I actually had to listen to this amazing exchange on an investor conference call with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and group of financial analysts twice to make sure I heard it right. One of the analysts asked Dimon whether UBS is a safer bank to invest in than JPMorgan because it has a higher capital ratio (in other words, less debt and more capital):
Here's the exchange with Dimon's priceless answer (h/t Matt Taibbi):
MAYO: I think when I hear UBS saying in a presentation, if I'm an affluent customer, I'll feel a lot more comfortable going to a big bank with a 13 percent capital ration than to a bank with a 10 percent capital ratio, do you agree with that, or disagree?
DIMON: So you would go to UBS and not JP Morgan Chase?
MAYO: I didn't say that – that's their argument.
DIMON: That's why I'm richer than you.
Dimon certainly is richer than Mayo, but that's only because the tax payer kept his company afloat during the financial crisis and kept him working. Notes Taibbi:
Dimon's own bank required nearly $100 billion in taxpayer help to fill its own gaping capital hole during the crisis.....Dimon was paying himself $20 million a year while taxpayers and the Fed were forking over untold billions to keep his company afloat.
But that apparently doesn't matter in the testosterone fueled world of finance. As long as you have more than everyone else you must be doing something right. You could well imagine the same argument with a drug dealer:
JOURNALIST: You've made your money by peddling drugs to children in poor communities while X teaches geography to children for a living. Is teaching a safer job?
DRUG DEALER: So you'd rather be a school teacher?
JOURNALIST: I'm not saying that - I'm just putting the argument forward.
DRUG DEALER: That's why you're a loser and I live in a 64 bed mansion.