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It was from Pecora's hearings that many of the standards and regulations affecting the financial industry emerged, and continue to govern the way the 'street' does business today. It was also the time of the Glass-Steagall Act.
The roaring twenties gave way to the Depression Era of the 1930's and still J.P. Morgan bore the standard for financial firms on Wall Street. The firm was the first one to be investigated in an attempt to discover what caused the 1929 stock market crash. In 1933, J.P.'s son 'Jack' was called before a Congressional hearing to testify on the bank's behalf. He told the Senators there "If I may be permitted to speak…I should state that at all times the idea of doing only first-class business, and that in a first-class way, has been before our minds" (The History, pg. 13).
With the enactment of the Glass-Steagall act of 1933, Morgan and other major banks were forced to divest themselves of investments and investing activities. The act would ultimately mean that J.P Morgan & Company would become two distinct firms. Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan. J.P. Morgan would concentrate on banking and capitalization activities, while Morgan Stanley would concentrate on investment activities including stock and bond purchases and sales.
Influence, or the perception of influence by Morgan was still quite strong. Evidence of this influence was when one individual familiar with the financial industry proposed a remedy to the world's financial woes by creating Morgan dollars backed by gold deposits. The 'amateur economist' proposed that "national currencies, pegged to the Morgan dollars, would become the international medium of exchange, with J.P. Morgan & Company acting as central clearinghouse" (Horn, 2003, pg. 520).
The ensuing decade (following the crash) was a difficult struggle of attempting to overcome the affects of the crash and the Depression. It was not until late in the decade that the market, and the country's finances finally began to recover, and much of that was due to the entry by the United States into the war early in the 40's. Much of the struggle was due to Roosevelt's "New Deal' and his policies of government intervention in the industries and companies of America.
"The revolutionary changes brought about by new regulations did not allay fears that American business still had a monopoly hold over major sectors of the economy." (Geisst 1997-page 244). It would take nearly twenty years before Wall Street had regained its equilibrium, was able to hold its head high with self-respect once again. America's public attitude of disgust for the actions of many of these investment bankers would take nearly as long to recede.
It was not until long after the end of the war, as America's economy boomed, with mass production leading the way, that the individual investor returned to Wall Street.
More small investors made money in the housing market during the forties than they did in stocks. It was also in the late forties that the Justice Department circled like vultures over the investment banking community once again.
In 1947 the Justice Department filed suit against Henry Morgan (a former Morgan partner) and sixteen other investment banking firms. "The charges in the suit -- officially known as the United States vs. Henry S. Morgan, et al. -- were complex and the case took several years to develop as a result." (Geisst 1997-page 269).
Essentially, according to Geisst, the case involved the Justice Department's belief that 17 investment banking firms over a forty year period colluded to eliminate competition and monopolize the cream of the business of investment banking.
It was not until six years later, in October 1953 that Judge Medina dismissed all charges with the following statement; "I have come to the settled conviction and accordingly find that no such combination, conspiracy and agreement as it is alleged in the complaint, nor any part thereof, was ever made, entered into, conceived, constructed, continued or participated in by these defendants, or any of them." (Medina 1954).
Wall Street and Henry Morgan had been cleared of all charges and now could set about with the business of making money. At about this time the Republicans returned to power and pro-business policies reigned once more. The country was poised for the biggest boom in its history and so was Wall Street.
One event that took place during the 1950's would lead to a change that would affect not only JP Morgan's investment banking company, but would also change the way that such companies were managed, controlled and owned.
"Woodcock, Hess and Company became the first NYSE member to incorporate in 1953, starting a trend that would quickly accelerate." (Geisst 1997-page 281).
Incorporating brought the benefits of additional, needed capital and the limited liability found in such a strategy. It also proved to be the end of a glorious era in regards to fiery individual owners who could manipulate markets for huge personal financial gains. Gone were the days when JP could 'sell short' stock in a railroad company in order to take over control. Gone also were the days that planting stories in the local newspaper would allow for a stock price to be manipulated either up or down, depending on the desires of an individual tycoon.
J.P. Morgan & Company also branched out into real estate and by the end of the century was claiming a number one ranking in managing Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). At that time J.P. Morgan was managing over $14.5 billion of tax exempt assets which would "place it atop Pensions & Investments ranking of the largest pension fund real estate money managers" (Williams, 1997, pg. 79).
Some experts were wary of the continued merging of the investment bankers and commercial banks, and the transformation of the client base.
Many of the biggest real estate investors were no longer individuals but were the very Wall Street firms, opportunity funds, pension funds, endowments and foundations that owned the real estate to begin with. One expert wrote "there was a day when being smart and having a good structure meant the difference between winning a piece of business and not, and we used to be interested in earning fees, not committing capital. These days that really isn't and option" (Johnson, 1997, pg. 90).
Another area where both commercial and investment banks was delving into was the merger and acquisition arena. Billions of dollars in fees for services were to be gained by the enterprising and aggressive firms. In a 1996 issue of Fortune magazine, the two highest fee earning companies for 1995 both had Morgan in their titles. "American's hottest export to Europe these days may be investment bankers. Led by the Morgans -- Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan -- mergers and acquisitions shattered all previous records last year, posting a mountainous $219 billion worth of deals, up 45% from $138 billion in 1994" (Evans, 1996, pg. 38). The money and profitability from the various areas of financial services were enticing to a number of companies, and the lines of demarcation that had been drawn 66 years earlier by the Glass-Steagall act were becoming more and more blurred.
That blurring was to set the stage for President Clinton to do away with the Glass-Steagall Act. He did so in 1999 and the impact was felt immediately.
Financial institutions such as Morgan, having been through the fires of turbulence and the travails of providing financial services to the wealthy, as well as to those not quite as wealthy but willing to invest anyway, are a necessary enterprise and is likely that they will never disband. With the restrictive Glass-Steagall Act now history, companies such as J.P. Morgan would either swallow up or be swallowed by other bigger fish. J.P. Morgan was one of several to be purchased. Morgan was bought by Chase for the hefty sum of $30 billion. Now the company would be known as J.P. Morgan Chase.
From the Morgan men was born the foundation of not only great companies that long outlived their founders, but also the foundation of a system that today is the envy of the world, providing direct livelihoods for thousands of employees and benefiting millions of clients all over the world.
That such individuals as the Morgans, et al., were able to withstand the challenges of men and time and emerge from those challenges, were probably what made the companies they founded even stronger in the long run. Would there now be a JP Morgan in any form if their founders had been any less a men than what they were. The evidence shows otherwise.
Stories and myths abound concerning these men's feats, characters, insecurities, strengths and idiosyncrancies, and in spite of these the men still survived and grew stronger, leaving behind them legacies that are now billion dollar…[continue]
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