There was a time when Jamie Dimon liked everyone to believe that his JPMorgan had a "fortress balance sheet", that he was disgusted when the US government "forced" a bailout on it, and that no matter what the market threw its way it would be just fine, thanks. Then the London Whale came, saw, and promptly blew up the "fortress" lie. But while JPM's precarious balance sheet was no surprise to anyone (holding over $50 trillion in gross notional derivatives will make fragile fools of the best of us), what has become a bigger problem for Dimon is that slowly but surely JPM has not only become a bigger litigation magnet than Bank of America, but questions are now emerging if all of the firm's recent success wasn't merely due to crime. Crime of the kind that "nobody accept or denies guilt" of course - i.e., completely victimless. Except for all the fines and settlements.
Here is a summary of JPM's recent exorbitant and seemingly endless fines. Courtesy of the Daily Beast:
Date: April 2011
Amount: $56 million
Behavior: JPMorgan was one of several banks called out in a class-action lawsuit for overcharging or wrongfully foreclosing on active-duty military personnel. The company apologized, paid out $27 million in cash, cut interest rates on home loans and returned houses that were wrongfully foreclosed upon.
adual shift to inflation from deflation
Date: June 2011
Amount: $153.6 million
Behavior: The Securities and Exchange Commission sued JPMorgan for misleading buyers by allegedly failing to inform investors that a hedge fund assisted in picking and betting against securities in a collateralized debt obligation JPMorgan had sold in 2007. JPMorgan paid $153.6 million to settle the charges without admitting or denying the allegations.
Date: July 2011
Amount: $229 Million
Behavior: In response to a suit by federal and state authorities, JPMorgan settled allegations that it rigged the bidding process for reinvesting bond transactions that affected 31 state governments. The bank paid $229 million to settle the charges without admitting or denying the allegations.
Date: August 2011
Amount: $88.3 Million
Behavior: Talk about shady dealings. The Treasury Department alleged the banking giant violated sanction orders by conducting transactions with people or entities tied to Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and Liberia. JPMorgan Chase settled the charges and violations by paying $88.3 million civil penalty.
Date: February 2012
Amount: $5.29 Billion
Behavior: JPMorgan and four other major mortgage servicers agreed to pay a combined $25 billion to settle charges with state attorneys general, the Justice Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development relating to what Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna called years of “shoddy loan servicing, illegal robo-signing, and faulty foreclosure processing.” JPMorgan Chase’s share of the settlement came to $5.29 billion.
Date: February 2012
Amount: $110 million
Behavior: Along with Bank of America and a few smaller lenders, JPMorgan settled consumer litigation that claimed the banks processed checks by size—rather than by chronological order—so they could charge unwarranted overdraft fees.
Date: March 2012
Amount: $150 million
Behavior: After being sued by pension funds and investors for investing their funds in a risky structured investment vehicle that failed at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, JPMorgan settled the suit without admitting wrongdoing.
Date: November 2012
Amount: $296.9 million
Behavior: The Securities and Exchange Commission charged JPMorgan with misleading investors about the quality of mortgages that underlay mortgage-backed securities it sold. The bank settled the charges without admitting or denying guilt.
Date: January 2013
Behavior: Ten banks, including JPMorgan Chase, agreed to an $8.5 billion settlement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve over “robo-signing” and other alleged abuses of the foreclosure process. The banks were to pay $3.3 billion to harmed borrowers and provide a combined of $5.2 billion in assistance in the form of principal reductions or mortgage modifications. JPMorgan Chase didn’t disclose its share of the settlement.
Date: March 2013
Amount: $100 million
Behavior: JPMorgan Chase agreed to return $546 million to former customers of MF Global Holdings, the investment firm run by former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine that collapsed in 2011. While it did not admit wrongdoing, JPMorgan had been threatened with a lawsuit if it didn’t return the cash that had been transferred from MF Global during the firm’s chaotic final days.
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Today we can add the following:
Date: July 2013
Amount: $410 million
Behavior: FERC accuses JPM of manipulating energy prices. JPM "admitted the facts" it was charged with, but "neither admitted nor denied the violations." Instead of being shut down like Enron for engaging in essentially the same activity if to a more modest degree, JPM is fined $410 million or 0.4% of its annual projected revenue of just under $100 billion.
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Added across, these "fines" amount to $6.9 billion in fines.
These are only the violations that we know of. James Bianco points out that according to the NYT there are at least eight federal agencies currently investigating the bank, while according to Josh Rosner, JPM's litigation expenses since 2009 have totaled $16 billion.
As Bianco summarizes, "Moral: when you cheat in big enough size, it's legal.. That is what Jeff Skilling and Jon Corzine did not understand. What they did was ok if it was 10 times larger."
And we would also like to add that while JPM has tarnished, manipulated and otherwise engaged in illegal activity in virtually every market, it is an absolute certainty that the bank has done none, zip, zilch, no manipulation whatsoever of the precious metals, read gold and silver, market. Because that would be below even Jamie Dimon.
Finally, speaking of Dimon, we finally know the true reason why he is "richer than you."
The good news: the Wall Street bombing targeting JPM's Wall Street headquarters took place a long, long time ago in 1920.