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Jamie Dimon says Libra will never happen, and he wishes he could take JPMorgan private

Jamie Dimon doesn’t think Libra, Facebook’s embattled cryptocurrency project, will ever get off the ground.

“It was a neat idea that will never happen,” the JPMorgan Chase CEO said on Friday at an event organized by the Institute of International Finance, according to a video posted by CNBC.

Libra has been criticized by politicians, raised privacy concerns and lost support from Visa, MasterCard and other founding members.

Dimon didn’t explain why he thinks Libra will fail, though he did question the novelty of it. “We already have stable coins. They’re not the first to do that,” Dimon said.

JPMorgan launched its own digital coin earlier this year, becoming the first major American bank to do so.

“It’s backed by a dollar, so it’s really stable,” Dimon said.

Unlike JPM Coin, Libra would be backed by a fixed basket of reserve currencies.

Neither Facebook nor the Libra Association responded to requests for comments.

But David Marcus, who leads the Libra effort at Faceboo, recently expressed confidence in the project despite the loss of early supporters.

“I would caution against reading the fate of Libra into this update,” Marcus said last week on Twitter, after several companies said they would exit the association

“Of course, it’s not great news in the short term, but in a way it’s liberating. … Change of this magnitude is hard. You know you’re on to something when so much pressure builds up,” he said.

Dimon has a history of making outlandish comments about cryptocurrencies. He once called bitcoin a “fraud” and predicted that governments would “crush it.” He even threatened to fire any of his bankers if they traded it. The JPMorgan boss later expressed regret for the comments and acknowledged bitcoin is “real.”

Dimon wants JPMorgan to go private

Meanwhile, Dimon on Friday ran through a list of complaints about the difficulty of being a public company today. He cited onerous reporting requirements, “farce” shareholder meetings and the threat of potentially “crippling” litigation.

“We are driving companies to the private market,” Dimon said. “I would go private if I could. Being a public company has real negative downsides to it.”

Going private is not really an option for JPMorgan. It’s America’s largest and most important bank. And JPMorgan is valued at nearly $400 billion, making it far too rich for any would-be buyer.

Still, to Dimon’s point, the number of publicly-listed American companies is shrinking, down by about about 50% in the last 20 years, according to Vanguard.

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who shared a stage with Dimon, argued that there are some “joys” to being a public company. He cited the ability of companies to sell shares, and the credibility of being vetted by institutions like the SEC.

But Gorman agreed that there are disadvantages, including the need to devote time and resources towards reporting quarterly results. He suggested one way to ease the burden would be to only release revenue every three quarters, with a full earnings release coming twice a year.

“The funny thing about quarters is they come around with alarming frequency,” Gorman joked.

The Morgan Stanley CEO also pointed to the burden of holding shareholder meetings, often in front of scant audiences.

“We have more security guys in our shareholder meetings than shareholders,” Gorman said. “It’s kind of insane. You’re sitting there talking to three people.”

‘Probably’ no recession

One thing shareholders are worried about these days is how long the economic expansion, already the longest in American history, will last.

Dimon acknowledged that businesses are slowing investments because of fears about the trade war. However, he said American households are still strong — and consumer spending remains the biggest part of the economy.

That’s why Dimon said the slowing business investment “probably” won’t cause the United States to tumble into recession.

And if there is a recession, he feels confident that tough regulation imposed after the 2008 financial crisis will prevent another meltdown.

“Lehman simply wouldn’t happen,” Dimon said, pointing to strong capital requirements and the legal authority granted to the FDIC to take over a bank that is collapsing as Lehman Brothers did.

He also dismissed the concern voiced by former FDIC chief Sheila Bair and others that regulators have unshackled America’s banks by dismantling the post-crisis guardrails.

“These are teeny, weenie little adjustments at the margin that make virtually no difference,” Dimon said.

CNN

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