Yes, the nation’s largest bank lost $388 million. Alex Pareene of Salon explains why that matters:
… in one important sense, this loss doesn’t really “count.” The loss didn’t happen because the things JPMorgan does to make money stopped making money, the loss happened because JPMorgan has spent a fortune — a truly staggering amount of money — defending itself against legal inquiries and paying fines for bad behavior. This quarterly loss is the result of the bank needing a couple billion dollars to spend on lawyers and fines and fees, with a few billion set aside this quarter as “part of a $23 billion pot the bank has set aside to cover mounting legal costs.” Take away those costs, and you have a bank that is making almost as much money as usual. “Excluding litigation expense and reserve release,” according to Reuters, “the company posted a profit of $5.82 billion, or $1.42 per share.”
As Felix Salmon has said, a fantastically profitable bank is a bank that is extracting rents from the economy. A bank that would be fantastically profitable if it weren’t for the expense of dealing with myriad investigations into its corrupt and criminal activities is a bank that would seem to have reached the limits of its rent-extraction strategy.
So crime is baked into JPMorgan Chase’s business model. The nation’s largest bank apparently is little more than a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined under the RICO act, if it has to put billions, with a “B,” aside in just one quarter for legal defense. But nothing bad will ever happen to JPMorgan Chase because Barack Obama’s Justice Department can’t be bothered to investigate world-historical swindles, and nothing will happen to CEO Jamie Dimon because CEOs aren’t responsible for the crimes of the corporations they are so handsomely rewarded to run. Ever.