James E. Glassman isn't the first person to question lawmakers' grasp of financial crisis finance. But the JPMorgan Chase & Co. senior economist's criticism of the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. hearings was perfectly timed to strike a nerve.
In a note to clients, Glassman deplored the "low level of economic literacy" that characterized the hearing, and warned that Congress' current approach to reform fails to address the big issues, mortgage finance and the "too big to fail" problem. To add a dash of vitriol, Glassman suggested that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) might be better off focusing on his own state's woes rather than Wall Street's perceived ills. An attached chart showing Michigan's steadily deteriorating employment statistics ran under the title "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."
Cue outrage. The Huffington Post picked up the note, and it quickly spread to outlets from CNN to The Washington Post. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann deemed Glassman to be the runner-up "Worst Person in the World" on Tuesday. JPMorgan Chase, he suggested, was in no position to criticize the legislators who "bailed out your sorry, overpaid asses to save the national economy."
By then, however, the company (and Glassman) had thrown in the towel. "We disagree with his characterizations, and we're sorry," a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase told Politico within a few hours of the initial Huffington Post story. Even Glassman, it turned out, condemned Glassman's remarks.
"It was a stupid thing to do," he told Bloomberg BusinessWeek in a mea culpa interview on Thursday.
The History Biz
Bank of America Corp. is buying a piece of history, so to speak.
The Charlotte company is running a series of two-minute "mini-documentaries" on the History Channel detailing the role its predecessor banks played in shaping America. The first segment, which ran last month, focused on Massachusetts Bank's effort to provide capital to colonists. Other segments will cover lending that financed everything from the Golden Gate Bridge to the movies of Cecil B. DeMille.
Meredith Verdone, B of A's brand advertising and research executive, said it had been looking to do more than just standard ads and had sought a "media environment where we could tell our story effectively and accurately."
B of A paid the History Channel about $4 million to produce 12 segments that will run over six weeks, she said. Each segment includes historians to add authenticity, and B of A's staff historian, Allen Blevins, and the ad agency Hill Holliday served as advisers, company officials said.
Dinner with POTUS
Speaking of JPMorgan Chase … Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and other top business leaders attended a White House dinner to discuss the economy on Monday.
The White House invited Dimon and other members of the Business Council's executive committee to the session, where President Obama solicited advice on spurring the economy and overhauling the financial system.
Other CEOs included Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical Co. Dimon is the only banker on the council's executive committee, and it was his third visit to the White House this year.
Other Lewis' Loss
Ken Lewis lost his U.S. Senate bid in North Carolina.
Again, it wasn't the former Bank of America CEO, but a lawyer from Chapel Hill who was vying for the Democratic nomination. He finished third in a primary designed to pick a challenger to Republican incumbent Richard Burr, who easily won his party's nomination. Lewis, 48, was trying to become the state's first black senator.
Though campaign officials had said name confusion had not been a major problem, Lewis only managed to win 17% of the votes in the primary. Two other candidates — Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham — are set for a June 22 runoff.
Get 'Em, Cowboy
Rick Claypoole, a retail banking executive at BBVA Compass in Birmingham, Ala., was honored Tuesday night as the Bank Administration Institute's "Maverick Banker of the Year." BAI recognized Claypoole's role designing the bank's "Build-to-Order" checking account, which lets customers customize and change account features, calling it a "bold, fresh approach … that keeps the customer at the center of the banking process."