Jamie Dimon On The U.S. Economy, Bitcoin, Border Control – Davos 2024

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Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with JPMorgan Chase Chairman & CEO Jamie Dimon on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Wednesday, January 17 live from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: But our first headliner of the morning as Joe kept alluding to, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is here. There’s about a hundred things we want to talk to you about. It’s nice to see you, sir.

JAMIE DIMON: Great to be here again.

SORKIN: But I’ll tell you where I want to start because I see that you have Ukrainian flag there on your lapel.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: And you spent some time with President Zelenskyy yesterday.

DIMON: I did.

SORKIN: Tell us about that meeting.

DIMON: He came and met with a bunch of — first of all, I’m thrilled to be here, all of you around the world. You know, he came and met with a bunch of business leaders and people who can help think about refinancing the redevelopment of Ukraine after this terrible war is ended. So, they’re starting to think ahead. To a lot of people, how do you structure and stuff like that. But, you know, my heart goes out to the guy. I mean, people forget that every day, he wakes up in the morning, there’s a 600-mile front, there’s a million soldiers fighting off, you know, a Russian – they’ve had 300,000 casualties so far. This may go on for longer. We have to help them. We have to teach the American public that this is about freedom and democracy for the free world, and that’s what the battle being fought. And so, I hope our government gets together and, you know, finally passes these new bills, et cetera. So, I just want to show my support for Ukraine.

SORKIN: Do you think that’s a message that is going to get broad support back in the United States? Because clearly, there is a huge, polarized split on this. In fact, when I talked to Zelenskyy later in the day, we talked about the prospect of former President Trump becoming the president again, and what that would mean for the support or actually lack of support for Ukraine in the future.

DIMON: I think American leadership has to explain to the American public why it’s important, has to remind them what happened in 1917, has to remind them what happened in 1941. And so while, you know, America, we have to protect America, this is America first. This is the battle zone of democracy and freedom and free enterprise. It’s affecting all the other relationships in the world. A Russian victory could cause huge problems that might — I might write an op-ed on how the West lost and, you know, looking back from 2050 is, did we keep together the alliances, the democracies. We have to put tray back on the table. That’s how important this is. This may be that turning point.

SORKIN: What do you say to the politicians back in the U.S., and even politicians in other countries around the world who say, look, we have our own problems back home, we’ve got immigration issues, other things that cost money, we have other crises that we have to contend with that we have to pay for, whether what’s happening in Gaza, or other places around the world? And where do you in the sort of stacked prioritization, do you put Ukraine?

DIMON: Very high up. I think Ukraine is about what the world is free — may be about where the world is free and safe of democracy for a hundred years. We are screwing up tons of other things, including immigration. But life isn’t either/or. So, you can’t say, well, do this and do that. You’re dealt the hand you’re dealt, and you got to deal with it. And so, we should be very clear about helping the lower income population, you know, every country has to control the borders, and we have to control the borders. And so they’re all important.

BECKY QUICK: Would you take the deal that the Republicans have put on the table, though, which is we want this border, immigration policy, as we’ve laid out and then we’ll fund the rest? Would you rather take that than neither?

DIMON: I have not read that deal in total, but I probably would take it.

QUICK: Yeah.

DIMON: We have to control the borders. We need more merit-based immigration. We need more seasonal immigration. We need DACA to have a place here. We need a path to citizenship. If you do not control the borders, you’re going to destroy our country. And so, I think the people who think that somehow it is okay, so now, they’re sending the migrants into New York or stuff like that, all my super liberal friends, now they realize what the problem is. Did it have to be that, you know, that we realize it? So, we want to have a big heart for the world, but we have to control the borders.

JOE KERNEN: Do you view Putin’s intentions as beyond Ukraine? I mean, there are some people that think he wants the great Russia you know, he feels like it’s been, I don’t want to say castrated, but it’s certainly not the Soviet Union anymore, Mother Russia. So, he wants to bring some of that back. You don’t think there are certain parts he would stop? You think Poland is next? You think that there are larger intentions that are going to come? Because that — almost a domino there, because we’ve had those —

DIMON: Yeah, I defer a little bit to people like Condi Rice and Bob Gates and all these folks who are experts. You know, he clearly has designs in a bigger, broader Russia, stuff like that. And, you know, we don’t exactly know if he wins something there, what he’s going to do next. Why take a chance?

KERNEN: Right.

DIMON: I’m not looking at – you have to know the answer. We do know if we don’t take a chance, we’re better off if we do take a chance. So, and this is also — remember, this is also about Iran, North Korea. I think it’s about how, you know —

KERNEN: China.

DIMON: — how China positions itself over time.

SORKIN: Well, that’s where I was going to go next, because we talked to Tony Blinken just yesterday about China, and the relationship that the U.S. has with China and the prospect of them effectively taking over Taiwan in the next, call it several years.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: What do you think the prospect of that is? And how do you think multinational businesses are supposed to react or think about that risk?

DIMON: Yeah, so we met with the Chinese premier yesterday, and look, I’m going to defer to Tony Blinken. You know, the chance with Taiwan is going to be the next fight is everyone says is rather low for a whole bunch of difference reasons. You know, China may one day have to take sides. They haven’t done that. We shouldn’t force them to because we can’t tell other nations that how they should behave or how they should act. But I would look at China holistically. You know, the Western alliance, democracy, should stay together, keep it free, but we have to do trade —

SORKIN: Right.

DIMON: — diplomacy, development, finance. Like we are not all over Africa and Latin America like we should be. Now, Tony Blinken actually set up a meeting with Janet Yellen and a bunch of big financial companies about how to help generate more development and finance with the World Bank, with — you know, but here you need private capital. Private capital dwarf with these multinational institutions can do. So, it’s a holistic view. There is no simple way to deal with China and the rest of the world, but if we do it holistically, you know, you guys heard me, we have the better hand. We have food, water, energy, the most prosperous nation the world has ever seen.

SORKIN: How challenged do you think the Chinese economy is right now? And that’s one of the reasons and we heard last year actually from the president of the Taiwan, one of the reasons she thinks that actually China won’t try to take the country is because they have to deal with their own challenges at home.

DIMON: I think there’s some truth to that. But I think it’s good they’re here, you know? I mean, they’re trying to make sure that they’re open for business, that they’re being fair to foreign companies. You saw the foreign direct investment for the first time kind of ever, I think, since WTO was negative this year.

QUICK: And that’s a big issue —

DIMON: And direct investment is down.

QUICK: Yeah.

DIMON: And so, you need to invigorate their own economy for their own citizens, their oath growth, their own people and that may very well play into the geopolitical view.

QUICK: But do you — I mean, the message is that they’re open for business now. I think people who have gotten burned in the past may be a little reticent before they’re willing to invest more into it.

DIMON: They have — so take financiers, they have been consistent in opening up, took a long time. So we have full license there now. But I think you know, anyone who is looking to invest in there has to be a little worried. And, you know, the risk/reward changed dramatically. And, of course, you know, a company like JPMorgan, I always say when it comes to foreign policy, Blinken decides and the president. You know, I salute, I’m an American patriot. But they want us there. They’re not asking American companies to leave and, you know, being a premiere bank in China helps us educate the government. It helps us educate the world about China. We bank I’m going to say 1,000 multinationals in China. So, obviously, we’ve got to be careful, and the laws have changed and we have to change with the laws both in China and America. And we’re actively doing that.

SORKIN: How do you see the U.S. economy playing itself out over the next 12 months? This is an election year. We talked about what took place in Iowa.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: And trying to understand how the American public is going to feel about the economy may ultimately dictate how the president is decided.

DIMON: Yes, I agree with that. I think it’s a mistake to assume everything is hunky-dory. And, you know, when stock markets were up, it’s like this little drug we all feel, like it’s just great, you know? But remember, we had so much fiscal monetary stimulation. So I’m a little more on the cautious side, that we are facing a lot of things in ’24 or ’25 and we mentioned Ukraine, the terrorist activity in Israel, the Red Sea, quantitative tightening which I still question if we understand exactly how it works, I don’t think we do. How QE actually works. What the effect of negative — zero rates all this time, and obviously the politics. And, you know, and then the Ukrainian war is affecting oil, gas, food, migration. So, you have all these very powerful forces that are going to be affecting us in ’24 and ’25. So, if I was the government, I would be preparing for what I’m going to do about that assuming things aren’t good. And I just also want to point out, I wish the Democrats would think a little more carefully when they talk about MAGA, you know? And if you travel this country, you know and the country is unbelievable. We took a bus trip this year, Leslie Picker was on — Spokane and Boise and Bozeman. People are growing. They’re hungry to grow. They’re innovating. It’s everywhere. It’s not just Silicon Valley. So, we got this great hand. But when people say MAGA, they’re actually looking at people voting for Trump and they think they’re voting — and they’re basically scapegoating them, that you are like him, but I don’t think they’re voting for Trump because of his family values. If you look at, just take a step back, be honest. He’s kind of right about NATO. Kind of right about immigration. He grew the economy quite well.

KERNEN: China virus.

DIMON: Tax reform worked. He was right about some with China. I don’t like what he did —

KERNEN: I said China virus.

DIMON: I don’t like how he said things about Mexico, I don’t like — but he wasn’t wrong about some of these critical issues. And that’s why they’re voting for him. And I think people should be a little more respectful of our fellow citizens and when you guys have people up here, you should always ask the why. Not like it is a binary thing, you support Trump, you’re not supporting Trump. Why you’re supporting Trump?

KERNEN: It’s hard to hate 75 million of your fellow Americans, it’s —

DIMON: I agree. And the Democrats have done a good job with the deplorables, hugging their bibles and their beer and their guns. I mean, really? Can we stop that stuff and actually grow up and treat other people respectfully and listen to them a little bit? And I do think the economy will affect — I think this negative talk about MAGA is going to hurt Biden’s election campaign.

KERNEN: Right. So, I want to get back to the $34 trillion that we got, because it seemed like when rates were going up and we thought the Fed was going to keep going higher for longer, it looked like some of that was coming home to roost because the auctions weren’t going well. It’s like, wow, debt service is much more expensive. This is going to hurt. Suddenly, the pat answer is, well, we’re already through that. Rates are coming down again. So, the $34 trillion is suddenly okay again and I don’t think it works that way, does it?

DIMON: Yeah, I think people are making a mistake. I think it is going to come to bite. You know, that could be in three years, in five years, in seven years. I think it may bite in the markets way before that because the market makers don’t have the — because of regulations, don’t have the capabilities to make markets like they used to. So, we can easily handle it, but restricted by all these rules. And you’re absolutely correct, if my numbers are right, in 1980, debt to GDP was 35 percent. We spent 5 percent of the deficit to, because of recession. Now debt to the GDP is 100 percent. The deficit is 6 percent. And it’s in a boom time. And, of course, it feels pretty good because you’re spending that money, it seems to be working. I think governments are starting to feel omnipotent and central banks. I’d be much more cautious if I were them.

KERNEN: Because we don’t use the word crowding out anymore. Doesn’t the private sector get crowded out?

DIMON: Don’t know until happens.


DIMON: Like I said, we feel good — you know, but when the government spends a trillion dollars more, what happens? People have more money in the pockets.

KERNEN: Right.

DIMON: Corporate profits go up. People spend more. Stock markets go up. It creates liquidity.

KERNEN: But you owe money on that though.

DIMON: Exactly.

QUICK: There’s a lot of money that’s going to continue to be spent on bills that have already passed this next year. Your outlook for the economy is so different than what we’ve heard from so many other people that it worries me because we make the case that a lot of times, Davos is the antithesis in terms of — they’re always wrong on what they’re predicting on things. Are you making these predictions as a premiere risk assessor, somebody who’s looking at these things? Or are you making this like as an idea of this is the more likely case scenario?

DIMON: No, a risk assessor. I mean, it’s very important distinction is that you got to look at all these factors and you got to look at different points in time. You can’t like look at, oh, it feels pretty good today. And so, a lot of people, when you come up here, it’s about how they feel… what they see. But, you know, these forces, you mention, like, when I look at inflation, the green economy is inflationary, the IRA Act is inflationary, whatever restructuring trade happens is inflationary, the remilitarization of the world is inflationary. Deficits are inflationary. And that — you can’t sit here and say that won’t have any effect at all.

KERNEN: Right.

DIMON: And that stuff is cumulative.

KERNEN: Right.

DIMON: It’s like you guys saw this article recently about the cumulative, negative effect on work from home on young people. Well, we spoke about that two years ago. You know, you can kind of see that these kids aren’t coming in, they’re not meeting people, they’re not learning enough. So, do you have to wait for it to actually happen to figure out that might be what happens?

QUICK: Most of the time, yeah.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: I want to go back to your comment about Biden and Trump, because you effectively made a case for Trump in some ways. We had —

DIMON: I made a case for respect of Trump’s voters.

SORKIN: So, we had Bill Ackman on the program last week, who’s wanted you to be – run for president for a very long time, as you know, and he’s been a long time Democrat.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: And he effectively said that he thought that Biden was just too old and effectively opened the door to possibly voting for President Trump. I’m curious when you just look at the candidates from — as a CEO of a multinational global business, what do you think will be better for the business?

DIMON: Yeah. Remember when I gave opinions in the U.K., I got nasty emails from all of the people in the U.K., like, leave, get out of here, Yankee. Right. I have to be prepared for both. I will be prepared for both. We will deal with both. My company will survive and thrive in both, you know? I hope the country survives in both. And so I hope, whoever it is, like is respectful of other people, you know? And it’s not about retribution. It’s about growing the economy and helping people. And, you know, if you talk about America first, I always say, you know, no president is going to run for president and say, America second. Of course, it’s America first. But America first has multiple different reasons, which has changed over time, you know? And when Washington was president, you know, don’t get involved in European things. Well, we got involved, two major ones – to save the world for democracy and freedom. And this country is the arsenal of democracy and the bastion of freedom. So, you know, I hope whoever is president does that.

SORKIN: Can we pivot to a topic I know you find sort of laborious at this point?

KERNEN: Good word.

SORKIN: Which is bitcoin.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: This ETF was approved, just about a week ago now, and I think a lot of people are trying to understand what it ultimately means.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: JPMorgan, I imagine, if you’re a client of JPMorgan, you could call your broker and say, get me some of this ETF. What are you telling – what did you tell your brokers to tell them back when they make that call?

DIMON: Yeah. So, this is an important thing. This is the last time I ever talk about this on CNBC, okay, so help me God. Blockchain is real. It’s a technology. We use it. It’s going to move money. It’s going to move data. It’s efficient. We’ve been talking about that for 12 years, too, and it’s very small, okay? So I think we wasted too many words on that. Cryptocurrencies, there are two types. There’s a cryptocurrency which might actually do something. Think of a cryptocurrency as a – contract in it, and that we can use it to buy and sell real estate, or move data. That may have value.

SORKIN: The idea of tokenizing things.

DIMON: Tokenizing things that you do something with. And then there’s one which does nothing. I call it the pet rock, the bitcoin, something like that. And so on the bitcoin, you know, there is — I’m not trying to make a joke here. There are use cases, AML, fraud, anti-money laundering, tax avoidance, sex trafficking, those are real use cases and you see it being used for hundreds, maybe $50 billion or $100 billion a year for that. That is the end use case. Everything else is people trading among themselves. So —

SORKIN: Speculate, you —

DIMON: Yeah. Now, okay, now my last statement, the last time I’m ever talking about bitcoin is I defend your right to do bitcoin. I think, you know, it’s okay.


DIMON: I don’t want to tell you what to do. So my personal advice is don’t get involved but I don’t want to tell any one of you to do, it’s a free country. And so —

SORKIN: What do you think of – what do you make of Blackrock? What do you make of other firms? The Blackrocks of the world that obviously — and Larry Fink changed his view of this obviously.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: And maybe he changed his view because you think he genuinely believes in bitcoin or believes it because he thinks there is a marketplace for it and he wants to be part of the market. But what do you think of the – and there’s about a dozen big financial companies, Fidelity included —

DIMON: Number one, I don’t care. So, just please stop talking about this s—, and I don’t know what he would say about Blockchain versus currencies that do something versus bitcoin that does nothing. Maybe that’s not different than me. But, you know, this is what makes the market. People have opinions. This is the last time I’m ever stating my opinion.

KERNEN: Gold really didn’t do anything either.

DIMON: Yeah, but gold is limited in supply.

KERNEN: So is bitcoin.

DIMON: And it’s been using – ah, so you think so, huh?


DIMON: I think there is a good chance that when bitcoin – when we get to 20 million bitcoins that —

KERNEN: Forty-two million, they go to 42?

DIMON: No, that Satoshi is going to come on there, laugh hysterically, go quiet, all bitcoin is going to be erased.

KERNEN: I think —

DIMON: How the hell do you know it’s going to stop at 21? I’ve never met one person who told me they know for a fact they take —

KERNEN: Mathematically, it’s going to — it can’t happen because by the last one will be mined in 2150, and it gets harder and harder every time there’s another halving. But, Jamie, looking back over –

DIMON: You just do what you want and I’ll do what I want.

KERNEN: As for gold, you can — the six characters that make gold valuable for 4,000 years, they’re all present in bitcoin. That’s all I’m saying. I love you and I don’t want to – I also don’t want to be a –

DIMON: You may Joe, you may be right.


DIMON: I don’t own gold either. So, okay.

KERNEN: That is what I mean.

SORKIN: Couple of quick final questions.

DIMON: I like to own things that pay me incomes, that doesn’t cost money to carry. Anyway. It costs money to carry bitcoin, too, by the way.

SORKIN: We talked a lot about commercial real estate here in Davos. There’s a big 60 Minutes piece on Sunday –

DIMON: Oh, yeah. But I think there’s another risk to bitcoin, if you can’t solve the bad use cases, the government is probably going to have to close it down. So, that –

KERNEN: The thing about the money laundering — here’s the — the number was 20,000 I think for U.S. dollars in money laundering and it was 35 for how much is done with bitcoin. So, at this point, the dominant –

DIMON: Ransomware is 20 to 30 billion we know about –

KERNEN: — but the dominant – I know, but the dominant – historically, the dominant currency for money laundering has been U.S. dollar.

DIMON: I understand.


SORKIN: Quickly, commercial real estate.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: Do you have a take? We’ve been talking to a number of investors who have been sitting here talking about that it means to the debt markets, what it means to some of the smaller banks. Obviously, you have a big building going up, by the way, in New York.

DIMON: Yeah.

SORKIN: But the three-day week, what that’s going to mean longer term?

DIMON: Yeah. So, first of all, I think the value of old stuff, old financial assets in America is like $140 trillion, commercial office real estate is like $1.2 trillion.


DIMON: $600 billion on bank books. A lot of that is corporate owned and stuff like that. Let me divide into three pieces. If we have a soft landing, which is possible, and rates don’t go higher, which is possible, could be a small problem. If we have a hard landing, and rates don’t go higher, it’d be a bigger problem. If we have a hard landing with higher rates which I still think is possible, it will be a bigger problem.

QUICK: Because inflation goes up, even –

DIMON: Interest rates are, like, cosmological constant.

QUICK: Yeah.

DIMON: Anything which has cash flow is worth less, and obviously, if there’s a recession, less need for space and all the things that happened in recession and stuff like that. So I don’t know how it’s going to affect, you know, work from home is a whole different thing. Our building is unbelievable if you haven’t seen it, walk by.

SORKIN: It’s going up quick.

QUICK: Yeah.

KERNEN: You know what I love about you Jamie, and I’ve told you this many times, you said one time, I’m just barely a Democrat. Today, all the things you said about MAGA, what you’re saying is really to try to help the Democratic Party because it’s tough love is what you’re using. You are not MAGA. You’re not going to turn into a Republican, I don’t think. But you realize –

DIMON: I always say, I have a Democratic heart and a Republican brain.

KERNEN: Exactly.

DIMON: And I do think more and more, the Republicans – that the Democrats have big hearts and very small brains. They should be a little more thoughtful about policy and how things work.

KERNEN: If on the front end, all the things you’re doing to try and help people actually on the back end up hurting them, you need to cop to that someday.


KERNEN: Eventually. And they don’t.

DIMON: I’ll come confess here if that ever happens.

KERNEN: No, not you, I’m saying the Democratic Party —

DIMON: Oh, oh,

KERNEN: No, I’m not talking about you.

DIMON: Yeah.

KERNEN: The Democrat Party needs to say, look, we tried all these things and we made things worse. So, you know, at least cop to it.

DIMON: I also want to point, when I go to D.C all the time, we spend a lot of time on I will call the wing nuts, there are a lot of centrist Republicans, Democrats, who if they sat here, you’d have to –

KERNEN: It might be a majority, it might be 80 percent.

DIMON: It might be –

QUICK: I don’t understand, like –

DIMON: Well, partially, you invite the wing nuts on more –

QUICK: No, no, we invite –

DIMON: Not you guys, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about like CNN and Fox —

KERNEN: We’ll just give you a half hour.

DIMON: Yeah.

QUICK: Yeah.

DIMON: Yeah, I’m going to start charging you guys, by the way.

SORKIN: Jamie Dimon, thank you very, very much for joining us.

DIMON: Thank you. Enjoyed it.

SORKIN: Appreciate it. Thank you again.

DIMON: Thank you.

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