Five Scandals That Made JPMorgan Wall Street's Worst Villain

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Wall Street's Big Banks are hardly known for their good deeds, but JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) may be the worst of the lot.

For a bank that used to be considered a model citizen among Wall Street institutions, the reversal of reputation has been stunning.

According to The New York Times, at least eight federal agencies are currently investigating JPM. And JPMorgan has more regulatory sanctions against it than any other major U.S. bank.

The damage to JPMorgan's reputation has gotten so bad that it has started to negatively affect the nation's largest bank by assets.

Increased regulatory scrutiny brought on by the scandals has slowed or halted about 60 new projects in JPMorgan's consumer unit, for example. The turmoil also has touched off a series of high-profile departures from the bank.

It also hasn't helped that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has at times been combative with regulators and unfazed about the significance of the problems.

"It's the tone-deafness of comments like Dimon's "tempest in a teapot' remark that is staggering," Cornelius Hurley of Boston University's Center for Finance, Law & Policy told Forbes. Dimon made that remark early on in the infamous "London Whale" scandal, when the huge losses were started to mount.

While JPM has so far maintained strong earnings despite the storm of scandals, sooner or later these problems will start to eat into the bottom line.

While not an exhaustive list, here are the latest developments in the five worst JPMorgan scandals of the last few years:

The Five Biggest Scandals at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM)

  • Energy Scandal: JPMorgan is now under scrutiny for an energy trading business it acquired in the 2008 takeover of Bear Stearns, in which the bank gained the rights to sell electricity from power plants in Michigan and California. At first derided as "an unprofitable asset," government investigators say JPMorgan traders in Houston came up with eight different "manipulative schemes" to offer electricity to California and Michigan at prices "calculated to falsely appear attractive." The strategy - which reminds some of the Enron debacle -- generated $83 million in "excessive" payments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) investigators said. The FERC report also said a top JPM executive, Blythe Masters, made "scores of false and misleading statements and material omissions" to authorities. JPMorgan has until at least mid-May to respond, but likely faces large fines.
  • The London Whale: It's already been a year since the news broke that a JPMorgan trader in London made several oversized bets in the credit default swaps markets that went bad to the tune of $6.2 billion. A recent Congressional investigation ticked off a litany of transgressions: traders manipulated portfolio values to hide losses; breached risk limits; manipulated measures of risk; and dodged regulators.
  • Enabling Madoff: While JPMorgan Chase served as Bernie Madoff's primary bank for over two decades, it never noticed anything worth reporting to regulators. Or so it says. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency disagrees, saying last month that JPM failed to conduct adequate due diligence and report suspicious activity. That makes JPMorgan at least partly responsible for the $17.3 billion in investor money that was lost in the elaborate Ponzi scheme.
  • LIBOR Scandal: JPM is among the many large financial institutions implicated in the LIBOR manipulation scandal, a key interest rate used in derivatives markets. The banks allegedly rigged the rates for profit, while costing other markets that use the rates - such as mortgage companies - billions. JPMorgan is one of banks Freddie Mac is suing over the LIBOR scandal.
  • Credit Card Scandals: Last year JPMorgan agreed to pay $100 million to credit card customers who said in class-action lawsuit that the bank had increased their minimum payments to generate more fee income. Incredibly, that didn't deter JPM from using other shady ways to milk profits from its credit card customers. The OCC is currently investigating allegations that JPMorgan employed faulty practices while trying to collect credit card debt. Complaints include the robo-signing of documents to obtain legal judgments and faulty records that showed customers owing more than they actually did.

If you're still not convinced that JPMorgan is setting new lows for bad behavior, then you must not have read this yet: Why JPMorgan Wants to See More Americans on Food Stamps.

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