JPMorgan gives CEO Jamie Dimon 74 percent raise despite bank’s legal troubles

January 24, 2014

Jamie Dimon can do no wrong — at least in the eyes of his board.

Even though JPMorgan Chase handed the government more than $20 billion to settle an array of charges in 2013, the board of directors still raised the chief executive’s pay by 74 percent, according to a regulatory filing released Friday.

The board voted to award Dimon $18.5 million in restricted stock that will vest over the next three years. Coupled with his base salary of $1.5 million, which remained unchanged from the previous year, Dimon’s total compensation last year was $20 million.

That’s up from $11.5 million in 2012, a year in which the board halved Dimon’s compensation as a reprimand for the $6.2 billion trading fiasco known as the “London Whale.”

Fallout from the trading losses culminated in $1.9 billion in fines paid by the bank to U.S. and British authorities last year. It sparked a shareholder vote in May on whether Dimon should remain chairman and chief executive: Only 32 percent of investors voted to strip Dimon of the dual title.

Now the board has cemented that vote of confidence that Dimon is every bit the leader he was when he steered the bank through the financial crisis. But a lot has changed since then.

In October, the bank suffered its first loss in nearly a decade, reporting a net loss of $380 million after setting aside an additional $9.2 billion for future litigation expenses. Some of that money was earmarked to settle regulatory investigations into the bank’s mortgage securities business.

Those probes came to a head in November, when JPMorgan agreed to pay the government $13 billion to resolve allegations that the bank knowingly sold faulty mortgage securities that contributed to the financial crisis. The settlement earned JPMorgan the dubious distinction of paying the largest penalty ever dealt to a single company.

Yet the settlement, and the slew of others that proceeded it, brought JPMorgan closer to putting to rest its mountain of legal woes. And for that, the board said it was grateful.

One of the factors the board took into account in determining Dimon’s compensation was the “steps the company has taken to resolve” the “regulatory issues the company has faced,” according to the filing. The bank said members of the board also considered JPMorgan’s “sustained long-term performance,” as well as “gains in market share.”

Indeed, JPMorgan’s stock price soared 33 percent to $58.48 in 2013, beating the gains of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which climbed nearly 30 percent.

“Stock price is not the right measurement for evaluating illegal conduct of a company,” said Dennis Kelleher, chief executive of Better Markets, which advocates for financial reform. “A company could engage in massive illegal conduct, which can be very rewarding for the company and good for its stockholders. And that’s what we’ve seen here.”

Profits at JPMorgan, meanwhile, tumbled 16 percent to $17.9 billion last year, down from $21.3 billion in the prior year. Supporters of the bank say its earnings did not tell the full story.

“The net income of JPMorgan did not fall from operating sources,”said banking analyst Dick Bove of Rafferty Capital. “It went down because of fines and litigation. And the fines and litigation were not associated with actions [Dimon] took.”

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