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JPMorgan Twitter effort hits deep well of anger at banks

(MoneyWatch) Thanks to a misguided Twitter PR effort, JPMorgan (JPM) found out that even five years after the crash Americans are still incredibly angry with the banks that played a part in it.

Yesterday the bank announced that it would be holding an hour long question-and-answer session with Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee. People with questions were encouraged to ask questions using the hashtag #AskJPM.

The pixels on the announcement were barely dry when it became clear the bank, currently the target of at least eight separate investigations by the Department of Justice, had made an enormous mistake. Twitter was quickly awash in questions which it can be safely said were not what the bank was anticipating.

Some were just silly and dismissive of the PR effort. Matt Levine, a columnist for Bloomberg, tweeted "Do you like puppies? If you had a puppy, what would you name him?" However, most expressed a level of deep anger with both JPMorgan and the nation's largest banks in general.

One frequently asked question was "What's your favorite type of whale?" -- a reference to the bank's multi-billion dollar losses from trades made by trader Bruno Iksil, nicknamed the London Whale.

There were a large number of comments about foreclosure, like "Anyone in your family ever been foreclosed on?" and "Can I have my house back?", showing the depth of the bitterness that remains from the mortgage meltdown.

Many comments referred to the other problems that have plagued JPMorgan. There were tweets about the bank's fine for violating government sanctions against doing business with Iran, Sudan and other nations; others referred to investigations into obstruction of justice charges and still others were about charges of nepotism stemming from the bank's hiring the daughter of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Josh Brown, who writes the blog Reformed Broker, called the outpouring a "Snarkpocalypse."

Whether this PR effort could have ever succeeded is up to debate but this certainly seems like a particularly inauspicious time to try. In addition to the nepotism charges, JPMorgan is negotiating what is expected to be a multi-billion dollar settlement with the federal government concerning misrepresenting mortgage backed securities in the run up to the financial crisis. It also recently agreed to pay a $5.1 billion fine to the Federal Housing Finance Agency for bonds it sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and last month there were widespread reports that the Justice Department may be investigating the bank's connection to convicted swindler Bernie Madoff.

So far JPMorgan hasn't responded to CBS' request for comments.

Despite the tsunami of Twitter criticism it wasn't until last night that the bank tweeted it was cancelling the event.