Articles Posted in JP Morgan Chase

In the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, preliminary settlements have been submitted in which Deutsche Bank (DB) will pay $48.5M and Bank of America (BAC) will pay $17M to resolve investor lawsuits accusing them of manipulating the agency bond market for years. A judge must still approve the settlements.

Despite settling, both banks maintain they did not engage in any wrongdoing. The lead plaintiff investors include the Sheet Metal Workers Pension Plan of Northern California and the Iron Workers Pension Plan of Western Pennsylvania, and KBC Asset Management NV.

According to court papers and as reported by Reuters, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank are two of the 10 banks accused of rigging the $9 trillion agency bond market for supranational, sub-sovereign and agency bonds, also known as SSA bonds. The plaintiffs contend that from 2005 to 2015 the banks shared price information with one another, worked as a “super-desk” together, and allowed traders to coordinate strategies in the name of profit. Meantime, customers had to accept bond prices that were unfair to them.

Four Firms Are Ordered to Pay $4.75M for Market Access Rule Violations

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, CBOE Holdings company Bats, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and their affiliated Exchanges have fined four financial firms $4.75M collectively for violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934’s Rule 15c3-5, which is also known as the Market Access Rule. The fines are: $2.5M for Deutsche Bank (DB), $800K for J.P. Morgan (JPM), $1M for Citigroup (C), and $450K for Interactive Brokers (IBKR).

The firms have given market access to quite a number clients that engage in millions of trades daily. However, according to FINRA, Bats, NASDAQ, and NYSE, when doing so, they purportedly did not comply with at least one of the Market Access Rule’s provisions when they did not put in place certain risk management controls and procedures so that orders that were “erroneous or duplicative,” or went beyond certain kinds of thresholds, could be detected or prevented. The firms are also accused of not having systems in place for properly supervising customer trading so that “potentially volatile and manipulative activity” could be avoided.

In the US, former London traders Rohan Ramchandani, Chris Ashton, and Richard Usher have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges accusing them of conspiring to manipulate prices in the foreign exchange market. Ashton previously worked at Barclays (BARC) as the bank’s global head of spot currency trading. Ramchandani used to be Citigroup’s (C) G-10 spot currency trading head. Usher served a similar role at JPMorgan & Chase (JPM).

Prosecutors are accusing them of conspiring with other traders in a Forex rigging scheme to share sensitive client information through an electronic chat room referred to as the “Cartel,” as well as via phone, in order to quash competitors.

The criminal charges are related to a global probe into currency market rigging. To date, seven banks have paid approximately $10B fines over this type of manipulation, including Citigroup, Barclays (BARC), JPMorgan, and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

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Participants in <a href=””>JPMorgan Chase &amp; Co.’s (JPM)</a> $21B 401(K) plan are suing the bank. The plaintiffs, who have filed a proposed class-action securities case, claim that the firm caused employees to pay excessive fees of millions of dollars.

According to the complaint, JPMorgan and a number of committee and board members were in breach of their fiduciary duties when they purportedly kept proprietary mutual funds that came from affiliate companies and the bank in the retirement plan for several years even though these options were almost identical to less expensive funds that were not only available but also were performing better.

The plaintiffs contend that during the class period at issue—from ’10-’15—about half of the investment choices in the retirement plan consisted of proprietary funds. They are accusing JPMorgan of keeping up business deals that were lucrative for the firm with BlackRock Institutional Trust Co. , which allowed BlackRock to inundate the 401(k) plan with its funds.

The mortgage securities fraud deal arrived at between Deutsche Bank (DB) and the Department of Justice is now final. As part of the settlement, the German lender will pay a $3.1B civil penalty and $4.1B in relief to borrowers, homeowners, and others that were impacted because it purportedly misled investors about the mortgage securities it was selling before the housing market failed.

Although the agreement was announced last month, the details of the resolution have just been released to the public. This includes information that as far back as May 2006, a Deutsche Bank supervisor had cautioned one of the firm’s senior traders about one mortgage lender that had become too lax with its underwriting practices.

In a Statement of Facts that was part of the agreement, Deutsche Bank acknowledged that it was aware that it was not fully disclosing the risks involved with the loans that it was bundling and selling. Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan issued a written statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the bank’s conduct. Cryan said that Deutsche Bank now has better standards in place.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory has barred a broker who worked at Merrill Lynch for almost half a century from the securities industry. Louise J. Neale left the broker-dealer and voluntarily ended her registration with the firm last year during an internal probe about her supervisory performance involving fund transactions. She later refused to testify about her resignation before FINRA. This is a violation of the self-regulatory organization’s rules and was immediate grounds for the industry bar. Although Neale worked at Merrill since 1968, it wasn’t until 2003 that she became a registered representative and later a supervisor.

In an unrelated case, FINRA barred another ex-broker for violating firm policies after he, too, refused to testify about the allegations in front of the SRO. John Simpson worked at RBC Capital Markets from 3/2009 to 2/2016. He was let go by the firm for violating its policies about discretion related to client accounts.

Meantime, FINRA has barred two ex-JP Morgan (JPM) brokers. One of the brokers, Brian Alexander Torres, had only been in the securities industry for two months when he was fired by the broker-dealer. Torres admitted that he misappropriated funds from the firm’s affiliate bank. Finra asked Torres for information and documents, but he would not provide them nor would he testify.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said that it has awarded a whistleblower over $900K for a tip that allowed the regulator to bring multiple enforcement actions. The regulator announced the award just a days after it awarded another whistleblower $3.5M, also for coming forward with information resulting in an enforcement action.

Since 2012, the regulator’s whistleblower program has awarded about $136M to 37 individuals. The SEC protects the identities of whistleblowers, which is one reason it doesn’t disclose details about the enforcement cases.

It is against the law for companies to retaliate against employers for turning whistleblower, and there are protections, as well as remedies in place in the event of retaliation. Whistleblowers who provide the SEC with unique and helpful information that makes it possible for a successful enforcement action rendering over $1M in monetary sanctions are entitled to 10-30% of the funds collected.

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To settle civil and criminal charges alleging violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) will pay more than $264M: $130M to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, $72M to the U.S. Department of Justice, and $61.9M to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The settlements come following a probe that went on for several years into the bank’s hiring practices in Asia.

As part of the agreement, JPMorgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Limited (JPMorgan APAC) admitted that it established the “Sons and Daughters” referral program in 2006 to give preference to job candidates with ties to upcoming client deals. According to authorities, the bank hired 100 interns and full-time employees because foreign officials referred them. Some of these referrals were relatives of these officials. In order to be hired, a candidate had to have direct ties with a “business opportunity.”  The Justice Department has called the program “bribery.”

The DOJ’s release reports that among the admissions made related to the resolution was that in 2009, a Chinese government official told a senior JPMorgan APAC  banker that if a certain referred candidate were hired this would “significantly influence” the role the bank would have in an upcoming IPO for a company owned by the Chinese state. The banker notified senior colleagues, who spent several months attempting to bring the candidate into an investment banking position in New York. Even though this referred candidate did not have the qualifications for the job, senior JPMorgan APAC bankers created a position for this individual, and the bank was granted a lead role in the initial public offering. JPMorgan APAC also admitted that referred candidates were given the same salary and titles as entry-level investment bankers even though their tasks were “ancillary,” such as proofreading.

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In New York, the Appellate Division, First Department, a state appellate court, is allowing Aozara Bank’s (AOZOF) mortgage-backed securities fraud lawsuit against JPMorgan & Chase (JPM) to proceed. The Japanese bank, which had brought MBS claims against a number banks, is alleging aiding and abetting fraud and fraud related to the banks’ creation, marketing, and/or sale of high risk securities.

Aozara had invested close to $560M by 2009 in at least 35 collateralized debt obligations that a number of banks had structured. It sued not just JPMorgan but also Barclays Bank (BARC), Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. (DB), Credit Suisse (CS), UBS AG (UBS), Goldman Sachs Group (GS), Credit Agricole, and Morgan Stanley (MS) in 2013.

In the collateralized debt obligation lawsuit against JPMorgan, the First Department reversed a ruling issued earlier by the Manhattan Supreme Court. The appellate panel has now found that the Japanese bank  had properly stated claims for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing and also fraud.  Aozora contends that JPMorgan, which is Bear Stearns successor, depicted certain CDOs as legitimate investments even as it used them to get rid of risky assets that were toxic. The appellate panel said that JPMorgan  has not demonstrated that its claims in offering documents gave Aozora proper notice that JPMorgan defendants had colluded to accept the toxic CDO assets from Bear Stearns’ balance sheets. The ruling said that Aozora’s lawsuit included enough facts to support its reasonable inference that fraud and scienter had occurred.

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 Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc. and Nomura Asset Acceptance Corporation have agreed to jointly pay over $3M to settle allegations that they engaged in the sale of faulty residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to the Western Corporate Federal Credit Union and the U.S. Central Federal Credit Union. The National Credit Union Administration brought the RMBS fraud case on behalf of the  two corporate credit unions.
It was in 2011 that the NCUA Board, while serving as liquidating agent for both financial institutions, brought the claims against the Nomura entities. The RMBS lawsuit was brought in federal district courts in Kansas and California.
The $3M settlement dismisses NCUA’s pending cases against the two firms. By settling, neither firm is denying or admitting to the alleged wrongdoing.

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