There's no shortage of intelligent explanations of just exactly what went wrong at JP Morgan, but our favorite is the Times' quasi-flow chart that breaks it down for people who haven't done any math whatsoever since 2004. Who knew losing $2 billion could look so easy!
We're confident that after reading all these ruminations on proprietary trading and overly complex and biased risk assessment models, we can use the slides to explain to you what happened, cutting through all the Wall Street mumbo jumbo.
1) JP Morgan represents this series of Mario Bros. sewer tubes with a triangle on top. They invested in Italian leather laptop tote bags. Lots of them.
2) But as everyone knows, leather spoils in the rain, so JP Morgan had to buy one of those huge golf umbrellas that forces people to walk off the sidewalk when someone else carries them, because they're so goddamn big and obnoxious.
3) JP Morgan thought they'd only bought female Italian leather laptop tote bags and female golf umbrellas, so they wouldn't be able to breed (this is known in finance as the "Jurassic Park Safeguard"), but someone in the bank's chief investment office must have slipped a male in there somewhere, and BAM: baby umbrellas. And everyone knows that baby umbrellas are always total pieces of crap that you end up throwing away after a day or two of use, swapping them out for new ones (AKA default umbrella swaps).
4) At this point, the bank was burning through baby umbrellas to protect the Italian leather laptop tote bags just as the demand for silly Italian leather laptop tote bags began to decrease at an alarming rate. The only solution was to blow up JP Morgan for the insurance money, but the rain came back and doused the fuse. JP Morgan is left with $2 billion in losses and billions more Italian leather laptop tote bags.
Take issue with our assessment? Head over to Frontline's website for a more refined, if equally maddening explanation of this stuff.