Wells Fargo ‘irresponsible’: Dimon blasts rival on lack of CEO plan

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JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon blasted Wells Fargo on Tuesday for what he characterized as the bank’s lack of preparation prior to the departure of embattled CEO Tim Sloan.

“It’s not responsible for a company — just my own view — to have a CEO leave with no plan in place. I don’t personally understand that,” Dimon said during remarks at an investor conference.

“And I’d be surprised if regulators wanted that to happen because it’s irresponsible. How can the regulator be pushing something irresponsible?” Dimon added. “So I don’t know if it was a board-level decision. I don’t know if they felt pressure. … But it’s not the way to run the railroad.”

Sloan resigned on March 28, less than three weeks after the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a rare public rebuke of the San Francisco bank. Wells has declined to provide a timetable for hiring a permanent successor.

The CEO job is being filled on an interim basis by C. Allen Parker, who previously served as Wells Fargo’s general counsel.

Dimon drew an implicit contrast between the rocky transition at Wells Fargo and succession planning at JPMorgan. As Dimon gets closer to retirement age, a great deal of attention has been focused on the various candidates to succeed him.

When he was asked about the recent decision to move Marianne Lake and Jennifer Piepszak, two high-ranking JPMorgan executives, into new roles, Dimon said: “We’ve been talking about this at the board level for the better part of two years. So it isn’t like these things happen overnight.”

Some of Dimon's top deputies have been discussed as potential CEO candidates at Wells Fargo. At his company's annual meeting last week, Dimon said that there are several people at JPMorgan who are capable of running the bank. "In fact, our bigger fear is they get recruited away by somebody else," he added, "because we know how good they are."

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to respond Tuesday to Dimon’s latest comments.

Dimon also spoke Tuesday about the role of technology in banking, saying, “If you don’t keep up in technology, you lose.”

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker once declared that “the ATM has been the only useful innovation in banking for the past 20 years.”

DImon responded Tuesday, “That’s just grossly untrue.”

He cited reductions in the cost of processing transactions, improvements in the ability of companies to raise money globally, and consumer-facing innovations such as mobile banking, online bill payment and digital account opening.

Dimon opined that some observers’ concerns about credit risk at this stage of the economic cycle are exaggerated. For example, he said that most of the risks associated with leveraged lending to corporations reside outside of the banking sector.

“Since the crisis we have this never-ending hyperventilation about what people are worried about,” Dimon said. “Honestly it gets overdone sometimes.”

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Succession planning Technology Leveraged loans Credit quality Jamie Dimon Jennifer Piepszak Marianne Lake Tim Sloan JPMorgan Chase Wells Fargo Women in Banking