Donald Trump in an election as a result of he was smarter than the president, solely to place out a press release hours later saying he should not have stated it.

Dimon’s brag and apology reminded one other Wall Street chief government whose agency is an enormous JPMorgan shareholder of Lloyd Blankfein’s joke years in the past that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was doing “God’s work.” The makes an attempt financial institution bosses make to be witty tackle lives of their very own, stated the chief, who requested for anonymity to keep away from connecting his identify to a multitude. Dimon can even seemingly get by way of any fallout, simply as Blankfein did, however the distraction will likely be unwelcome, the chief stated.

The mea culpa underscores JPMorgan’s need to maintain cordial relations in China, the place it has almost $20 billion of publicity and has ambitions to increase additional. Earlier this yr, the financial institution received approval from Chinese regulators to completely personal its China securities enterprise and needs to take care of its good standing within the nation for additional licensing requests, notably forward of main management adjustments within the occasion anticipated subsequent yr.

Careful Balance

And whereas Dimon’s remarks have been met at the least to this point with silence from Chinese authorities officers, the nation has a historical past of taking motion towards corporations and people that seem to problem its insurance policies, particularly on delicate points just like the Communist Party’s legitimacy or Taiwan. UBS Group AG got here beneath stress to fireplace its chief economist in 2019, Paul Donovan, after he made a remark a few “Chinese pig” in a observe about rising client costs. He later apologized, saying it was “innocently intended.”

Dimon’s retreat additionally highlights the highway companies must tread fastidiously when coping with a authorities delicate to perceived slights in a rustic the place potential earnings are excessive. In 2019, after the Houston Rockets basic supervisor tweeted a message of help for Hong Kong protesters, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver was criticized for attempting to appease either side in his preliminary response.  

Last yr, when dealing with a backlash for referring to Hong Kong and Taiwan as nations, trend manufacturers Coach and Versace shortly despatched apologies to calm shoppers and proper their web sites to point out their respect for “the feelings of the Chinese people” and “nationwide sovereignty.

China Opportunity

Still, Dimon has loved loads of goodwill in China, which he has lengthy eyed for its enormous alternatives. He’s additionally attuned to the dangers. In his 66-page annual letter to shareholders this yr, Dimon devoted greater than a web page to the nation, writing that during the last 40 years, China has “completed a extremely efficient job” with financial growth. But he cautioned that within the subsequent 40 years, the nation should confront severe points together with lack of assets, corruption and revenue inequality.

Dimon stopped wanting calling out the CCP by identify, however famous that solely 100 million individuals in China “successfully take part” within the nation’s one-party political system, a decrease participation degree than every other developed nation.

“China’s current success positively has its management feeling assured,” Dimon wrote in April. “Growing center lessons nearly all the time demand political energy, which helps clarify why autocratic management nearly all the time falters in a bigger, extra advanced financial system.”

His feedback additionally come because the US and China proceed to grapple with protracted standoffs on points equivalent to market entry, knowledge safety and worldwide inventory listings. Wall Street has additionally been attempting to enhance relations with the nation in a bid to realize entry to its $54 trillion monetary system.

It stays to be seen if Dimon’s feedback will spark any retaliation from China, stated Stone Fish, although he suspects that this can be the place the debacle ends.

“Companies and people are waking as much as the concept that what occurs in China or the China house would not keep in China,” he said. “It has actual world implications for them and their companies within the United States.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)

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