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…in their apparent competition to see which bailed-out company can make the biggest tone-deaf, boneheaded decision during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. If you're too big to fail, you're probably too big to care what anyone thinks about you.Chase, which has received $25 billion in TARP funds, is moving forward with its plan to spend $120 million on two new luxury corporate jets and $18 million to renovate a hangar at Westchester Airport, just outside of New York City. Perhaps I should expect better from my bank, but I don't. I mean it's not Countrywide or Washington Mutual (oh, wait, WaMu is now part of Chase), but still.ABC News' broke the story this morning. (When a corporate media outlet is running a big "Complete Coverage: Wall Street of Shame" banner across the top of its website, you know America is really pissed off. The AIG bonuses officially kicked off America's long overdue Corporate Hunting Season.)According to JPMorgan Chase architects, the new hangar will be built with reclaimed wood, quarry tile and even a "vegetated roof garden."The Gulfstream 650's are described by the manufacturer as the "fastest," "widest" and "most comfortable" private jet ever with superior cabin amenities, an optional stateroom, and 12 interior designs to choose from."It's a remarkably boneheaded decision," said corporate watchdog Nell Minow, the editor and founder of The Corporate Library, a group that provides independent corporate governance research and analysis. "It's completely tone deaf."
It sure is. But what's particularly galling beyond the decision itself is Chase's meaningless and meager defense: It says no bailout money will be used to pay for the jets or hangar improvements! My head hurts when I contemplate the hubris required to make such a statement at this moment in U.S. history. As if there is a separate pile of bailout money in Chase's vaults, and all other funds signal the infinite strength and wisdom of Chase and its continued ability to do whatever it wants.Joseph Evangelisti, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, said no TARP money would be used to make any payments for new jets or jet hangar improvements. He refused to comment on whether JPMorgan had put a down payment for new planes, saying only that any future jet purchases would be part of its normal aircraft replacement policy, and that JPMorgan Chase will repay all TARP money before it makes any payments for new planes or renovations.The spokesman also said the bank would have nine years to make its $18 million in renovations, but the county told ABC News that JPMorgan Chase's plans indicate that renovations would be complete within six months of assuming the lease.Don't miss the (unembeddable) video with the ABC story, in which Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says he just doesn't understand why corporate America has such a bad image: "When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America I personally don't understand it," Dimon said on March 11th.Ow.