Ferrets in a Sack

By Cox, Rob | Newsweek, May 28, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Ferrets in a Sack


Cox, Rob, Newsweek


Byline: Rob Cox

The battle to succeed Jamie Dimon has begun.

A time-honored tradition for handling executive succession on Wall Street is the practice of putting two ferrets in a sack, figuratively speaking. That's when a bank takes two promising managers and makes them co-heads of the same business. The expectation is that, like two feral mammals clawing each other in the darkness, one will emerge victorious. He will become CEO. The other is named deputy vice chairman of Bolivian equities. JPMorgan Chase has yet to officially haul out the burlap sack, but the $2 billion trading loss it disclosed two weeks ago has accelerated the contest to succeed Jamie Dimon at the top of America's biggest financial institution.

Not that Dimon is leaving anytime soon. His hair may be silver, but he's only 56 and has every intention of running the place into his sixth decade. Moreover, the losses from bets on funky derivatives incurred by the chief investment office in London look manageable for a bank that minted a $5.4 billion profit in the first quarter and boasts nearly $200 billion in capital. But as Dimon readily admits, the trades were dumb. They certainly undermined many of his public arguments for resisting additional regulation of the banking industry. As a consequence, the question of who will one day fill Dimon's wingtips has become a money-industry parlor game.

For clues, look no further than the cleanup crew for the trading snafu.

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