As JPMorgan Chase (JPM) faces a flurry of unflattering scrutiny and regulatory pressure, its former chairman and chief executive staunchly defended the megabank that he helped create.
"I am very happy with the position that JPMorgan Chase is in today," said William B. Harrison, Jr. in a video interview on Monday. Harrison, who remains active in the corporate world through board memberships, handed the reins of JPMorgan Chase to current chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Dimon in 2006.
A decade ago Harrison helped assemble the modern JPMorgan Chase via a series of mergers. They included the 2004 acquisition of Dimon's Bank One for $59 billion.
"We had a vision of size and scale," Harrison said this week of JPMorgan Chase management's vision at the time of the buyout. "When Jamie Dimon took over in 2006, he carried it to the next level. And so you have one of the best banks, if not the best bank, in the world, and they're doing great."
Harrison's defense comes at a time when JPMorgan Chase and Dimon are facing intense pressure in Washington and beyond. This month, a Senate subcommittee grilled current and former bank executives over last year's more than $6 billion London Whale trading loss. A report issued by the subcommittee raised questions about Dimon's responsibility for the loss. Observers have also noted that the ongoing fallout has started to erode his reputation as one of the industry's best risk managers and leaders.
On Wednesday, the New York Times highlighted what it characterized as the "growing friction between JPMorgan and regulators" and said that at least eight federal agencies are investigating the bank.
Harrison, speaking more than a week after the most recent Senate hearing, was sanguine about the bank's ability to weather any remaining London Whale backlash.
"It'll pass, because JPMorgan is highly capitalized, earning a lot of money, they have great leadership positions, and they have the best CEO in the industry by far," he said. "I think they're extremely well positioned, and I'm excited about it. … The bank is doing great."
Further excerpts of William Harrison's interview with American Banker will be posted in coming days.