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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Jamie Dimon rails against 'rich is bad' talk: Need a Tax Break

One could argue that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon was playing to the cheap seats with his line Wednesday about how bad the rich investment bankers of New York have it these days. Dimon was, after all, speaking at an investor conference organized by Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS).

But if the JPMorgan exec was trying to deflect criticism of the so-called “wealthiest 1%,” he failed miserably.

Dimon’s one-liner was a rather uninteresting boilerplate, a typical response from a well-heeled CEO.

“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and that everyone who is rich is bad, I just don’t get it,” Dimon said. “Most of us wage earners are paying 39.6% in taxes, and add in another 12% in New York state and city taxes, and we’re paying 50% of our income in taxes.”

Here’s where it goes off the rails, though: Dimon is a liar if he’s trying to make it look like half of what he earns is sucked back in taxes. Because like most fat-cat CEOs, he gets the lion’s share of his income via stock options — not a nominal salary like John Q. Public.

The JPMorgan Chase CEO saw his total compensation jump nearly 1,500% in 2010. Specifically, Jamie Dimon earned $20.8 million in 2010 from $1.3 million a year earlier, according to the SEC. The breakdown includes a $1 million salary, a $5 million bonus, nearly $8 million in stock awards and $6.2 million in option awards.

But it gets worse. When you take into account his salary and bonuses, then add in the stock options exercised in 2010 based on previous awards — that is, stock given to him at depressed valuations across 2008 and 2009 — Dimon pulled in around $42 million.

Capital gains taxes are not the same as the regular taxes Jamie Dimon is talking about in his little rant to other fat cats, investment bankers and rich folk at the Goldman Sachs conference. Some of those shares and stock options qualified for a rock-bottom rate of just 15% taxation.

This is not to say Dimon doesn’t earn his keep. He is one of the better bank CEOs out there — check out how he stacks up against the rest of the Dow leadership. JPMorgan Chase stock has held firm in the wake of the financial crisis even as other banks like Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) have continued to suffer. JPM stock is off about 25% in five years since the pre-Lehman days, while BAC and C are down about 90%. This fall, JPMorgan Chase also recently passed BofA to be the No. 1 bank in the U.S. by total assets.

Dimon was responding to a question at an investor conference about the hostile political environment towards banks.

"Acting like everyone who's been successful is bad and that everyone who is rich is bad -- I just don't get it," said Dimon at the conference, which was organized by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Dimon said he's worked on Wall Street for much of his life and contributed his fair share.

"Most of us wage earners are paying 39.6 percent in taxes and add in another 12 percent in New York state and city taxes and we're paying 50 percent of our income in taxes," Dimon said in defense of his fellow Wall Street bankers.

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