“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”
-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
The HouseFinancialServicesCommittee hearings on the losses in JP Morgan’s Chief Investment Office were an improvement over the Senate version, in that there was comparatively little fawning over Jamie Dimon and more earnest, even if not very successful, efforts to pry information from him (one wonders whether the fact that Chuck Schumer has been hitting Wall Street up for superPac donations was a contributing factor). Even some Republicans got a bit stroopy with him, including the Representative from Bank of America, Patrick McHenry.
But to anyone who knows bupkis about finance, the striking thing was how many times Dimon gave sloppy to downright dishonest answers. And they didn’t have the feel of the kind of careful word parsing that Goldman execs did when under Congressional hot lights in 2010, of people who’ve been scripted and rehearsed to give very narrow answers and duck anything that will put them on rocky ground. While there was nothing wrong with Dimon’s manner, our buddy Amar Bhide was right when he called Dimon’s answers Orwellian. He played remarkably fast and loose with words and definitions. It was disrespectful, but not in a way that anyone could have called him out on it. The five minute limit on questions made it impossible to do the sort of questioning it would have taken to nail down Dimon’s misrepresentations.