The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is awarding over $4M to a whistleblower for providing original information that led to a successful fraud case. This is individual is the 34th whistleblower that the SEC’s program has awarded since 2011, upping the total amount granted in such awards to over $111M.In what was the second biggest award issued by the regulator to date, he SEC awarded $22M to an to an ex- Monsanto Co. financial executive last month. The individual had reported alleged accounting violations involving Roundup, the company’s weed killer. According to media reports, Monsanto offered distributor rebates to raise sales but moved the costs into the following fiscal year. As a result, the company moved up its revenue while postponing the reduction that resulted from the costs.Under the SEC Whistleblower program, individuals who voluntarily give the regulator unique information that leads to a successful enforcement case are entitled to 10-30% of the sanctions collected when that amount is over $1M. Since the program’s inception five years ago, the Commission has received over 14,000 tips.
A U.S. district court judge has approved a settlement reached at the end of last year between JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and pension funds related to trades made by Bruno Iksil, who earned the nickname “London Whale” because of his huge market-moving positions in credit derivatives. In their class action securities case, the plaintiffs accused the firm of using its chief investment office in London as a secret hedge fund and hiding up to $6.2M in losses.
Even though the office was supposed to be primarily for managing risk, the plaintiffs believe that it was making high-risk trades for profit, including trading in complex credit derivatives. Depositors’ money was purportedly used in secret for making certain trades. Shareholders claim that JPMorgan knew about the increased risks it was taking and hiding them.
JPMorgan has not admitted to wrongdoing by settling this deal. However, it was also fined over $1B by regulators in the U.K. and the U.S. for management deficiencies related to the London Whale scandal.
Seven big banks have resolved a U.S. lawsuit accusing them of rigging ISDAFix rates, which is the benchmark for appraising interest rate derivatives, structured debt securities, and commercial real estate mortgages, for $324M. The banks that have reached a settlement are:
· Barclays PLS (BCS) for $30M (In 2015, Barclays paid $115M to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to resolve charges of ISDAfix rigging.)
· Bank of America Corp. (BAC) for $50M
· Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) for $50M
· Citigroup Inc. (C) for $42M
· JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) for $52M
· Deutsche Bank AG (DB) for $50M
· Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (RBS) for $50M
The deal must be approved by a Manhattan federal court. The defendants had sought to have the case dismissed, but US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan refused their request. stating that the case raised “plausible allegations” that the defendants were involved in a conspiracy together.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has turned down the request by Barclays Plc (BARC), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Deutsche Bank AG (DB), Citigroup Inc. (C), Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), BNP Paribas SA, Credit Suisse Group AG (CS), HSBC Holdings Plc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), UBS AG (UBS), JPMorgan Chase & CO. (JPM), Wells Fargo & CO. (WFC), and Nomura Holdings Inc. to dismiss the antitrust lawsuits accusing them of working together to rig the ISDAfix. The benchmark rate is used to establish prices on commercial real estate mortgages, interest-rate swap transactions, and other securities. Another defendant is ICAP Plc, which brokered transactions that set the rate for ISDAfix.
Furman said that plaintiff Alaska Electrical Pension Fund and other investors have brought up “plausible allegations” that there may have been a conspiracy between the defendants that allowed them to collude with one another. The investors are seeking billions of dollars in losses they believe they sustained because ISDAFix was allegedly rigged. In this case, the judge let the breach-of-contract claims and antirust claims proceed to trial but dismissed the other claims.
Bruno Iksil, the man dubbed the London Whale, has finally spoken out. Iksil, a former trader for JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), was blamed for up to $6.2B in losses—a massive sum, hence the nickname. Unlike others involved, however, Iksil has been able to avoid prosecution after reaching a deal in which he agreed to help U.S. authorities with their cases and testify against others involved.
In a letter to Bloomberg, Iskil said that managers in the London chief investment office “repeatedly” told him to execute the strategy that led to the losses. He noted that the nickname he was given, “London Whale,” implies that one person was responsible for the trades involved when, he contends, others were involved in the debacle. Iksil said that his responsibility was to execute a strategy that senior management had put forth, approved, supervised, and ordered.
He maintains that he told superiors that there was a risk of huge loss with a trading strategy that they wanted him to execute, in part to lower the unit’s risk-weighted assets. Despite his concerns, said Iksil, his supervisors continued to tell him to continue with the strategy.
The trades involved were credit-swap index tranches. Tranches let investors bet on different levels of risk among a number of companies. If a borrower doesn’t meet its obligation, then the credit swaps must pay the buyer at face value. If t debt is defaulted, then the value the buyer must be paid is less.
JPMorgan Chase 7 Co. (JPM) reported a double-digit drop in investment banking revenues, along with a $500 increase in provisions set aside for losses expected on energy loans. The latter is a result of declining oil prices, market volatility, regulator pressure, low interest rates, and other issues. Crude oil dropping to about $32/barrel has not helped.
According to Forbes, previously, the bank had set aside $815M to cover lending losses in the energy sector. The firm also has exposures to the extent that JPMorgan has put aside $350M for credit losses related to mining. The bank also is involved in $4.1B of commercial real estate lending in areas that are energy sensitive and a $2.7B business banking book in the gas and oil industry.
The Business Recorder reports that the firm’s portfolio for oil and gas is $43 billion. Its latest projections are a departure from last month, when JPMorgan told investors that it expected to make incremental increases to loss reserves related to energy-related loans.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is fining former JPMorgan Chase (JPM) executive Achilles Macris approximately $1.1M for failing to cooperate and communicate properly with regulators during the agency probe into the London Whale fiasco. Although Macris is now agreeing to settle the securities charges, he continues to defend himself. He insists that he stayed “above and beyond any reasonable” transparency standards and that he is only agreeing to resolve this case because the F.C.A. had accepted his contention that he did not mislead anyone on purpose. The FCA would not comment on Macris’ statements about the settlement.
The former JPMorgan executive was in charge of the firm’s chief investment office in London, which was supposed to invest funds for the bank and help offset possible losses. Unfortunately, a bad bet made by the unit on credit derivatives cost the bank $6.2B.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has issued a report in which she claims that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have been doing a poor job on enforcement when it comes to going after companies and individuals for corporate crimes.
In Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders off Easy, Warren takes a closer look at what she describes as the 20 worst federal enforcement failures of 2015. The Senator noted that that when federal agencies caught large companies in illegal acts, they failed to take substantial action against them. Instead, companies were fined for sums that in some cases could be written off as tax deductions.
Some of the 2015 cases that Warren Mentions:
• Standard & Poor’s consented to pay $1.375B to the DOJ, DC, and 19 states to resolve charges that it bilked investors by putting out inflated ratings misrepresenting the actual risks involved in collateral debt obligations and residential mortgage-backed securities. Warren Points out that the amount the credit rater paid is less than one-sixth of the fine the government and states had sought against it, and at S & P did not have to admit wrongdoing. No individuals were prosecuted in this case.
• Citigroup (C), Barclays (BARC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and UBS AG (UBS) paid the DOJ $5.6B to resolve claims that their traders colluded together to rig exchange rates. As a result, the firms made billions of dollars while investors and clients suffered. While admissions of guilt were sought, no individuals were prosecuted. Also, the SEC gave the banks waivers so they wouldn’t have to deal with collateral damages from pleading guilty.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) has consented to pay $995M to settle claims brought by Ambac Financial Group claiming that the insurance company was fooled into insuring hundreds of mortgage bonds that were backed by poor quality loans. As part of the settlement, Ambac will withdraw its opposition to a $4.5B deal reached between the firm and investors, such as Pacific Investment Management Co. (PiMCO) and BlackRock Inc (BLK), over faulty home loans.
One of Ambac’s units was the number two largest bond insurer in the world eight years ago, when the growing number of mortgage defaults caused it to become inundated with claims. The settlement with JPMorgan will conclude two lawsuits over the quality of loans backing mortgage bonds that were sold by Bear Stearns & Co., which JPMorgan purchased in 2008. It also resolves the insurer’s efforts to recover payments of principal plus interest on approximately $3.3B of nearly a dozen MBS trusts sponsored by Bear Stearns unit EMC Mortgage LLC.
According to Bloomberg, this latest settlement opens the door for a judge to approve the settlement between JPMorgan and institutional investors.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) will pay $150 million to resolve investor claims accusing the firm of concealing up to $6.2 billion in losses caused by the trader Bruno Iksil, who was given the nickname “London Whale.” Pension funds filed a class action securities case accusing the firm of using its investment office in London as a secret hedge fund. According to the plaintiffs, the bank told them that the office was managing risk when what it was actually doing was making trades for profit. Investors were harmed when huge losses resulting from transactions made through the London office caused the bank’s share price to drop.
The pension funds said that they suffered tens of millions of dollars of losses because fund managers were provided with information that was “false and misleading.” They also believe that the bank knowingly concealed the growing risks that were occurring at the London office.
Plaintiffs of this lawsuit include the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, which says it lost $2.5 million, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, the state of Ohio, funds in Arkansas, Swedish pension fund AP7, and other JP Morgan shareholders that purchased stock between 2/24/10—this is when the company submitted to regulators its 2009 earnings report—and 5/21/12. The latter date is when the firm announced that it was stopping a $15 billion share buyback program until it could get a better handle of the losses sustained.