JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon denies that he signed a contract to become head of Adam Neumann’s family office only days before the implosion of WeWork in late 2019.
“I was just playing him along with a series of massive unsecured loans, safe in the knowledge that SoftBank would bail him out if the WeWork IPO tanked. And we would still get some fees anyway,” says Dimon. “It’s true that Adam called me his personal banker and I had to go to a few hot yoga sessions in the Hamptons with him and his wife’s cousin, Gwyneth Paltrow, but what can you do? I can tell you I look a lot better in Lycra than David Solomon, that’s for sure.”
JPMorgan separately appoints its consumer lending head Marianne Lake and CFO Jennifer Piepszak as co-presidents, effectively guaranteeing that Dimon’s successor will be a woman.
“Citigroup might have already made Jane Fraser its number two, but we now have twice as many female presidents, which says everything you need to know about our commitment to diversity,” says Dimon.
Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon tries to counter the frosty reception to his long-awaited strategy update by hiring Blythe Masters as a co-president.
“Blythe shares my love of marketing gimmicks and rebranding exercises, so she’ll fit right in to the modern Goldman,” says Solomon. “She transformed finance by inventing credit derivatives and blockchain, and now she can bring that same commitment to innovation to the exciting world of consumer lending in the Midwest.”
Solomon downplays reports that securities co-head Ashok Varadhan generated more revenue in the fourth quarter with a single big repo bet than Goldman’s advisory and consumer banking divisions combined.
“Ashok is a great trader, but he spends most of his time nowadays watching training sessions of Duke’s basketball team online, so he isn’t pulling his weight where it really matters – in coming up with new marketing slogans,” says Solomon.
SoftBank sees an exodus of former Deutsche Bank employees from its Vision Fund in the wake of a corporate governance and compensation policy overhaul.
“I know the WeWork and Uber stakes cratered, but I wasn’t expecting to be paid entirely in dog-walking vouchers for Wag,” says departing partner John Pipilis. “Plus the daily grind was like being back at Deutsche in all the worst ways. I even had Anshu Jain telling me to print out pitch documents for the Vision Fund II and bring them to his desk in the lobby at Cantor Fitzgerald. Still, I suppose I only have myself to blame – fool me once shame on you, fool me twice and I end up having to call Rob ‘Killer’ Karofsky at UBS to beg for a job.”
The long-awaited IPO of Saudi Aramco launches after bankers devise a scheme to value the company at a notional $2 trillion for domestic listing purposes, while selling shares globally at a $1.2 trillion valuation.
“MBS isn’t really a details guy, so it was fine in the end,” says one banker involved in the deal. “We even thought about telling him the total implied valuation was over $3 trillion, but we decided not to push it. Nobody wants to end up as a long-stay resident of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton!”
JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley coordinate the IPO, which means there is only a minor advisory role for boutique investment bank Moelis & Co.
Its founder and chief executive, ‘Ken of Arabia’ Moelis, takes some comfort in being awarded a medal for conspicuous sycophancy in recognition of his services to the Saudi royal family.
UniCredit chief executive Jean Pierre Mustier unveils a plan to merge nine of Europe’s struggling banks.
“We are going to call it the European Services Group, or ESG, which should encourage asset managers with a focus on green mandates to buy into the new firm and allow us to target a share price of around half of our notional book value by 2030,” says Mustier.
Critics accuse Mustier of green washing by adopting ESG as the name of the planned European banking conglomerate, but key investors are happy to back the new venture.
“If it says ESG on the label, that’s good enough for me,” says the head of socially responsible investing at one global asset management firm.
The Trump administration accelerates plans to reward its financial market allies by privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin announces that Michael Milken has agreed to structure a deal to pay dividends to investors, while retaining a government guarantee of mortgage-backed debt payments.
“Mike might be banned for life from the securities industry, but he is still allowed to tell me what to do,” says Mnuchin. “And my wife Louise Linton will help to promote the deal with an offer to get a free red ‘Make America great again’ hat and a pair of elbow-length, black leather gloves with each share purchase.
“If you liked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac exposure before the 2008 crisis, you’re going to love Faddie 2.0!”
Andrea Orcel’s legal claim for €100 million against Santander over breach of his contract to become the bank’s chief executive goes to court in Madrid.
Proceedings immediately stall when Santander pushes for disclosure of Orcel’s clothing budget while he was head of investment banking at UBS. The Italian super-banker’s lawyers counter by querying why the case is being heard in the Emilio Botín memorial courtroom.
An added complication comes when Jean Pierre Mustier offers to let Santander join his new European banking conglomerate, now to be called European Santander Group.
“Having a bank that is actually in decent shape as one of our members isn’t a bad idea,” Mustier says. “Though I don’t think there will be room for Andrea Orcel in our new no frills, no bonuses, no business-class flights outfit. The future of banking is self-sacrifice and pursuit of the greater good.”
Mustier adds that his cost-cutting push at ESG is already ahead of target, as most bankers with any experience are leaving voluntarily.
Ray Dalio, founder of hedge fund Bridgewater, is confirmed as cosmic coordinator for Burning Man 2020, with its theme: ‘Welcome to the multiverse’.
“I’ve heard critics say that in a parallel universe I would concentrate on supplying decent returns to Bridgewater investors, rather than making a fool of myself by wearing a feathery coat and hanging out with trust-fund douches in the desert,” says Dalio.
“But these people just don’t get it. Burning Man is now Bilderberg meets Davos meets a landlocked 300-foot yacht for the billionaire who wants to be taken seriously as both a thinker and a mystic. I’ll be sharing my views on the coming revolution and hopefully also tapping a few new investors while I’m there.”
Bank of America joins the Wall Street trend towards promoting women to top roles by appointing Cathy Bessant as president. Chief executive and chairman Brian Moynihan says he is confident that Bessant will prove to be an effective successor at BofA.
“I told Cathy that all you really need to do in this job is agree with Tom Montag in meetings and steer clear of any of our trading floors when he might be holding court with his cronies,” says Moynihan. “Tom is bound to get bored and leave at some point, so maybe Cathy will get the chance to actually run this place that I never had.”
HSBC debuts its new ‘Pivot to Birmingham’ strategy after interim chief executive Noel Quinn is confirmed in his position full time.
“Hong Kong is looking dodgier by the day, so we don’t want to be all-in on Asia,” says HSBC chairman Mark Tucker. “But at the same time London is still very expensive and there was virtually no impact on revenues when we got rid of most of the global banking and markets staff there, so I think Birmingham is the answer.
“Now Noel can get the bus to the football at Aston Villa and I can Skype him from the executive box at Chelsea when I want to tell him what to do next, so this solution works for everybody. Except for the investment bankers, obviously.”
Market instability in the approach to a closely contested US election prompts most banks and investors to cut risk limits, but Barclays chief executive Jes Staley claims he is confident of riding out the storm.
“I’m just feeling lucky, that’s all I can say,” says Staley. “The former Lehman guys who are still here have been on a hot hand for the last few quarters and even Ed Bramson has stopped complaining recently.
“I might see if I can hire Blythe Masters away from Goldman while there is still some money in the bonus pool. I miss the old gang from the JPMorgan days, and she can’t be happy spending her days automating loan approvals for Marcus and having to pretend she enjoys listening to David Solomon DJ at client events.”
Newly elected US president Elizabeth Warren announces that Jamie Dimon will be her Treasury secretary.
“Not only am I making history by appointing a woman as my successor at JPMorgan, but I’m actually going to work for a woman myself, which I think you’ll agree is a pretty big deal for a guy like me,” says Dimon. “And if it doesn’t work out, who the hell cares?”
Blackstone chairman Stephen Schwarzman issues a hurriedly updated post-election version of his best-selling book ‘What it takes: Lessons in the pursuit of money’.
Schwarzman reveals that he was able to restrain the worst impulses of Donald Trump by sending messages to Steve Mnuchin through the shared wall of their adjoining New York apartments at 740 Park Avenue.
“Steve isn’t the brightest – I’m still amazed his dad managed to get him a job at Goldman all those years ago – but at least he knows how to take advice, and that’s how I was able to secretly lead the resistance from within Trump’s inner circle,” says Schwarzman.
“I know Elizabeth Warren might be sceptical and she may well be looking to hike taxes on wealth creators like me, but in a spirit of reconciliation I’d like to invite her and Jamie to my next birthday party. It’s going to be a low-key event, strictly beer and burgers.”