America’s best-known banker is apologizing for a wisecrack that his employer would outlast China’s Communist Party. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, made the remarks while speaking on a panel in Boston on Tuesday.
“I made a joke the other day that the Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year — so is JPMorgan. I’d make a bet that we last longer,” Dimon said at the panel, according to Bloomberg. The executive also said he would be unable to make such a joke if he were in China, adding that officials there would likely see his comments.
By Wednesday, Dimon was rapidly walking back the joke.
“I truly regret my recent comment because it’s never right to joke about or denigrate any group of people, whether it’s a country, its leadership, or any part of a society and culture,” Dimon said in a statement that was shared with CSB MoneyWatch. “Speaking in that way can take away from constructive and thoughtful dialogue in society, which is needed now more than ever.”
In a separate statement, Dimon said he was “trying to emphasize the strength and longevity of our company,” according to the Associated Press.
It isn’t the first that Dimon — known as one of the most outspoken executives on Wall Street — has had to tamp down controversy after making a brash statement. In 2018, he boasted that he could beat then-president Donald Trump at the ballot box, saying, “I’m smarter than he is.” A day later, Dimon acknowledged he “should not have said it.” He has also mouthed off about “worthless” cryptocurrency and President Joe Biden’s “crazy” plan to raise taxes.
JPMorgan Chase has about $21 billion of exposure to China, according to its most recent securities filings. In August, it was the first non-Chinese bank to win approval from the government to fully own its securities business in the country. At the time, Dimon called the venture “one of the largest opportunities in the world.”
Many large U.S. banks have operations in China, and their ability to do business in the world’s second-largest economy often depends on retaining favor with the Chinese government.
Dimon traveled to Hong Kong just last week as part of a tour of JPMorgan’s operation in Asia, his first trip there since the pandemic. Dimon got a special Hong Kong government waiver to COVID-19 quarantine protocols as part of his trip. A JPMorgan spokesperson said that the bank was committed to doing business in China.
With reporting by the Associated Press.