Jamie Dimon got a raise that conveniently looks like a pay cut

The bumbling JPMorgan chief is rewarded, a bit sneakily, for his disastrous 2013 performance

Published April 11, 2014 6:00PM (EDT)

  (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Jamie Dimon, in his own words, had a "difficult and nerve-wracking" 2013. This is because he is the chairman, president and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, a financial firm that is constantly getting into trouble for doing terrible things. In 2013, the firm spent billions in settlements for various violations of securities laws -- and that was them getting off easy. The firm is so inherently rotten that this year Dimon was forced to hire more than 10,000 new employees dedicated solely to attempting to make sure the bank isn't breaking the law. (This is considered prudent leadership in finance.) The bank has been investigated or fined for money laundering, bribery, energy market manipulation, foreclosure fraud and much, much more. But not only has Dimon managed to keep his job, he was actually given a raise last year.

The raise, though, was not reported as a raise by some outlets. The regulatory filing issued by JPMorgan says Dimon's 2013 compensation totaled $20 million, making him the best-paid bank CEO in New York. But the Associated Press, and other news outlets, have reported that Dimon made $11.8 million in 2013, which would represent a significant pay cut from 2012, when, because the board was concerned about all that crime and so forth, he was paid half what he had been paid in 2011.

The discrepancy is because JPMorgan is (sensibly) counting everything it gave Dimon as compensation. For some reason, much of Dimon's 2013 bonuses were in the form of restricted shares. But the SEC doesn't count restricted shares as compensation until they vest. The shares are a delayed payment, basically, which allows the bank's board of directors to pay Dimon a generous fortune while making it appear that they're merely paying him a small fortune. And that's how Dimon got a raise that could also be reported as a pay cut.

The board is probably not rushing to correct the AP for reporting that Dimon took a haircut. It's good, in this regulatory environment, to appear contrite, especially when you keep committing crimes all the time. But to ensure that "the markets" understand that the board is very, very confident in the man who has steered JPMorgan through (and into) these difficult times, the board wanted to be clear that Dimon is sticking around and getting paid, once again, like the invaluable asset that they have convinced themselves that he is.

Of course, even paying Dimon a "mere" $11.8 million is completely bonkers, considering that the vast majority of the things that JPMorgan is rewarding him for overcoming happened under his watch. That's exactly why Dimon gets the big bucks, though: He is able to convince people that he is the only man capable of cleaning up the messes that happen while he's in charge. His genius is in convincing people of his genius. If it weren't for the fact that JPMorgan Chase's size and reach makes it a grave threat to the world economy, I'd just laugh at the dumb millionaires getting bamboozled by a slightly cleverer millionaire.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

MORE FROM Alex Pareene

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Finance Jamie Dimon Jpmorgan Chase Money Wall Street