Why JPMorgan Will Always Be a Better Villain Than Apple

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) CEO Tim Cook and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) boss Jamie Dimon both successfully fought off challenges to their power Tuesday, but Cook's job will always be easier.

For evidence of the Apple advantage, one need look no further than Carl Levin (D.-Mich.), the perpetually dour Senate Investigations subcommittee chairman, who summoned Cook to Washington to call attention to Apple's tax avoidance schemes, was forced to admit "we love the iPhone and the iPad." His Republican counterpart, John McCain of Arizona, was similarly neutered.

As a result, Tuesday's Apple hearing wasn't about Apple. It was about changing the tax code to keep companies from stashing billions abroad in places like Ireland, even though everyone knows their profits really come from somewhere else -- California, in Apple's case.

Certainly you didn't hear McCain or Levin similarly fawning over the JPMorgan executives they grilled in March over $6 billion in losing London Whale trades.

It's true that last year Dimon breezed through his own appearance before Congress tied to the losing trades. In fact, it went so well for him he danced a little jig for reporters upon leaving the hearing.

Attribute that to Dimon's charisma, the same thing that allowed him to stave off a challenge to his supreme authority on Tuesday when JPMorgan shareholders voted to allow him to keep his dual Chairman and CEO roles.

Still, it's hard to imagine Levin saying "we love the credit default swaps and the transaction services," to JPMorgan executives. Using money to make money has never appealed to people, going at least as far back as the Bible, with its condemnation of the charging of interest.

That's not to excuse the financial services industry, which has gone very far afield of merely charging interest. That's why financial companies are lately forced to try and prove in their advertising and public relations campaigns that they actually do stuff. Have you seen BNY Mellon's ( BK) "Invested in the Word" advertising campaign? The point of the campaign -- and many others like it by other financial companies -- is to convince you that they are not just moving money around. They are making possible the work of " a brilliant marine biologist." Or so they would desperately like you to believe.

A similar motive has driven General Electric ( GE) to constantly remind us they are going back to their industrial roots, while shrinking their financial services division. Never mind that revenue from GE's financial services unit still accounted for nearly $12 billion, or about one third of the first quarter total, when GE earnings came out last month. In fact, financial services revenue grew during the quarter, compared to a year ago, while the rest of the company saw sales decline.

Financial companies have been a big part of the recent stock market rally, while Apple shares have stalled of late. Still, if you actually make stuff that people like, you will always have a political advantage, which needs to be factored into your share price.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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