Don't invest in banks if you want certainty: Dimon

Jamie Dimon

Investors who want certainty about legal costs for financial firms should not buy bank stocks, JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon tells CNBC.

"We have been very, very consistent about legal. It's lumpy. It's not predictable, particularly by quarter, and that's what we've got to deal with," Dimon said during a "Squawk Alley" interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "I've told our analysts it's going to be a number, and one day it will be a lot less. It will normalize, and it will still be higher than it has been in the past, but I can't make something predictable that's not predictable."

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JPMorgan reported a 6.6 percent drop in fourth quarter profit, which was impacted by more than $1 billion in legal costs related to government investigations. The bank agreed in November to pay $1 billion to settle a probe into its foreign exchange business.

During a conference call with reporters following the earnings report, Dimon said banks were "under assault" from regulations. On Wednesday, he walked back some of his comments made during the call.

"Let me take back some of those words. We have worked very closely with regulators all the time," he said. "I was referring to the fact that there are lots of different regulators. It's hard to deal with. We're going to deal with it. My job is to deal with this, not to complain about it."

Dimon also responded to a recent research note by Goldman Sachs , which concluded that JPMorgan could be more profitable if it broke up its operations into smaller, separate companies. He said he had not spoken with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein about the report, and said the author is a good analyst.

"We have to hold more capital. That's a good question to raise: Is it too much capital that you can earn a fair return on? And the fact is it's not," he said. "We're going to be able to raise our capital levels pretty easily. We're going to earn a good return for shareholders, and we're going to maintain these four established franchises."

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Dimon called JPMorgan a "port of safety in the storm," noting that the company bought Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual when those firms were failing during the height of the financial crisis. He said JPMorgan rolled over hundreds of billions of dollars in loans at no additional price at that time.

In its current form, JPMorgan will be a harbor in the next storm, and diversification makes it stronger, he said. "You want me to be a port. You want me to be there. We serve governments. We serve certain companies in 20 countries, 30 countries, 40 countries. We move six to 10 trillion dollars a day. You don't want a weak JPMorgan."

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Dimon acknowledged that the bank has been legitimately criticized for some of its mistakes but said 75 to 80 percent of the $20 billion in fines it has accrued in recent years are attributable to activities undertaken by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.

"Unjust things happen, and I had to deal with that. So they happen personally, they happen to individuals, they happen to companies, and I'm over that. My focus is on building the company going forward," he said.

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