Nearly a month after news first leaked out that JPMorgan and the Justice Department were close to a $13 billion settlement, the bank has finally settled in the largest civil settlement by a single company. The settlement, overseen by the Justice Department but also including claims by three federal regulators and five states, stemmed from investigations by three U.S attorney's offices into the packaging and sales of securities constructed from mortgages by JPMorgan itself, Washington Mutual, and Bear Stearns, which JPMorgan acquired in 2008 during the financial crisis.
A statement of facts included in the settlement says that the three companies did not disclose the risks of the loans they were packaging and selling to investors. It also added that some loans did not meet their stated underwriting standards. The bank admitted to the statement of facts but insisted in a conference call with analysts that the bank did not admit to violating the law: "We do not admit to a violation of law," said Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan.
The settlement resolves civil fraud investigations stemming from misrepresentations JPMorgan, Bear, and Washington Mutual made in selling mortgage backed securities between 2005 and 2007. The settlement includes $4 billion in aid to consumers, including lowering mortgage principal, modifying loans to make them easier to repay, originated new loans in some areas, and reducing blight in neighborhoods wracked by mass-foreclosure. $2 billion would be for principal reduction and $2 billion in other relief.
The $4 billion in aid does not necessarily mean that the bank will shell out $4 billion—the bank can get credit for modifying mortgages and other forms of homeowner aid that don't involve direct payments. The bank has to complete the borrower and homeowner aid by 2017 but expects it to be "substantially complete" by end of 2016.
Marianne Lake, JPMorgan's chief financial officer, said in a conference call with analysts that the $2 billion fine would not be tax deductible but the remaining $7 billion in compensation payments to the states and regulators would be deductible. Assuming a 38% tax rate, JPMorgan could deduct as much as $2.66 billion from its corporate tax bills.
"We are pleased to have concluded this extensive agreement with the President's RMBS Working Group and to have resolved the civil claims of the Department of Justice and others," JPMorgan CEO and chairman Jamie Dimon said in a statement. The bank also said that it "has resolved a significant portion of the RMBS-related civil litigation claims being defended by the company" and is cooperating with the Justice Department's criminal investigation.
The total settlement figure includes the $4 billion settlement JPMorgan reached with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, over $33 billion worth of missold mortgage bonds that JPMorgan, Washington Mutual, and Bear sold to Fannie and Freddie between 2005 and 2007.
The remaining $3 billion goes to the states involved in the settlement (New York, California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the National Credit Union Administration.
"JPMorgan was not the only financial institution during this period to knowingly bundle toxic loans and sell them to unsuspecting investors, but that is no excuse for the firm's behavior," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, "No firm, no matter how profitable, is above the law, and the passage of time is no shield from accountability."
When it announced its quarterly earnings last month, JPMorgan reported its first quarterly loss since 2004 thanks to a $9 billion expense to add to its litigation reserves. The bank also disclosed that it had $23 billion in reserves and had added $20 billion to its reserves since 2010.
Eric Schneiderman, the New York state Attorney General and co-chair of the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities Task Force, which helped lead the investigation and who sued JPMorgan over mortgage-backed securities sold by Bear Stearns said in a statement that New York state would receive $613 million and $400 million worth of aid to individuals. "We've won a major victory today in the fight to hold those who caused the financial crisis accountable," he said in a statement.
But the settlement does not bring an end to outstanding criminal investigations into JPMorgan's crisis-era MBS machine. "The size and scope of this resolution should send a clear signal that the Justice Department's financial fraud investigations are far from over. No firm, no matter how profitable, is above the law, and the passage of time is no shield from accountability," Holder said in a statement.
Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.
Contact Matthew Zeitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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