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JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) will pay around $2.6 billion in penalties to settle criminal and civil allegations accusing the bank of failing to warn that Bernard L. Madoff was engaged in a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scam. $2.24 billion will go toward compensating the scheme’s victims-$1.7 billion will be forfeited via the US Department of Justice and $543 million will go to the bankruptcy trustee who is collecting funds for plaintiffs and other Madoff victims. $350 million will settle U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) claims.

The penalties are just the latest in the numerous securities settlements that JPMorgan has agreed to pay. The bank recently resolved cases over mortgage bond sales and the “London Whale” trading debacle, among other matters. This latest deal over the Madoff scam would up the total that the firm has paid to resolve government probes to $20 billion in the last year.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI had been trying to determine whether JPMorgan failed to notify regulators about Madoff’s activities even though there were a number of red flags. For example, why did the bank not formally raise worries about Madoff here when it submitted such a complaint in the UK? (The former financial manager kept primary checking accounts at JPMorgan for years.) This, even though US law mandates that banks turn in a SAR (suspicious activity report) when they detect that their might be suspected or definite activities violating federal law.

Reuters is reporting that according to a source in the know, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s (JPM) tentative $13 billion residential mortgage-backed securities settlement with the US Justice Department has hit a couple of stumbling blocks. The firm is reportedly trying to include a provision that would close any criminal probes into its packaging and sale of mortgage securities-except for an inquiry by California prosecutors. This counters the bank’s earlier decision to agree to keep criminal investigations out of the deal.

The settlement, preliminarily reached last week, includes $4 billion to resolve claims made by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which contends that J.P. Morgan misled Freddie Mac (FMCC) and Fannie Mae (FNMA) about the quality of loans the latter two bought from the investment bank before the 2008 economic crisis. Another $4 billion is for consumer relief, while $5 billion is for penalties.

The agreement also would settle a separate mortgage securities lawsuit filed separately by NY AG Eric Schneiderman against the firm over Bear Stearns (BSC)-packaged mortgage bonds. The state’s top prosecutor contended that Bear Stearns misled investors about the faulty loans behind the securities, neglected to complete assess the debt, disregarded defects that were found, and concealed its failure to properly examine the loans or reveal their risks.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is looking into JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s (JPM) debt collection practices over how the bank gets payments from borrowers that are delinquent. Coakley’s probe is separate from the one being conducted by a group of 13 states.

According to JPMorgan, the bank stopped suing over credit-card collection two years ago. In May, the state of California filed a credit card debt collection case against the bank for the “unlawful” and “fraudulent” tactics it purportedly employed to go after old debts from 100,000 borrowers. The case is still pending.

JPMorgan has come under fire from regulators about how it collects such debt. Last week, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it had had reached a $60 million settlement deal with the bank over the latter’s use of sworn documents in its lawsuits against borrowers to collect delinquent debt. According to the OCC, JP Morgan and its outside lawyers allegedly submitted documents that were not accurate to court, failed to correctly notarize documents, and made unverified statements about the bank’s accuracy. The regulator told the bank that they must now tell consumers when their debt is sold to a third party, correctly keep up account documents, and make sure that staff and other employees that are party to any litigation get the information that they need. Meantime, the JPMorgan says it will pay $20 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has been probing possible abuses by those in the debt-collection industry and examined JPMorgan’s handling of credit card debt.


Affiliated RIAs of Raymond James to Get Access to Firm’s Alternative Investments

The Raymond James Alternative Investment Group will give its affiliated registered investment advisers access to hedge funds, private real estate, managed futures, private equity, and alternative mutual funds beginning next month. The move is part of Raymond James’ (RJF) attempt to strengthen its RIA platform.

Already, it has added more support services for investment advisers in the areas of marketing, practice marketing, and succession planning. The financial firm also brought in four regional directors for recruiting and existing practices while cutting equity ticket charges and waving certain individual retirement account fees.

Morgan Stanley Buys Smith Barney from Citigroup

Morgan Stanley (MS) now owns Smith Barney, which it just bought from Citigroup (C) for $9.4 billion. Smith Barney’s new name is Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Based on its new number of financial advisers, the deal makes Morgan Stanley the largest Wall Street firm and comes in the wake of Federal Reserve approval.

Wells Fargo & JPMorgan Defeat Analysts’ Estimates

SLUSA Precludes JPMorgan Securities Allegations Involving Mutual Fund Sales

As preempted by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed what would have been a would-be state law class action against JPMorgan Securities LLC (JPM) and related entities over mutual-fund sales practices that allegedly maximized defendants’ revenues at cost to fund investors. Per the securities lawsuit, financial advisers were pressured and given incentives to sell the defendants’ proprietary mutual funds rather than ones run by third parties, placing their own financial interests before those of clients. The would-be class includes advisory clients from 2008 through that paid management fees and had assets in the defendants’ proprietary funds.

The defendants sought to have the case dismissed, contending that the claims alleging fraud related to the buying and selling of securities are precluded by SLUSA. The district court concurred, with Judge John Darrah noting that although the complaint presented state law claims involving breaches of fiduciary duty and contract, the allegations’ substance describes a fraudulent scam to sell securities.

According to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, JP Morgan Chase (JPM) filed about 100,000 credit card debt collection lawsuits between 2008 and 2011 without conducting sufficient research to properly assess the cases’ merits. The bank reportedly submitted 200 lawsuits over 15 weeks in 2011, including 32 lawsuits on January 5, 2011. Now, Harris is suing the banking giant, accusing it of “debt collection abuse” while victimizing tens of thousands of state residents.

Per the complaint, Chase prioritized saving money and speed, even “robo-signing” legal documents without sufficiently evaluating the evidence and engaging in other “unlawful practices.” The state points to questionable documents and incomplete records that were purportedly used to back up the cases. Harris, who contends that JPMorgan’s “debt collection mill” abused the state’s judicial process, wants damages for borrowers.

Meantime, JPMorgan is cooperating regulators, including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is getting ready to file an enforcement action against it ,also over its handling of credit card debt collection. The firm reviewed its debt collection procedures in 2011 and it is no longer filing credit card lawsuits.

While regulators continue pondering whether to impose more regulations on money market mutual funds, a number of financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Fidelity Investments, BlackRock Inc. (BLK), Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK), Federated Investors Inc. (FII), and Charles Schwab Corp.,(SCHW), started disclosing the market-based net asset values of these funds last month. Reasons given for these disclosures included offering greater transparency and giving investors more information about the market. However, some believe there are firms are issuing these disclosures because that is what their competitors are doing.

Currently, money market funds have a $1/share stable net asset value for all investor transactions. The underlying assets of the funds, which are debt securities with high ratings, however, can undergo periodic, small value changes that may slightly affect a fund’s per share market value. This is also called the shadow price, which are reasonable estimates/fair valuations of the price that an instrument could be sold at in a current trade.

A few years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved modifications to its Rule 2a-7 and other rules about money market funds mandating that managers of the funds reveal changes to portfolio holdings and give the regulator the market-based net asset values of the funds. Fund information for each month has to be given to the SEC at a succeeding month. The Commission then makes the information available to the public 60 days after the month to which the data pertains has concluded. These Daily disclosures would make the data more immediate (and relevant) for investors.

Credit Suisse & J.P. Morgan to Pay $400M Over RMBS Misstatements

In SEC v. J.P. Morgan, the financial firm is accused of allegedly misstating information related to approximately 620 subprime mortgage loans’ delinquency status. The loans gave collateral for a $1.8M residential mortgage-backed securities offering that J.P. Morgan (JPM) underwrote six years ago and from which it was paid over $2.7 million in fees while investors lost at least $37 million. Now, the firm has agreed to pay nearly $297M to settle the allegations (without denying or admitting to them). The Commission is also accusing J.P. Morgan-owned Bear Stearns Cos. LLC of failing to disclose from 2005 to 2007 that it kept financial settlements from mortgage loan originators on problem loans that it sold into RMBS trusts.

Also settling RMBS Misstatement allegations with the regulator is Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC. In an administrative order, the SEC claims that between 2005 and 2010 the financial firm did not accurately disclose that it would keep cash from claims it settled against mortgage loan originators for issues involving loans that it had sold into RMBS trusts. Credit Suisse also allegedly misled investors about when it intended to buy back loans from trusts if those that borrowed did not make the initial payment. The firm has agreed to settle for $120M and is also not denying or admitting to the allegedly negligent conduct.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) must pay the trust of oil heiress Carolyn S. Burford $18 million for the “grossly negligent and reckless” way that the financial firm handled the account. In Tulsa County District Court in Oklahoma, Judge Linda G. Morrissey said that beneficiary Ann Fletcher was persuaded to invest in derivatives that were unsuitable for the trust, causing it to sustain significant losses. The judge is also ordering punitive damages to be determined at a later date, as well as repayment of the trust’s legal expenses.

Fletcher, now 75, is the daughter of Burford, who passed away in 1996. The trust was set up in 1955 by Burford’s parents. Burford’s dad is the founder of Kelly Oil and her mother had connections to another oil company.

Between 2000 and 2005, the trust and JPMorgan, which gained management over the trust after a number of bank mergers and oversaw it until 2006, got into a number of variable prepaid forward contracts. These derivatives were pitched to the trust as way for it to make more income. However, according to the court, Fletcher was cognitively impaired and experiencing medical problems when the bank recommended that the trust buy the derivatives. A year before, she even expressed in a written letter to the bank that she was scared about getting involved in “puts & calls.” She eventually chose to trust their recommendation that she buy them.

Judge Morrisey believes that the bank failed to properly explain the product to its client while neglecting to reveal that it stood to benefit from the transaction. She also says that when JPMorgan invested the contracts’ proceeds in its own investment products, which she described as “double dipping,” it was in breach of fiduciary duty. JPMorgan also billed the trust transaction investment fees and corporate trustee fees.

Morrisey said that because the bank gives employees incentives to make it revenue, this creates a conflict of interest for those that are advising and managing fiduciary accounts. She said that the financial misconduct that occurred in this securities case exhibits JPMorgan’s disregard of its clients, especially when it knew, or if it didn’t then was reckless in not knowing, that such conduct was occurring.

Investors that purchase variable prepaid contracts generally consent to give a number of the stock shares to the brokerage firm in the future. Such a deal can protect investors from certain losses and can be accompanied by tax benefits. However, they can also lead to additional fees. With Burford’s trust, however, the trustee is not allowed to sell its original stocks. The court said that JPMorgan failed to tell Fletcher that getting involved in the contracts could lead to the sale of that stock.
JPMorgan says it disagrees with the court’s ruling and it may appeal.

JPMorgan Must Pay $18 Million to Heiress Over Derivatives, Bloomberg, October 10, 2012

JP Morgan Ordered to Pay $18 Million to Oil Heiress’s Trust, New York Times, October 10, 2012


More Blog Posts:

New York’s Attorney General Sues JP Morgan Chase & Co. Over Alleged MBS Financial Fraud by Its Bear Stearns Unit, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 4, 2012
Ex-Employee Accuses Bank of America of Securities Fraud Involving Complex Derivatives Products, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 29, 2010

Barclays LIBOR Manipulation Scam Places Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, and UBS Under The Investigation Microscope, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 16, 2012 Continue Reading ›

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