JPM Hammered By Massive $9.2 Billion In Legal Expenses, Posts First Loss Under Dimon; Takes $1.6 Billion Reserve Release

So much for the JPM "fortress balance sheet." Moments ago the bank which 18 months ago stunned the world with the biggest prop trading loss in history, just reported its first quarterly loss under Jamie Dimon, missing expected revenue of $24 billion with a print of $23.88 billion, but it was net income where the stunner was in the form of a $0.4 billion net income. The reason: the fact that from the government's best friend, Jamie Dimon has become the punching bag du jour, and having to pay $9.15 billion in pretax legal expenses, the biggest in company history.

Quote Jamie Dimon:

While we had strong underlying performance across the businesses, unfortunately, the quarter was marred by large legal expense. We continuously evaluate our legal reserves, but in this highly charged and unpredictable environment, with escalating demands and penalties from multiple government agencies, we thought it was prudent to significantly strengthen them. While we expect our litigation costs should abate and normalize over time, they may continue to be volatile over the next several quarters.

Speaking of "strong underlying performance", considering that the other key component of Q3 net income was a whopping $1.6 billion in loan loss reserve releases, one wonders just how truly strong Q3 earnings really were. But of course, this being Wall Street, all negative news is "one-time" and to be added back. Which is why JPM promptly took benefit for all charges, which means adding back the $7.2 billion legal expense and $992 MM reserve release after tax benefit. In short: of the firm's $1.42 in pro forma EPS, a whopping $1.59 was purely from the addback of these two items.

Total loan loss reserves declined by $1.8 billion to $17.6 billion, well above the release taken a year ago which was "only" $1 billion. The problem for JPM is that its pool of eligible loan losses is starting to rapidly dry up, and at the current pace of ~$1.5 billion per quarter, the firm has about three years of EPS-goosing release padding left.

Nonetheless, and certainly for the near term, JPM is quite clear: expect reserve releases to continue padding our bottom line:

Additionally when looking for the "strong" performance, one fails to find it in the Fixed Income Markets line item, where much of the pain was expected to be today, which indeed dropped by $0.3 billion or 8% compared to 2012, down to $3.4 billion, however offset by a modest $0.2 billion increase in Equity Markets to $1.2 billion. Also notable was the drop in the average VaR from $122 in Q3 2012 to just $45 this quarter. More Excel copy/paste errors?

Going back to the firm's unprecedented legal troubles, below is a chart showing the firm's record $28 billion in net litigation reserve additions since January 2010. Expect this number to continue rising. Of note: this may not be enough since as the firm notes there is an additional $12.5 billion in possible losses in excess of reserves for just Q2 and Q3 alone. In other words, expect many more billions in legal losses in the quarters ahead.

Next, for all those predicting a surge in bank Net Interest Margins as a result of the spike in Q3 yields, we challenge anyone to show it to us on the following chart showing that for all intents and purposes, JPM's NIM just dropped to an all time low.

But while the NIM may have dropped, mortgage origination did not increase. In fact, the firm's mortgage production group posted a measly $90MM profit, down $1 billion from the year ago. Luckily for JPM, mortgage production and servicing losses were offset by a $1.25 billion change in allowance which pushed the Mortgage Banking Net income to a positive $705MM - another made up number. More importantly, announces that 11,000 employees in the mortgage group will be laid off.

Finally all those curious what JPM's most recent European exposure is, the chart below should answer the question.

Full earnings release: