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Obama Has Up to $1 Million in JPMorgan Account

Obama Has Up to $1 Million in JPMorgan Account

By Alexis Simendinger - May 15, 2012

While the executive branch checks out JPMorgan Chase & Co., President Obama has been doing some checking of his own.

One day after he described JPMorgan as "the best, or one of the best managed banks," the White House reported that the president holds up to $1 million in an interest-bearing JPMorgan asset management checking account, and Michelle Obama has up to $15,000 in a regular JPMorgan checking account.

The first family’s personal banking relationship with JPMorgan appeared on the president’s nine-page financial disclosure form for 2011, released by the White House Tuesday, and was also a feature of his disclosures for 2010. Obama’s assets are listed on a government-mandated form in broad brackets, making exact valuations for his holdings difficult to ascertain. The bracketed ranges for executive officials are set by law.

The president, appearing on ABC’s “The View” Tuesday, fielded questions about JPMorgan’s recent $2 billion in trading losses, and offered praise for a bank that has for years enjoyed a reputation for effective risk management, at least up until the point that it disclosed losses described by company Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon as “stupid.”

In the interview, Obama framed the bank’s trading mistakes as a potent argument for tough federal regulation following the 2008 financial meltdown, but he did not mention his family’s personal financial relationship with the bank.

Obama called Dimon “one of the smartest bankers we’ve got.” The blunt-speaking chief executive is a fallen-away Obama supporter who publicly parted company with some of the administration’s regulatory initiatives and its occasionally red-meat rhetoric about the behavior of big banks. Early in 2011, Obama turned to JPMorgan executive Bill Daley to become his second White House chief of staff; Daley left the White House and returned to Chicago within the year.

At a Tampa shareholders meeting Tuesday, Dimon fielded questions about his company’s financial performance and its startling trading losses, telling his audience, “I can’t justify it.” But Dimon weathered an effort to split up the CEO and chairman roles he holds simultaneously, and shareholders also affirmed his 2011 compensation package of $23 million.

The Justice Department reportedly is in the early stages of a criminal probe into JPMorgan’s losses, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Tuesday that independent regulators “are going to take a very careful look at this incident.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday declined to comment on specifics of JPMorgan’s transactions leading to its steep losses, and he made no mention of Obama’s personal ties to the bank until after his daily briefing.

The president and the first lady listed a 30-year mortgage on their Chicago home -- at a relatively high 2005 interest rate of 5.625 percent -- as a liability with Northern Trust totaling between $500,001 and $1 million.

The Obamas also embrace anticipated college expenditures for Malia and Sasha as a family savings priority -- a theme during recent Obama events tied to student loan rates nationwide. The Obamas have repeatedly confided to audiences since 2007 that they were unable to repay their student loans until Obama earned serious money after the publication of his memoirs. According to Tuesday’s disclosure forms, the Obamas maintain 529 college savings accounts for their daughters valued between $100,002 and $200,000 for each child.

The president and his wife also listed royalties from their books, plus assets held in Treasuries. Such safe but not particularly lucrative investments remove any appearance of a conflict of interest. An Obama individual savings account for self-employed persons produced between $201 and $1,000 in interest, drawn from Treasury bills worth between $100,001 and $250,000, according to the president’s disclosure report. A separate T-bills account valued at between $500,001 and $1 million threw off similarly modest interest income in 2011.

The Obamas hold between $1 million and $5 million in Treasury notes, which paid interest last year of between $5,001 and $15,000.

The White House also released a 2011 financial disclosure report for the Vice President Biden and wife Jill Biden. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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