Tag Archive: London Whale

Mar 19 2013

JP Morgan’s Crime Spree

In a day long Senate hearing, Ina Drew, the former head of the chief investment office that oversaw the London trading operation, Braunstein, JP Morgan’s former chief financial officer,  acting chief risk officer Ashley Bacon and Peter Weiland, Chase’s former head of market risk, appeared to answer questions about it disastrous “London whale” trading loss. Along with high-ranking federal regulators, they face withering questions if front of Senator Carl Levin’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations a day after the committee release a damning 300-page report on JP Morgan’s $6.2bn debacle. While the report lays out the evidence that JP Morganwas plating fast and lose with regulations and investor’s money, the report is heavily redacted giving the appearance that even Sen. Levin’s committee is covering for Jamie Dimon and, perhaps higher ups in the White House, under the guise of “protecting the markets.”

In an article by Pam Martens at Wall Street On Parade, she partially reconstructs some of the missing pieces:

Although the “Redacted” stamp has censored much of the relevant information on this stock trading, a few snippets can be pieced together. We learn, for example, that the original budget proposed for stock trading in 2006 was twice that for credit trading. The plan was to trade a maximum of $5 million in credit derivatives and $10 million in stock trading – the specific type of stock transactions have been redacted from the document while those for credit trading have been left in. Since the notionals (face amount) of the credit derivatives eventually grew to hundreds of billions of dollars by early 2012, one has to wonder what the stock-related trading grew to from a proposed $10 million since it was originally slated to be twice as large as credit trading.

Another item that slips through is that “ETFs will also be treated as trading instruments.” ETF is an acronym for “Exchange Traded Fund,” portfolios of stocks that trade on stock exchanges. In a memo dated May 5, 2006 to Jason Hughes at JPMorgan from Roger J. Cole in the Compliance Department, we learn that there is a plan to trade stock market indices. The caveat is given by Cole that: “…compliance approval required before trading in credit/equity indices with less than 20 names as we discussed.”

She concludes that the Senate needs to release the redacted portions of the report to let in some “disinfecting sunshine.” The article also contains and excellent chart of the hierarchy of the International Chief Investment Office that was headed by Javier Martin-Artajo, that blogger bobswern at Daily Kos gives us further incite:

If you take a look at the organizational chart provided by Pam Martens, immediately above, it’s topped-off with Javier Martin-Artajo. The reality was that, at the time, Martin-Artajo reported to JPMC CIO head Ina Drew who, in turn, reported to JPMC CEO Jamie Dimon, among others.

I’ve italicized “others” in the paragraph above this because in-between Ms. Drew and Mr. Dimon was none other than William M. Daley, Vice Chairman of the JPMC Board of Directors, who was, among many other duties including that of chief (unregistered) lobbyist for the bank and Chair of the JPMC Board’s Risk Management Committee, also in charge of supervising the bank’s corporate governance, up until January 9th, 2011, when President Obama appointed Daley as his chief of staff, replacing current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in that job.

It was fairly widely reported, in early November 2011, that Bill Daley was tacitly demoted in his position as White House Chief of Staff, when he was required to share duties with Pete Rouse. Interestingly, in January 2012, around the time that the first, industry-circulated reports of JPMC’s CIO meltdown appeared in the blogosphere, it was then reported that Daley would be leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, altogether, later that month.

The readers can draw their own conclusions from there.

Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi, live blogged the hearing giving some amusing observations. In a phone interview with Sam Seder of the Majority Report discussed the testimony:

Jul 19 2012

LIBOR: There Will Be No Prosecutions

LIBOR If you think for that the Justice Department in this administration is going to prosecute or regulate any of the people who were involved in the LIBOR scandal, erase that thought. Regardless of any evidence the government may have now or in the future that would send the average trader to prison for life, the main goal for Attorney General Eric Holder is to protect the banksters from prosecution. There was no reason to give immunity

from prosecution of the Commodities Exchange Act. Since the government already had the e-mails, they had enough to issue subpoenas and arrest warrants. Instead, Holder’s office gave them immunity from prosecution:

A crucial element in any prosecution is criminal intent, and it’s plain from the Barclays e-mails that various participants knew that what they were doing was wrong. As one Barclays trader put it in e-mails to traders at other banks, “don’t talk about it too much,” “don’t make any noise about it please” and “this can backfire against us.”

Faced with what would seem to be an open-and-shut case, how did the Justice Department proceed? Barclays entered into a nonprosecution agreement in which the United States government agreed not to prosecute Barclays as long as it met its other obligations under the agreement, including continued cooperation in what the government said was an investigation still under way. Barclays also received a conditional grant of immunity from the antitrust division. [..]

The United States government “had the smoking guns,” Professor (John C.) Coffee said, and “it could have demanded its price from Barclays,” including a guilty plea to a crime. At the same time, the agreement “isn’t surprising,” he said. “The Department of Justice has done this in almost every major case since the collapse of Arthur Andersen.” (Andersen was the accounting firm indicted after the collapse of Enron.)

Glen Ford nails precisely why there will be no prosecutions, since the ultimate aim is “protecting the banks from the consequences of their crimes:”

“The reason Eric Holder is staging criminal investigations is because that’s the only way he can protect the bankers, through immunities and by gradually narrowing the scope of the case.”

The Obama Justice Department is in theater mode, again, pretending to threaten the bankster class with criminal penalties – prison time! – for their manipulation of the global economy’s benchmark interest rates. The Justice Department claims to be building criminal and civil cases in the LIBOR scandal, which in sheer scope is the biggest fraud by international capital in history. But that’s all a front, a farce. Barack Obama has spent his entire presidency protecting Wall Street, starting with his rescue of George Bush’s bank bailout bill after it’s initial defeat in Congress, in the last days of Obama’s candidacy. He packed his administration with banksters, passed his own bailout and, in collaboration with the Federal Reserve, channeled at least $16 trillion dollars into the accounts of U.S. and even European banks – by far the greatest transfer of capital in the history of the world. Obama has reminded the banksters that it was he who saved them from the “pitchforks” of an outraged public. He pushed through Congress so-called financial reform legislation that left derivatives – the deadly instruments of mass financial destruction that were at the heart of the meltdown – untouched. [..]

Now Obama and Holder are playing the same diversionary game, making tough noises about criminal investigations of the LIBOR conspirators. But the Justice Department has already given immunity to Barclay’s Bank, of Britain, and to the Swiss banking giant UBS. More immunities will follow. The reason Eric Holder is staging criminal investigations is because that’s the only way he can protect the bankers, through immunities and by gradually narrowing the scope of the case. In the end, there will be settlements all around, and the banksters will move on to even more fantastic heights of criminality – thanks to the loyal, protective hands of President Obama.

Prosecutions? Don’t hold you breath.

Jul 17 2012

LIBOR: Past Time to Investigate the NY Fed

Wall St. is a high crime area and the criminals are allowed to run free.

~Dennis Kelleher~

Back in May of 2009, Eliot Spitzer, former New York State Attorney General, aka “The Sheriff of Wall St,”, wrote this article for Slate after the revelation that New York Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Stephen Friedman’s “purchased some Goldman stock while the Fed was involved in reviewing major decisions about Goldman’s future.” In the article he called into question just who it is that selects the person who sits at the head of the table:

A quasi-independent, public-private body, the New York Fed is the first among equals of the 12 regional Fed branches. Unlike the Washington Federal Reserve Board of Governors, or the other regional fed branches, the N.Y. Fed is active in the markets virtually every day, changing the critical interest rates that determine the liquidity of the markets and the profitability of banks. And, like the other regional branches, it has boundless power to examine, at will, the books of virtually any banking institution and require that wide-ranging actions be taken-from raising capital to stopping lending-to ensure the stability and soundness of the bank. Over the past year, the New York Fed has been responsible for committing trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to resuscitate the coffers of the banks it oversees. [..]

So who selected Geithner back in 2003? Well, the Fed board created a select committee to pick the CEO. This committee included none other than Hank Greenberg, then the chairman of AIG; John Whitehead, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs; Walter Shipley, a former chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, now JPMorgan Chase; and Pete Peterson, a former chairman of Lehman Bros. It was not a group of typical depositors worried about the security of their savings accounts but rather one whose interest was in preserving a capital structure and way of doing business that cried out for-but did not receive-harsh examination from the N.Y. Fed.

The composition of the New York Fed’s board, which supervises the organization and current Chairman Friedman, is equally troubling. The board consists of nine individuals, three chosen by the N.Y. Fed member banks as their own representatives, three chosen by the member banks to represent the public, and three chosen by the national Fed Board of Governors to represent the public. In theory this sounds great: Six board members are “public” representatives.

So essentially, we have the thieves guarding the vault. Willie Sutton would have loved this.

That brings us to the LIBOR scandal and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s role. In his currentSlate article, Mr. Spitzer again reiterates the growing need to investigate the NY Fed. and Mr. Geithner. What did he know? When did he know it? Why didn’t he refer it to the Justice Department?

The New York Federal Reserve knew about Libor games being played by the banks years ago and seems to have done precious little about it-except perhaps send a memo parroting the so-called reform ideas proposed by the banks themselves. Then nothing more. No prosecutions, no inquiries of the banks to see if the illegal behavior had stopped-just a live-and-let-live attitude.

Apparently, as Mr. Geithner had testified during his confirmation hearing for Treasury, he didn’t see himself as a “regulator.” Yet, that is the most important part of the NY Federal Reserve. But then look who chose him as Fed president:

Hank Greenberg of AIG and John Whitehead of Goldman Sachs–these companies that got bailed out-were on the NY Fed committee that made Tim Geithner their president.

No conflict of interest there? Wow.

MR. Spitzer believes that it is time for the NY Fed to be investigated:

Was there a similar conflict of interest when the New York Fed apparently did nothing adequate about the Libor games? Well, look who was on the board: Dick Fuld of Lehman fame; Sandy Weill of Citibank; Jeff Immelt of GE-the largest beneficiary of the Fed’s commercial paper guarantees; and, of course, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, whose bank’s London derivative trades and Libor involvement make his role on the board even more absurd.

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributing editor, and Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets Inc., join “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer to assess the scope of the unfolding Libor scandal given news that the U.S. Justice Department is building criminal cases and expects to “file charges against at least one bank later this year,” according to The New York Times.

Lets just say that I agree with Atrios, don’t hold your breath for either an investigation or prosecutions.

Jul 13 2012

Happy Friday the Thirteenth or Not

If it weren’t Friday the Thirteenth, you’d think it was April’s Fool. It’s all the usual excuses by the CEO’s and the TBTF banks, “we are just finding it was this bad”

JPMorgan Fears Traders Obscured Losses in First Quarter

JPMorgan Chase, which reported its second-quarter results on Friday, disclosed that the losses on a soured credit bet could mount to more than $7 billion, as the nation’s largest bank indicated that traders may have intentionally tried to conceal the extent of the red ink on the disastrous position. [..]

If the trades, made out of the powerful chief investment office unit in London, had been properly valued, the bank said it would have lost $1.4 billion on the position in the first quarter.

Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive who has consistently reassured investors that the losses would be contained, announced that the bank lost $4.4 billion on the botched trade in the second quarter. So far this year, the bank says it has lost $5.8 billion on the trades in credit derivatives.  [..]

Since announcing the multibillion-dollar mistake, JPMorgan has lost $25 billion in market value.

Jamie Dimon finally admitting what we already knew but still not admitting that the real losses for the bank is closer to $30 billion. He is either the most incompetent CEO or he thinks that we’re all stupid to realize he knew about tis all along.

or  “but Timmy wrote a memo”

Barclays Informed New York Fed of Problems With Libor in 2007

A Barclays employee notified the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in April of 2008 that the firm was underestimating its borrowing costs, following potential warning signs as early as 2007 that other banks were undermining the integrity of a key interest rate.

In 2008, the employee said that the move was prompted by a desire to “fit in with the rest of the crowd” and added, “we know that we’re not posting um, an honest Libor,” according to documents that the agency released on Friday. The Barclays employee said that he believed such practices were widespread among major banks.

In response, the New York Fed began examining the matter and passed their findings to other financial authorities, according to the documents.

But the agency’s actions came too late and failed to thwart the illegal activities. By the time of the April 2008 conversation, the British firm had been trying to manipulate the interest rate for three years. And the practice persisted at Barclays for about a year after the briefing with the New York Fed.

Friday’s revelations shed new light on regulators’ role in the rate manipulation scandal. The documents also raise concerns about why authorities did not act sooner to thwart the rate-rigging.

The perp’s figured they were too big to indict and the Justice Department agreed.

In Barclays Inquiry, the Calculation in Making a Deal

The question needs to be faced in the wake of the bank’s admitted efforts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, known as Libor, the benchmark for countless interest rate determinations and approximately $450 trillion in derivative contracts.

If the Justice Department was looking for a textbook case of white-collar financial crime – including a conspiracy that was flourishing at the height of the financial crisis – this would seem tailor-made. As the facts released by the government make clear, there were two separate but overlapping schemes to manipulate Libor within Barclays. Yet the bank secured a nonprosecution agreement and agreed to pay a penalty of more than $450 million, a comparatively paltry sum for a bank that had more than £32 billion ($50 billion) in revenue in 2011. “The perception so far has been that the regulators have been toothless,” John C. Coffee Jr., professor of law and specialist in white-collar crime at Columbia Law School, told me this week. [..]

(The criminal division said its agreement with Barclays was reached in conjunction with the antitrust division.)

And this is why Richard Diamond and Jamie Dimon have nothing to worry about and the world is still being screwed.

 

Jun 13 2012

JP Morgan’s CEO And The Grand Lie

“We are not in the hedge fund business.”

Jamie Dimon, CEO JP Morgan Chase

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon testified today before the Senate Banking Committee about the $2 billion plus loss from it’s “London Whale” gambling with depositor and tax payer money. He was hardly contrite. Not only did Dimon whine about the complexity of the federal regulatory system but he lied, blatantly, this from Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

In Senate testimony, Dimon revealed his idea of “portfolio hedging” to be even more egregious than the harshest critics thought. Dimon presented the job of the CIO to be to make modest amounts of money in good times and to make a lot of money when there’s a crisis. (That does not appear to be narrowly true, since in the last couple of years, during which there was no crisis, the CIO’s staff were among the best paid in the bank and produced significant profits for the bank. That is a bald faced admission that the CIO’s mandate had nothing to do with hedging. A hedge is a position taken to mitigate losses on an underlying exposure should they occur. Instead, Dimon has admitted that the mission of the CIO is to place bets on tail risks that are unrelated to JP Morgan’s exposures. A massive, systemically destructive strategy like the Magnetar trade would fit perfectly within the CIO’s mandate.

Needless to say, this definition is an inversion of not just what the Volcker rule was meant to stand for (limiting financial firm gambles with taxpayer money), it’s NewSpeak, or in this case, DimonSpeak: “a hedge is whatever I say it is, no more and no less.” Another bit of DimonSpeak was his specious response when he was arguing against the Volcker rule. The JP Morgan chief asserted that a customer loan could be construed to be a prop trade. Um, no, Volcker applies to trading books. The fact that he’d run a line like that shows how little he thinks of the intelligence of the Senate Banking Committee and the public generally. [..]

It was instructive to see how effective confident misrepresentation can be. Most of the Republican senators fawned over Dimon after the ritual scolding at the top of the hearings, and I suspect most of the media will simply replay his lines uncritically. There were a few that will work against him, like his reluctant admission that the Volcker rule might have prevented the failed London trade. But in general, reducing complex situations to soundbites allows for obfuscation and misdirection, which is exactly what Dimon and his ilk are keen to have happen.

During the testimony, Dimon admitted to responsibility for the failed trade that could possibly lead to criminal charges for violation of Sarbanese-Oxley, but even under this Democratic administration, no one believes that, certainly not Yves or David Dayen at FDL:

Dimon also deflected blame for the losses. David Dayen recounts the conference call that took place during the hearing with economists Rob Johnson and Bill Black:

Dimon tried to blame the losses on a lot of factors, and in such a way that doesn’t trip up his priorities later. As economist Rob Johnson mentioned in a conference call, Dimon has been lobbying vociferously against things like the Volcker rule. So he doesn’t want this Fail Whale mix-up to lead to a stronger regulatory environment. He tried to explain the trades as a hedge (never saying that they were one, but that he “believed” they were one, to keep him out of trouble), that would make small amounts of money in good times and more money when things went bad. They were also specifically tied to business in Europe. Bill Black, who was also on the call, targeted this as a non sequitur. “He said that senior management ordered the CIO to get out of the risk out of this underlying supposed hedge,” Black said. “But a hedge is supposed to be reducing risk, and it was protecting you from Europe going bad, when Europe is going bad. So it should have been making more money at this time.”

Black continued. “Instead of reducing the risk, the CIO went into a vastly more complex series of derivatives and went far larger, and they hid the losses. I mean, my God. They violated direct orders, lose a ton of money and lie about it. Dimon described a massive insurrection by the CIO.”

Most of the senators soft peddled their questions and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) actually asked Dimon for advice about banking regulations and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) doesn’t believe in second guessing the banksters. The closest any of the questioners came to holding Dimon accountable for the losses was Sen Jeff Merkley (D-OR). It was during that exchange that Dimon admitted he was responsible for the losses.

All in all another farce by our politicians who are owned by the man before them.

May 22 2012

JP Morgan’s Whale Still Growing

That $2 billion failed London Whale has burgeoned up to a hefty $7 billion:

The crisis at JP Morgan escalated yesterday as it emerged its trading losses in London could rise to as much as $7bn (£4.5bn) and the US bank cancelled a share buyback. Fears were growing that the losses could spiral from an initial $2bn, which was declared on 10 May, as JP Morgan struggles to unwind the massive bets made by the so-called “London Whale” trader Bruno Iksil. [..]

The main index on which Mr Iksil’s credit default swaps trades were based has calmed down in recent days, which suggests that JP Morgan has decided to trade out of its positions gradually rather than take one massive hit. Mr Dimon originally said the bank would deal with the positions to “maximise economic value”. But there is a danger in taking the long view. Mr Iksil was betting on the credit-worthiness of corporate America and if that starts to fall JP Morgan’s losses could mount further.

But in the meantime, Dimon decided to suspend the $15 billion stock buy back:

Two months after announcing a $15 billion share buyback program, JPMorgan Chase reversed course on Monday, saying it was halting the repurchases after the bank’s multibillion-dollar trading loss. [..]

Mr. Dimon said the bank intended to keep its dividend of 30 cents a quarter unchanged. Bank officials have repeatedly emphasized that the company has no plans to reduce it despite the trading loss. Initially estimated by the bank at $2 billion, the trading loss on credit derivatives now stands at more than $3 billion, according to traders and regulators. [..]

The decision to halt the repurchases – a move the company said it made on its own, not at the behest of regulators – sent JPMorgan’s shares sliding again Monday, closing at their lowest level since late last year.

As the losses from London Whale increase and Dimon’s reputation as the “saviour” of JP Morgan is tarnished, the calls for better and tighter regulations for banking increase. That’s the problem faced by the Senate Banking Committee as they consider the “Volker Rule”. As David Dayen pointed out today the rule should not so complex that it just creates more loopholes:

The Fail Whale trades showed that massive, as-yet unregulated risk still exists in our financial system, with the potential to bring down the economy once again and trigger massive taxpayer bailouts. Since the Administration already passed a law that was supposed to deal with that, they’re scrambling to restore what little of value existed in those laws. [..]

The article intimates that independent regulators have authority over writing things like the Volcker rule, and that the White House and the Treasury Department have limited ability to ensure that the rule properly follows from the legislative mandate. Given that a senior Administration official told reporters just yesterday that the losses at JPMorgan Chase would “inform… how the ultimate contours of the Volcker ruler come out-make sure that it is strong,” it’s clear that not even the Administration believes that. They appointed the regulators, and Treasury has plenty of control over almost everything related to Dodd-Frank. If they want a stronger Volcker rule, they’ll get it.

But will the Banking Committee come out with strong, simple rules regulating the gambling that banks are doing with depositor funds? There is a lot of doubt considering that not only are the Senators on the banking committee “financed” by the banks and lobbied heavily, a former lobbyist for JP Morgan Chase, Dwight Fettig is the staff director for the Senate Banking Committee. As our friend watertiger at Dependable Renegade observed “Well, isn’t that conVEEEEENient”:

The Senate Banking Committee is responding to outrage over the news that J.P. Morgan lost some $3 billion in customer money because of a risky trading strategy. The committee is preparing for two hearings with regulators, and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), chair of the committee, is hoping that Jamie Dimon will testify in the near future. “Our due diligence has made it clear that the Banking Committee should hear directly from JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon,” Johnson said in a statement last week.

Luckily for Dimon, the professional staff in charge of managing the banking committee will be quite familiar to him and his team of lobbyists. That’s because the staff director for the Senate Banking Committee is none other than a former J.P. Morgan lobbyist, Dwight Fettig.

In 2009, Fettig was a registered lobbyist for J.P. Morgan. His disclosures show that he was hired to work on “financial services regulatory reform” and the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2009″ on behalf of the investment bank. Now, as staff director for the Senate Banking Committee, he will be overseeing the hearings on J.P. Morgan’s risky proprietary trading.

I agree with Yves Smith in her NYT op-ed opinion that “for starters, reinstate Glass – Steagall”:

Preventing blow-ups like the JPMorgan “hedge” that bears no resemblance to any known hedge isn’t difficult. What makes preventing it difficult is that banks that exist only by virtue of state-granted charters – and more recently, huge transfers from the public – have persuaded public officials and regulators that they have a God-granted right not just to high levels of profit but also high levels of employee and executive compensation. [..]

Maybe it’s time to recognize that these firms are too big and in too many complex businesses to be managed. Jamie Dimon was touted as a star who could supervise a sprawling firm running huge risks, and he fell short because no one can do the job adequately. A less disaster-prone financial system requires more simplicity and redundancy. Re-instituting Glass-Steagall or other variants on the narrow banking theme isn’t a full solution, but it would make for a good start.