David Wessel, economics editor of the Wall Street Journal, sat down with Big Think for our series on the economic crisis, What Went Wrong? When talking about the cleanup that ensued after the Bear Stearns meltdown, he illuminated an interesting comparison between Jamie Dimon and J.P. Morgan, the man whose name is on the bank.

He says: “I do think that the AIG bailout is one that is getting a lot of scrutiny for exactly the right reasons.  And the question really is, was it necessary to pay the counterparties of AIG, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, UBS, the big names of global finance, 100 cents on the dollar in order to protect the financial system?  Admittedly, the Fed and the Treasurer were making decisions under a lot of pressure.  That was a very busy week in September, 2008.  But with the benefit of hindsight, it looks like they did themselves a lot of damage, politically, and it hurt their credibility when it looked like only the big guys, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank and so forth got 100 cents on the Dollar and everybody else has to take a haircut.

Jamie Dimon did not do exactly what J. P. Morgan did, the man whose name is on the bank that Jamie Dimon runs.  But in the crisis, in March, 2008, someone had to step up and take over Bear Stearns, get some money from the Feds, $30 Billion to help do it, but Jamie Dimon was that man.  And J. P. Morgan in that episode saved the day.  And they also ended up buying Washington Mutual and they play, now an important role because some banks are bust and other banks are weak and J. P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs are among the strong.  So, it is very much history repeating itself.  It’s kind of ironic, the rules are different, the circumstances are different, but the J. P. Morgan empire is once again at the center of the whole system.”