Fined billions, JPMorgan Chase votes to give chief Dimon a raise

Written by New York Times | Updated: Jan 25 2014, 21:07pm hrs
JP Morgan ChaseUnder Jamie Dimon?s leadership, JPMorgan Chase has generated strong profits and its stock price is up more than 22% over the last 12 months.
A year after an embarrassing trading blow-up led to millions of dollars being docked from Jamie Dimons pay cheque, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase is getting a raise.

JPMorgans board voted this week to increase Dimons annual compensation for 2013, hashing out the pay package after a series of meetings that turned heated at times, according to several executives briefed on the matter. The raise the details were not made public on Thursday follows a move by the board last year to slash Dimons compensation by half, to $11.5 million.

When it made that deep pay cut, the board was giving a stern rebuke over the fallout from the London Whale multibillion-dollar trading blunder. This week, directors discussed what message their next decision on the bank chieftains compensation would send.

The debate pitted a vocal minority of directors who wanted to keep his compensation largely flat, citing the approximately $20 billion in penalties JPMorgan has paid in the last year to federal authorities, against directors who argued that Dimon should be rewarded for his stewardship of the bank during such a difficult period.

A spokesman for the bank declined to comment.

Dimons defenders point to his active role in negotiating a string of government settlements that helped JPMorgan move beyond some of its biggest legal problems. He has also solidified his support among board members, according to the people briefed on the matter, by acting as a chief negotiator as JPMorgan worked out a string of banner government settlements this year.

Also under his leadership, the bank has generated strong profits and its stock price is up more than 22% over the last 12 months. Some board members fault what they consider to be overzealous federal prosecutors for the hefty fines, rather than Dimon or the bank, arguing that JPMorgan is being penalised for the sins of firms like Bear Stearns that it scooped up during the financial crisis.

But many of those very problems arose under Dimons watch, including $1 billion in fines from regulators over the trading blow-up. Leaving his compensation unchanged could have sent a symbolic message of contrition to authorities.

JPMorgans directors may have decided that Dimon, as his peers may, should get a raise, but to ordinary Americans and possibly to regulators the decision to increase his compensation may seem curious given the banner penalties that federal authorities have extracted from the bank. It is not unheard-of for chief executives to lose their jobs when their companies have been battered by regulators.

But a crucial difference is that JPMorgans legal travails have not threatened the bank financially. While steep legal fees did weigh on the banks bottom line, JPMorgan still reported annual 2013 profits of $17.9 billion. And while other bank chief executives stumbled during the financial crisis, Dimon never did, emerging from the wreckage even more powerful.