Jamie Dimon’s silly housing subsidy

April 8, 2011, 8:10 PM UTC

Let’s say you’re a giant bank with an extra 400 grand lying around. What to do with it?

You could pay six workers the median family income in your home state of New York, perhaps. Or you could pick up the moving expenses for your CEO, who made $20.8 million last year and $58 million over the past three – not counting the $2 million he just cleared on the sale of his house. Which do you choose?

Dimon sort of in the rough

Naturally you choose the latter if you are JPMorgan Chase (JPM). It paid CEO Jamie Dimon $1 million in salary, a $5 million cash bonus, $14.2 million in stock and option awards and around $600,000 in other compensation for 2010 – largely moving expenses.

JPMorgan forked over $421,458 last year to compensate Dimon for moving costs incurred as he moved his family from Chicago to New York. Yes, moving is hell, but you don’t know the half of it.

This is the second time in three years that the bank picked up a six-figure sum for Dimon’s relocation – which ended up taking five costly years from end to end. The bank has kicked in $617,734 since 2008 to cover the move.

Of course, there is nothing very novel about companies picking up the CEO’s moving expenses. “The payment of these expenses is in accordance with the firm’s general policy on relocation expenses, applicable to all eligible employees who relocate at the request of the firm,” JPMorgan Chase notes.

But not all eligible employees are making $19 million a year – and not every firm picking up the CEO’s moving expenses has lately been caught shamelessly foreclosing on U.S. military personnel, after much posturing to the contrary.

But of course, all is fair in love, war and CEO pay.

Dimon’s move started way back in 2005, when he was named CEO of JPMorgan Chase following a merger with Bank One, the Midwestern lender he was running at the time. His family stayed in Chicago till 2007 so his kids could finish high school, at which point the house went on the market.

Much of the sum JPMorgan paid for the move, $306,000 to be precise, went to one place: brokerage fees for the agent who sold the house last October. She clearly earned every penny of that, given that the house was on the market for three years before it finally sold. Crain’s Chicago Business reported the sale price as $6.8 million – just a shade over half the price Dimon asked for when he put it on the market.

All this for just $6.8 million

But don’t feel bad for Dimon. The original asking price was almost triple what he paid for the nine-room mansion in 2000, when he was hired to turn around Bank One. That seems to indicate Dimon cleared around $2 million on the sale, though the JPMorgan Chase proxy includes this curious line:

It is not the firm’s policy to reimburse employees for losses incurred on the sale of a home in connection with a relocation, and no such reimbursement is included in the amounts listed as moving expenses.

The company didn’t respond to an email asking for an explanation.

And while we’re on the subject, house prices aren’t the only thing that has gone up over the past decade. So have moving costs.

Even excluding the agent’s commission, JPMorgan Chase ended up shelling out $311,734 for Dimon’s multistage move. A decade ago, when Bank One paid for him to move to Chicago after he was bounced from Citi (C) by Sandy Weill, the bank’s moving payout was just $103,668. Another reason for JPMorgan shareholders to hope Dimon isn’t going anywhere.

Also on Fortune.com:

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