Chase CEO says 'stupid things were done by American banks,' as bankers lose Davos clout
Jeremy Gantz
Published: Saturday January 31, 2009

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon is telling a world grappling with the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression what it wants to hear:

“I take full blame for all the American banks and all the things they did,” Dimon said during a panel on leadership at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Thursday.

Dimon, whose company received $25 billion from last October's federal "bailout" legislation, said he knows that's what people would like to hear, Bloomberg reported. “God knows, some really stupid things were done by American banks,” Dimon said Thursday.

But the 52-year-old banker, who oversaw his company's acquisition of failing U.S. banks Washington Mutual and Bear Sterns last year, also wondered where Washington's policy makers were while U.S. banks were laying groundwork for the ongoing meltdown.

"Where were they? They approved all these banks,” Dimon said.

Dimon was the only head of a major U.S. financial institution to attend the annual conference this year, according to Bloomberg. That's a break from Davos tradition: in the past, the world's elite business leaders dispensed economic wisdom while political leaders often remained in the background.

"The number of VIP politicians is huge, and it's a lot less bankers this year," said Rainer Ohler, senior vice president of Airbus SA. "What you are missing really is the top shots in banking."

Heads of state, now doing their best to hold the world economy together, have taken center stage at Davos. Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are a few of the more than 40 heads of state in Davos this year, the Associated Press reported.

Many of those political -- and financial -- leaders are scared stiff by the specter of U.S. protectionism. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a "Buy American" measure-- part of the massive $819 billion stimulus package -- that would generally prohibit the purchase of foreign iron and steel for any infrastructure project in the bill.

"Everybody here [at Davos] is talking about protectionism. There's not a prime minister present not talking about protectionism," said Peter Sutherland, former (GATT) trade chief and now chair of British Petroleum.

Outside the conference, hundreds protested the Davos forum and clashed with police. Sixty people were arrested after hundreds of protestors converged on the centre of Geneva to protest against the World Economic Forum in Davos in defiance of a ban imposed by local authorities, a Davos police spokesman said.

That was after bottles and firecrackers were thrown at the riot police who charged the demonstrators, using teargas grenades. A group of several dozen protestors marched through the snow-covered Alpine village, holding a giant banner that read "You Are The Crisis."

With wire reports.