The micro view
In an interview with Charlie Rose that was scheduled to air yesterday evening, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B ) CEO Warren Buffett appeared to praise the notion of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) CEO Jamie Dimon replacing outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, reasoning that "if we did run into problems in markets, I think [Dimon] would actually be the best person you could have in the job."
I don't necessarily find that statement objectionable, and I haven't seen the full transcript of Buffett's remarks, but the idea of handing the Treasury to Dimon in the first place strikes me as the height of folly. Yes, he might be a good crisis handler; the trouble is, his policies as Treasury chief could very well contribute to creating a crisis.
After all, in September 2011, Dimon berated Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada (now the next governor of the Bank of England), regarding capital surcharges on too-big-to-fail institutions. Earlier that month, Dimon had told the Financial Times he objected to a 2.5% extra capital cushion for banks such as JPMorgan. Less than eight months later, he displayed less bravado when he fessed up to multibillion-dollar losses on credit derivative trades that were "poorly executed and poorly monitored."
Turning over the Treasury department to Jamie Dimon would be an egregious error, but I have no problem agreeing with Buffett on one point: Dimon is a world-class banker, and JPMorgan is lucky to have him. In fact, Buffett told Bloomberg Television in July that he owns a million shares of the bank in his personal account. There is no reason to believe he has decreased his stake since then. To find out what Buffett sees in the stock, click here to receive the Fool's newly released premium report, which includes 12 months of ongoing coverage.