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Dimon Says He’s Eager to Repay ‘Scarlet Letter’ TARP

Elizabeth Hester
Bloomberg [1]
Thursday, April 16, 2009

April 16 (Bloomberg) — JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, who today reported first-quarter profit that beat analysts’ expectations, said his firm could repay U.S. government rescue funds “tomorrow.”

Dimon, calling money received through the Troubled Asset Relief Program “a scarlet letter” and “the TARP baby,” said on a conference call today that the New York-based bank is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. “We could pay it back tomorrow,” he said.

The 53-year-old CEO took $25 billion in U.S. government rescue funds last year. He’s fared better than most of his rivals in guiding the company through the financial crisis, taking $33.3 billion in writedowns, losses and credit provisions through the fourth quarter. That compares with $88.3 billion at New York-based Citigroup Inc. and $55.9 billion at Merrill Lynch & Co., now part of Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. bank.

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Dimon said the bank, which bought about $34 billion in mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities in the quarter, doesn’t expect to participate as either a buyer or seller in the Treasury’s Public-Private Investment Program, known as PPIP. “We learned our lesson” about borrowing from the government, said Dimon, who expects PPIP to benefit the financial system as a whole.

Treasury ‘Encouraged’

The Treasury plans to start PPIP “as soon as possible,” spokesman Andrew Williams said in a statement today. “We’ve been encouraged by the interest from both investors and financial institutions who wish to participate in creating a market for these legacy assets,” he said.