JP Morgan: 'I just don't know how this happened'

May 23, 2012

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It's not so fun to be a financial institution these days. Just ask Bears Stearns, the former global investment bank. Or JPMorgan, the financial services firm that reported trading losses in the billions this month, due to some risky moves.

Some people are not so sympathetic to these institutions' woes. “JPMorgan Chase has a big hedge fund inside a commercial bank,” Mark Williams, a professor of finance at Boston University told the New York Times. “They should be taking in deposits and making loans, not taking large speculative bets.”

But JP Morgan says, "I just don’t know how this happened." (Well, JP Morgan as personified by playwright and comic Julia Weiss, that is.) "I knew what I was doing. So maybe our math was a little wrong. But come on, math is hard. I mean, the answer was wrong but don’t I get partial credit for showing my work?"  

Read an excerpt below or listen above:

Hi, I’m JP. And I am addicted to gambling. I am uh...I’m a trusted 141-year-old financial institution, but I guess in people years that's a 47-year-old man who just realized he’s 47 so he cheated on your mom and bought a Ferrari. Or like, 10,000 Ferraris with your college fund. But you had a really big college fund so, it’s not really as big a deal as it sounds.

You guys don’t know what it’s like. My friends, they're hardcore. They live on the edge. We would go out on a Saturday night and stop at 7-Eleven for some pre-binging cheeseburger taquitos. And one guy would buy like 6 million Hog Heaven scratch-off Lotto tickets. And like another guy would by 5 million Buck Wild scratch-off ticket, but bet the guy who bought the Hog Heavens that the Hog Heavens would be more profitable than the Buck Wilds. But then the guy that bought the Buck Wilds, he would take that bet and bet also that the Buck Wilds would be more profitable and like, that's finance.

For the longest time, the biggest risk I took would be just getting that cheeseburger taquito. I was good. I was the best risk manager in the business. If 7-Eleven was as good at managing their employees that make their cheeseburger taquitos as I was at managing risk, you’d never have a cheeseburger taquito with a cold center.

When my friends lost everyone’s money a few years back, betting on things that were improbable with fevered confidence as if they were impossible, I laid low. I stayed back, I didn't get involved. And I came out of that sh** looking like a boss. Man, I was a king. Everyone was like, damn JP, you’re so good, there's no way that was luck.. So I started playing harder. I stopped thinking about my family. And I stopped thinking about my kids. And I started thinking about JP. Because no one ever thought about JP. No one ever was like, JP do something for you. You know?

And yeah, I keep saying, publicly, that I was hedging against risk but… man, I was straight up gambling. And I liked it and I felt virile and I felt young again.

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