NEW YORK (
) -- If Jamie Dimon does decide to leave Wall Street and serve his country in a cabinet position, he will get an extra perk: A temporary tax break for tens of millions of dollars' worth of
stock he has accumulated during his time as CEO.
As Congress moves toward finalizing a deal on tax cuts by year-end, President Obama has been currying favor with Wall Street executives in a bid to spur economic growth. But ahead of meetings with top guns at
, he reportedly held a private chat with Dimon.
The fireside chat stoked faced speculation that's continued, on and off, for years that the JPMorgan CEO could be an excellent fit for a high-level policy role, such as Treasury Secretary.
"Jamie Dimon could very well go for a policy job due to the huge tax break involved: If you sell stock to avoid conflict of interest, you can avoid the capital gains tax," points out James Angel, an expert in financial crises who teaches business at Georgetown University. "Hank Paulson did this
when he became Treasury Secretary," he adds, referring to the former
There's no sign that current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is heading for the exit. But Republicans and other critics have called for his resignation several times over gaffes and purported policy failures. If Geithner does leave, and Dimon agrees to replace him - both big "ifs" at this point - the Wall Street exec will be able to use a tax loophole, known as "26 USC 1043," which allows cabinet members to sell assets that would create a conflict of interest without being subject to a capital gains tax.
At the end of 2009, Dimon held $54 million worth of options and stock awards, according to a proxy statement. He held 4.9 million common shares, 2.2 million options that were exercisable within the next two months and 383,015 other types of stock units via his retirement plan and deferred compensation.
It's unclear how restricted stock units, which must be held for a set number of years, would be treated under the federal ethics law. That type of compensation has become more popular as a result of the financial crisis. Long-term stock awards incentivize executives to weigh risks more carefully and allow companies to "claw back" awards when decisions end up costing a company money in future years.
Dimon, who has long championed such compensation policies, said
in a recent interview with an Italian newspaper that it would be "right" for JPMorgan to claw back the bonus it gave him three years ago if it emerged that he had "failed in his job."
Last year, the CEO received nearly $9 million in compensation. The lion's share came from almost $8 million in restricted stock units that vest in 2012 and 2013; only $1 million came from a cash salary, with $265,708 in perks like aircraft and car usage.
As Treasury Secretary, he would earn $193,400 a year. If Dimon accepted a different job in the Obama administration - such as director of the National Economic Council, a role left vacant by Larry Summers' departure - he might receive just $172,200.
To make use of the ethics tax loophole on his more lucrative rewards from the private sector, Dimon would have to accept a job within the executive branch. He would also need to reinvest the proceeds into government bonds and diversified mutual funds that require special approval -- thus merely pushing off the tax to a later date when those assets are eventually sold.
Of course, there's no telling whether the White House would offer Dimon a job, or whether he'd accept. A spokesman for the Treasury Department didn't respond to questions and a JPMorgan spokesman said Dimon was unavailable to comment.
Over his seven years as CEO of JPMorgan - and earlier years head of
, and as a senior executive at
- Dimon has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars' in wealth. According to
, Dimon has earned $110 million over just the past five years and has been granted $226 million in stock over his tenure at JPMorgan. Yet he's also expressed a desire to serve a higher purpose once he leaves Wall Street.
asked recently about his relationship with the president Dimon recently said, "We were neither in love nor have we fallen out... He may have close relations, but I am not one of them." He went on to explain that he may never end up serving a higher purpose through a government job.
-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York
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