JPMorgan Chase’s Moment of Shame Ends, and Political Donations Flow Again

Wall Street getting its way in Washington, D.C.  That’s been the theme of a series of financial disasters, including the $5 billion-plus trading loss disclosed by JPMorgan Chase in May. After that “embarrassing” episode (so described by "Lisa Gilbert"the company’s CEO Jamie Dimon when he testified before the Senate), the JPMorgan political action committee (PAC) suspended its political spending.

We wondered how long their embarrassment would last. Now we know: not long.

The JPMorgan PAC is once again writing checks – writing them to, among others, the same old cast of House Financial Services Committee members who have done their persistent best to both undermine the Volcker rule and block tighter derivatives regulation that would bring more transparency and accountability to the kind of deal-making that triggered the financial crisis. Of course, in strong form, the Volcker rule might have prevented the JPMorgan trading debacle.

The PAC on July 31 made donations to 10 congressional leadership PACs – the first federal-level donations the embattled company’s normally active PAC has made since early May, according to Politico and campaign finance documents filed Monday.

The company has not explained its original moratorium nor the decision to end it. Perhaps JPMorgan believes that the press and public are no longer paying attention, despite abundant coverage of the bank’s involvement in the more recent LIBOR rate-fixing affair.

Before the “London Whale” scandal broke in May, meeting records show that JPMorgan was lobbying to weaken the implementation of the Volcker rule – that is, to keep any such rule from preventing the kind of activity the company made billions on – until they very publicly lost billions.

A bundle of anti-derivatives-reform bills had been lined up to move in the House in those halcyon days; after the scandal broke, the movement stopped. Financial reform advocates will be watching to see whether supporters of these efforts think it’s now “safe,” not only to take JPMorgan’s money but to go back to deregulating the derivatives markets.

Lisa Gilbert is the acting director of Congress Watch