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Jamie Dimon is unfazed by the $36 billion Capital One-Discover merger that could leapfrog JPMorgan: ‘Let them compete’

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The finance behemoth created by Capital One’s pending merger with Discover would immediately surpass credit card leader JP Morgan Chase, but CEO Jamie Dimon isn’t worried about the competition—he relishes it.

“Let them compete, let them try,” he said in a Monday interview with CNBC. 

Regulators should allow the merger to go through and let the market hash out the rest, he said. Despite the deal’s threat to his own company, the long-time finance industry veteran said he was “not worried about it really.” 

Yet, Capital One’s $35 billion acquisition of Discover would allow it to supplant JP Morgan Chase as the largest credit card issuer in the country, and give it access to the lucrative fees Discover’s network charges to facilitate transactions with merchants. It would also allow Capital One to cut costs by shifting some debit and credit transactions to Discover’s payments network.

When asked about the implications of JP Morgan being replaced as the top credit card issuer, Dimon said that would only be the case, “for now.” 

Still, he added that if the deal went through it would give Capital One an unfair advantage when it comes to debit cards.

Thanks to an exception in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act created for companies like Discover and American Express that issue credit cards and deal directly with merchants, post-merger, Capital One would be allowed to jack up the fees charged to merchants to use Discover debit cards while banks like JP Morgan are more limited due to the law.

“Of course I have a problem with that,” Dimon said. “Why should they be allowed to price debit different than we price debit just because of a law that was passed?”

Showing no fear of competition, Dimon added that regulators shouldn’t stand in the way of more mergers in the financial sector.

“I think they should allow some of these smaller banks to merge,” he said. “If that’s how they think they can best compete with JP Morgan, you should let them.”

But while JP Morgan’s top boss seems fine with the tie-up of Capital One and Discover, lawmakers are fiercely opposed to the proposal. On Sunday, 13 Democrats led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) signed an open letter urging President Biden to block the deal because it would be bad for consumers. On the other side of the aisle, last week Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also came out against the deal in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, who leads the antitrust division. 

Jamie Dimon’s career

The 67-year-old’s long track record of success at the helm of JP Morgan shows why he’s not worried about the threat of Capital One’s tie-up with Discover. 

Dimon is well versed in financial industry acquisitions. His tenure at JP Morgan itself came about as a result of the bank’s merger with Bank One Corporation, where he was chairman and CEO. And before that he helped guide several acquisitions as chief financial officer and later president of Commercial Credit, including its acquisition of Traveler’s Group in 1993. He served as president of Citigroup after the $70 billion merger between Travelers Group and Citicorp. in 1998.

After becoming CEO of JP Morgan in 2006, Dimon helped navigate the bank through the 2008 financial crisis, offloading billions of dollars of subprime mortgages that allowed the company to weather the turmoil better than other competitors.

More recently, Dimon led JP Morgan to its seventh consecutive quarter of record net interest income and clinched the title for the most profitable year on record for a U.S. bank in 2023.

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