Four-star General Ray Odierno retired from his position as U.S. Army chief of staff on Friday. Now, less than a week after mustering out, he's cashing in. The former general has taken a job as a senior adviser to the investment firm JPMorgan Chase.
In a press release posted on JPMorgan's website on Thursday, the firm announced that Odierno is joining the company in "a senior advisory capacity," providing "strategic advice and global insights" to CEO Jamie Dimon as well as the company's board of directors. The announcement also said Odierno "will represent JPMorgan Chase through engagement with clients, government officials and policy makers in the U.S. and internationally."
Odierno, who led the U.S. 4th infantry division during the initial stages of the occupation of Iraq, has been criticized for the allegedly heavy-handed and brutal behavior he permitted as a commander. While troops under his command were credited with the capture of Saddam Hussein, they were also criticized for their extremely harsh tactics in dealing with the local population. In Thomas Ricks' 2006 book Fiasco, Odierno was characterized as helping enable indiscriminate mass detentions, prisoner abuse, and extrajudicial killings of Iraqi civilians in the area under his control. – The Intercept, Aug. 20, 2015
Americans like to think the nation takes good care of their veterans. Its actual record for doing so is spotty at best, as recent VA hospital scandals demonstrate. Nevertheless, one category of veterans always lands on its feet after it hangs up the uniform. Retiring generals and admirals can take their pick of comfortable "advisory" jobs on Wall Street and at defense contractors.
Army General (ret.) Ray Odierno was still wearing four stars barely a week ago and he's already providing "strategic advice and global insights" to JPMorgan Chase. His compensation, while undisclosed, is no doubt ample.
What possible advice and insights could Odierno give JPM? His reputation actually makes him a perfect fit. A general known for heavy-handed, brutal behavior as well as extremely harsh tactics against the civilian population can help JPM streamline its customer service call centers, for example.
If that were what JP Morgan Chase wants, it can easily find executives with more direct experience. They must have some other use for Odierno. What could it be? The answer, we suspect, has more to do with the general's rolodex than his management skills. People in high places will return his phone calls, thereby opening doors for JPM.
As The Intercept points out, retiring military leaders can take their pick of private sector jobs. One study found that 80 percent of retired three- and four-star generals took consulting or executive positions shortly after retirement.
It would be interesting to see inside the hiring process for these positions. When, exactly, did JPM and Odierno start talking about a possible job? It stretches credulity to think there was no contact before he left active duty. What decisions did he make, or what official conversations did he hold that made JPM believe he could be helpful, once retired?
Wall Street banks do not hire "senior advisors" unless they are very confident a payoff will follow. What is JPMorgan Chase's payoff with Odierno? We may never know – but you can bet there is one.