JPMorgan's record-breaking fine won't faze Jamie Dimon

JPMorgan's reported $13 billion settlement with the US Justice Department doesn't pose any threat to CEO Jamie Dimon's job security, analysts say. 

Gary Cameron/Reuters/File
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon (C) leaves the U.S. Justice Department after meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, in Washington last month.

JPMorgan's potential $13 billion fine—a record amount—and a newly cool relationship with Washington won't end Jamie Dimon's run as chairman and chief executive.

That's how most analysts are responding to the news that the nation's largest bank is likely to settle with the government over problematic mortgage-backed securities issued before the financial crisis.

"We expect him to remain CEO. I think both board members and shareholders realize that Jamie Dimon is one of the, if not the, best bank managers out there," said Jeff Harte, an analyst with Sandler O'Neill & Partners.

Most analysts have either a "buy" or "strong buy" rating on JPMorgan's stock, according Thomson Reuters data, and their median target price is $63. Shares were up slightly Monday to around $54.4 as of 11 a.m.

"Jamie will most likely survive this—a lot of what they are paying for in this settlement is what Bear (Stearns) and (Washington Mutual) did, not JPM, but since they purchased them, they are on the hook for what they did," said Paul Miller, an FBR analyst.

Miller rates JPMorgan stock "market perform," meaning it will be in line with general market performance. "This doesn't change my outlook, but it does clear up some big issues, but a lot of this is already in the name," he added.

Wall Street's view of Dimon is in contrast to some more critical observers. "By any objective measure, Jamie Dimon should be fired. The compliance failures are egregious and systemic," Dennis Kelleher, president of nonprofit watchdog BetterMarkets, told The New York Times recently.

Dimon was also symbolically placed in the corner of the room at a recent White House meeting with President Obama, according to The Wall Street Journal. Dimon was once Washington's favorite banker and was often sat across from Obama in similar meetings.

Dimon himself told CNBC Monday morning he was attempting to move on.

"We're trying to get it resolved," Dimon said of the potential settlement with various government agencies. "I am so damn proud of this company. That's what I think about when I wake up every day…260,000 people around the world are doing a great job for our clients. We're gaining market share. We're doing great stuff. We're trying to get our problems behind us."

Even if they expect Dimon to survive, at least two prominent analysts were less bullish on the bank as a whole.

"For both the CEO and the company, a large $13 billion fine can help put the worst behind JPMorgan but not eliminate a still significant degree of headline, regulatory, legal and political risk," CLSA analyst Mike Mayo said. "Despite this backdrop, Jamie Dimon will likely survive as CEO, albeit with headwinds that keep us from recommending JP Morgan stock at this time."

Echoing a Wall Street Journal editorial this weekend, Rafferty Capital Markets analyst Dick Bove wondered if the government's pursuit of record fines now after encouraging JPMorgan to buy Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual during the financial crisis amounted to entrapment.

Bove, who has a "hold" rating on the stock, added in a client note Monday that it was wrong for bullish analysts to view the fine as a way for JPMorgan to resolve its regulatory problems. JPMorgan could face civil lawsuits for years if it admits guilt and the company was backing away from a number of "highly profitable" businesses because of potential risks.

"The bottom line is that the company's secular earnings power has been impacted," Bove said. He added that he expected Dimon to remain CEO but "his role in the company will be diminished."

JPMorgan has been dogged by legal problems all year.

In September, U.S. and U.K.regulators announced that JPMorgan Chase would admit wrongdoing and pay $920 million in penalties for its so-called London Whale trading losses in 2012.Other recent troubles include a probe into hiring practices in China; lawsuits over failed credit unions; and an investigation into its energy business.

Others weren't so concerned.

"While legal costs clearly remain an overhang, with $23 billion in reserves we believe future charges should be manageable from here," Goldman Sachs said in a client note Monday.

"While it is difficult to judge the settlement without the full details, if it provides more certainty around JPM's legal overhang and the cost was in-line with management's prior estimates it could be a positive, in our view," the note said. "Going forward, JPM continues to trade at the most attractive valuation of any stock we cover…and as legal headlines dissipate and the market begins to focus more on JPM's core earnings power we expect this gap to narrow."

So far, the market agrees: JPMorgan stock is up more than 23 percent for the year. 

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