When JP Morgan announced a shocking $2 billion loss, chief executive Jamie Dimon admitted the amount could double to $4 billion by the end of the year. Instead it has increased by 50% in a matter of days. Two billion has become $3 billion, as hedge funds and other investors "have fueled faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank," DealBook reports.
It is, as Conor Sen quipped on Twitter, "like a BP oil spill in derivative form."
Two numbers add some perspective. The first number is $400 million. That's the sum Dimon warned that financial regulation, in particular the Volcker Rule, could cost his bank in the first year of trading. JP Morgan's unlucky bet has fueled its loudest critics. "In other words," Rep. Barney Frank said, "JP Morgan Chase, entirely without any help from the government has lost, in this one set of transactions, five times the amount they claim financial regulation is costing them." We cannot know that strict implementation of the Volcker Rule, when it is finally defined and fully implemented, would have prevented this transaction, since there are few public details about the nature of the big loss.
The second number is $3 billion. No, not the $3 billion lost by the investment office in this set of transactions, but the $3 billion profit JP Morgan is still expected to earn in the second quarter, after factoring in the current loss. "What's more," Nelson D. Schwartz and Jessica Silver-Greenberg report, "the chief investment office earned more than $5 billion in the last three years, which leaves it ahead over all, even given the added red ink."