But Dimon's $2 billion embarrassment came from a unit that's supposed to be hedging – meaning that it should have only gone down if there was a corresponding gain somewhere else. But there has been no gain.
As Sen. Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama wondered, if the unit responsible for disastrous trade generated some 10 percent of the company's total profit last year, is what JP Morgan calls hedging really hedging at all?
Dimon didn’t really answer the question, agreeing that the unit was supposed to make money but leaving the size of its contribution to JP Morgan's bottom line alone. More broadly, he later said that figuring out what's a proprietary trade and what's a hedge is a difficult task.
"I think it's going to be very hard to make a bright line distinction between proprietary trading and hedging, because you can look at almost anything we do and call it one or the other. Every loan we make is proprietary. If we lose money, the firm loses money. If we buy Treasury bonds and they lose money, we lose money. So I have a hard time distinguishing [between the two]," Dimon said.
"I do understand the intent of the Volcker rule, that the intent is to reduce activities that could jeopardize and threaten a big financial company. I completely understand that. I think the devil is going to be in the detail in how these rules are written that allow the good of our capital markets and not the bad."
But he later said the rule was "unnecessary" and "too confusing" as currently written.
2. Regulators are not the devil – but regulations are expensive.
Dimon had a few nice things to say about financial regulators.
Speaking of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Dimon said: "I think it's important to recognize that I think there have been improvements in companies, including J.P. Morgan, because of their audit and criticism."
Moreover, he said, Republican criticisms of banking regulators for perhaps not spotting the trading loss before it morphed into such a large hit on the firm are misplaced.