Having slammed bitcoin earlier in the day during a Barclays financial conference, calling it a "fraud" which is "worse than tulip bulbs, it won't end well" and that any JPMorgan "trader trading bitcoin" will be "fired for being stupid", the JPM CEO doubled down later in the day during an interview on CNBC's Delivering Alpha conference, saying bitcoin "is just not a real thing, eventually it will be closed."
Making the bitcoin advocates' case for them, Dimon said he’s skeptical authorities will allow a currency to exist without state oversight, especially if something goes wrong. “Someone’s going to get killed and then the government’s going to come down,” he said. “You just saw in China, governments like to control their money supply.”
Which, of course, is the whole point behind cryptocurrency: a method of exchange that is independent of and in apposition to conventionally accepted fiat and monetary mechanisms, one which the government frowns upon if not outright rejects, even if it is ultimately unable to block it. As an example of that, observe the reaction in bitcoin to this weekend's news that China is (allegedly) closing bitcoin exchanges: BTC dropped from $4,700 to $4,200 and... that was about it. Of course, to the CEO of JPMorgan, which incidentally is a founding member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and which nearly two years ago started a trial project using blockchain to cut trading costs, such positioning only has negative connotations:
“If you were in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a bunch of parts like that, or if you were a drug dealer, a murderer, stuff like that, you are better off doing it in bitcoin than U.S. dollars. So there may be a market for that, but it’d be a limited market.”
He is right: the market is limited right now because only a handful of modern countries have experienced catastrophic hyperinflation, but the number is rising. And what bitcoin - like gold - provides is protection if the monetary insanity unleashed by "developed market" central banks eventually results in the same outcome as Venezuela, North Korea and so on. It's insurance, and judging by the soaring price, more and more are eager to buy this insurance.
Imagine what will happen when the market is no longer limited?
Ultimately Dimon does grasp the implications, because as he told CNBC, "I'm not saying go short. Bitcoin can hit $100,000 before it goes down. This is not advice of what to do."
No, his advise is simpler: stop trading bitcoin and instead trade commission-generating equities ideally with JPMorgan: earlier in the day Dimon warned that JPM's trading revenue in Q3 will tumble 20%.
And then there was the amusing anecdote involving his own daughter: "My daughter bought bitcoin, it went up and now she thinks she's a genius."
Well, she is more of a genius than equity investors: bitcoin has soared without the Fed and other central banks having to inject $15 trillion in liquidity to keep it from crashing...
Amusingly, a reader sent in the following terse comment on Dimon and Bitcoin:
Two numbers that stand out:
- Over $13b in fines paid by JPM because of fraudulent mortgage practices
- Over $1b in separate fines paid because of its role in the Madoff scheme.
All under Jamie's watch. But it's Bitcoin he's worried is the fraud?
Actually, I'm quite grateful to him. Not only does he reconfirm the existential threat the underlying tech poses to his business, but he's becoming the perfect contrarian indicator.
Once JPM announces it's own crypto research and trading desk, complete with structured products and derivatives built around Bitcoin, we'll know it's time to sell!
And speaking of contrarian indicators, Bitcoin has already recovered more than half the losses it sustained after today's Dimon slam.