If you're still catching up on AMC's instant classic series "Breaking Bad," you may want to stop reading now. There are spoilers ahead.
Sunday night, just as the final crescendo fell in the clubhouse of a neo-Nazi prison gang, JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM)
CEO Jamie Dimon
stood with the figurative barrel of an $11 billion fine pressed against his forehead.
But just like Jesse refused to pull the trigger and kill Walter, the powers that be in the U.S. banking system will not (and cannot) pull the trigger on Dimon and JPMorgan.
From humble beginnings
Like Walter White, Dimon's journey began humbly. Not as a high school chemistry teacher, but as the assistant to a just-fired Sandy Weill. The two set up shop planning a comeback, not unlike the unfortunate partnership between White and his former student, Jesse Pinkman.
Together, Weill and Dimon returned to banking and slowly, acquistion by acquisition, built a relatively small Baltimore-based commercial finance company into what would become the largest financial services company in the world at the time: Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C)
Walt and Jesse, in an oddly analogous series of events, grew their blue-tinted business to the upper echelon of the drug business -- filling a void left by an absent cartel and expanding distribution from the southwest U.S. to Europe. From Crazy Eights to Tuco to Gus Fring to Mike Ehrmantraut, Walt was able to merge and grow his business' market share, geography, and influence.
Every rise to greatness requires a struggle
Just as Walt and Jesse parted ways acrimoniously over Walt's... we'll call it, "
management style," Weill and Dimon also split ways on less than ideal terms. In fact, Weill fired Dimon from Citi.
Dimon soon found his footing, taking the helm of Bank One
and promptly doubled the value of the bank over the following four years. Walt too rebounded to great success, amassing seven 55-gallon drums of cash.
Throughout his rise to power and wealth, Walt continually destroyed his competitors' and even partners' businesses in the process. From Tuco to Pollos Hermanos, there is an unquestionable pattern of destruction. Not to mention the damage done to his family.
Though not a direct result of Dimon's involvement or his later absence, Citigroup eventually become one of the hardest-hit banks in the world during the financial crisis. Like Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC)
, Citi's growth plans overextended the bank, exposed it to poorly underwritten loans, weakened its capital base, and nearly collapsed the entire enterprise. In many ways, Sandy Weill and former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis were cut from the same cloth. It was in their moment of weakness that Dimon truly ascended to the pinnacle of banking's elite.