Regulators in the U.S. and U.K. have collectively dropped $920 million in fines on JPMorgan Chase for the bank's misbehavior surrounding a $6.2 billion trading loss known as the "London Whale."
As part of the settlement, JPMorgan also publicly admitted its wrongdoing. Here's CEO Jamie Dimon in a statement on that count:
We have accepted responsibility and acknowledged our mistakes from the start, and we have learned from them and worked to fix them. We will continue to strive towards being considered the best bank — across all measures — not only by our shareholders and customers, but also by our regulators. Since these losses occurred, we have made numerous changes that have made us a stronger, smarter, better company. [Jamie Dimon, via Forbes]
The fines are tied to charges that JPMorgan had inadequate risk controls in the spring of 2012, when three traders in the Bank's London office — Bruno Iksil, Javier Martin-Artajo, and Julien Grout — accrued a $6.2 billion loss on a bad derivatives bet, then allegedly tried to hide the true size of the losses from their bosses in New York.
In addition, when the bank disclosed the loss during an earnings call that April, CEO Jamie Dimon referred to the episode as a "tempest in a teapot," and CFO Doug Braunstein said the bank's positions and the loss was "fully transparent to regulators" — a claim later refuted by investigators.
The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: $300 million for "unsafe and unsound practices."
The Securities and Exchange Commission: $200 million for "a failure to maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting."
The Federal Reserve: $200 million for problems like "senior management's elevation of issues to the board of directors."
The U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority: 137.6 million pounds ($220 million) for problems in the areas of "skill, care, and diligence, management and control, proper market practice, and disclosure to regulators."
Making matters even more painful for JPMorgan, the settlement takes care of just one of a long list of charges the bank has faced this summer. In July, for example, the bank paid $410 million to settle charges from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it manipulated energy markets.
Today's news, however, is very big and very different for regulators. But it isn't the size of the fines that sets this episode apart, says The Guardian's Dominic Rushe. Instead, it's getting JPMorgan to cop to its culpability.
The admission of wrongdoing is a major victory for the SEC. U.S. judges in recent years have questioned fines where banks were allowed to neither admit nor deny wrongdoing. Judge Jed Rakoff blocked a 2011 SEC settlement with Citigroup because he said the lack of an admission of wrongdoing made it impossible for him to determine whether the fine was "fair, reasonable, adequate and in the public interest." [The Guardian]
As we noted earlier this summer, this admission of guilt from JPMorgan may mean that future class action suits against the bank by investors, which tend to follow SEC cases, could use the admission to help force the bank to pay dearly in damages.
And that's just one reason why the London Whale case is hardly wrapped up. Investigations are still continuing, says the Financial Times. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has accused the bank of manipulating a key credit derivatives index. And meanwhile, the criminal investigation of two of the former traders — Javier Martin-Artajo, and Julien Grout — is ongoing.
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