JPMorgan Says Its “Trading Venues” Are Under Investigation While It’s Still on Probation for Prior Trading Crimes

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by Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall St On Parade:

Last Friday, ahead of a three-day weekend when bad news could be expected to evaporate into the ether by the next news cycle, JPMorgan Chase dropped a bombshell in its 10-K (annual report) filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank, which has admitted to an unprecedented five criminal felony counts since 2014, said its “trading venues” were under investigation by three unnamed regulatory bodies.

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This is a very serious matter for this particular bank because three of its prior felony counts involved rigging markets. The bank admitted to rigging foreign exchange markets in 2015 and to rigging, for more than eight years, the precious metals and U.S. Treasury markets in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2020.

Two of the precious metals traders involved in the 2020 case, Gregg Smith and Michael Nowak, are sitting in federal prison today in Otisville, New York. Smith, of Scarsdale, New York, was sentenced to two years in prison and is scheduled for release on June 13, 2025. Nowak, of Montclair, New Jersey, was sentenced to one year and one day. Nowak is scheduled for release on July 30 of this year. Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, whose tenure has seen an unprecedented crime wave at the bank, received a $50 million bonus. (See our report: After JPMorgan Chase Admits to Its 4th and 5th Felony Charge, Its Board Gives a $50 Million Bonus to Its CEO, Jamie Dimon.)

In the 2020 criminal case, the bank was put on probation under a Deferred Prosecution Agreement for three years, starting with the date the “Information” (formal charging document) was filed. That document was filed on the court docket in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on September 29, 2020, meaning it should have expired on September 29, 2023. But in JPMorgan’s Friday 10-K filing for the period ending December 31, 2023, the bank states as follows:

“The Firm is subject to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement entered into with the Department of Justice on September 29, 2020, relating to precious metals and U.S. Treasuries markets investigations, as well as a cooperation obligation under a related order issued by the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission].”

Under the 2020 Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the U.S. Department of Justice had the right to extend the probation period on the following basis: “…in the event the Fraud Section and the Office determine, in their sole discretion, that the Company or the Related Entities have knowingly violated any provision of this Agreement or have failed to completely perform or fulfill each of their obligations under this Agreement, an extension or extensions of the Term may be imposed….”

The exact statement the bank made in its Friday filing with the SEC about the current investigations of its “trading venues” is as follows:

“Trading Venues Investigations. The Firm has been responding to government inquiries regarding its processes to inventory trading venues and confirm the completeness of certain data fed to trade surveillance platforms. The Firm self-identified that certain trading and order data through the CIB [Corporate and Investment Bank] was not feeding into its trade surveillance platforms. The Firm has completed enhancements to the CIB’s venue inventory and data completeness controls, and other remediation is underway. The Firm has also performed a review of the data not originally surveilled, which is nearly complete, and has not identified any employee misconduct, harm to clients or the market. While the identified gaps represent a fraction of the overall activity across the CIB, the data gap on one venue, which largely consisted of sponsored client access activity, was significant. The Firm is dedicated to maintaining rigorous controls and continuously enhancing the reliability of its trade infrastructure. The Firm expects to enter into resolutions with two U.S. regulators that will require the Firm to, among other things, complete its remediation, engage an independent consultant, and pay aggregate civil penalties of approximately $350 million. The Firm is also in advanced negotiations with a third U.S. regulator, but there is no assurance that such discussions will result in a resolution. The Firm does not expect any disruption of service to clients as a result of these resolutions.”

There are two key points to note about the above statement: (1) The bank jumped the gun on waiting for its regulators to notify the public as to just how helpful JPMorgan was in reporting the problem to regulators and whether it, indeed, “self-identified” the problem as it claims. (This is, after all, the bank that laundered money for Bernie Madoff for years without filing the required Suspicious Activity Reports and is alleged by the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands to have done the same thing for sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Self-reporting is not exactly Jamie Dimon’s strong suit.) (2) The bank fails to specify the regulator that it has not come to an agreement with. If that’s the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, that’s a big problem for a bank that is an unrepentant recidivist.

Exactly which “trading venues” are under investigation for not properly reporting trading activity is another dicey area for Jamie Dimon. In 2012, the bank was investigated by the FBI for using deposits from its federally-insured bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., to make dangerous bets in derivatives in London and lose $6.2 billion. The bank was not criminally charged but suffered serious reputational damage. The U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a 300-page report on the so-called “London Whale” case and held hearings. The bank paid its regulators $920 million to settle the matter.

During Senate hearings on the case, the late Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said JPMorgan Chase “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.” The late Senator John McCain, Co-Chair of the Subcommittee at the time, had this to say:

“This case represents another shameful demonstration of a bank engaged in wildly risky behavior. The ‘London Whale’ incident matters to the federal government because the traders at JPMorgan were making risky bets using excess deposits, portions of which were federally insured. These excess deposits should have been used to provide loans for main-street businesses. Instead, JPMorgan used the money to bet on catastrophic risk.”

The woman overseeing these massive, risky trades for JPMorgan Chase, Ina Drew, didn’t even have a trading license. (See Jamie Dimon’s Top Women and Their Missing Licenses.)

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