You Have To Prosecute Individuals


JPMorgan Chase Tower (Dallas)
JPMorgan Chase Tower (Dallas) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You Have To Prosecute Individuals

There has been much anger in the financial press about JPMorgan having to pay a multi-billion dollar fine. It has been strangely charged that this is a government attack on capitalism. No, actually the bank broke the law and failed over and over again to act in an intelligent manner about its investments or its clients. But Gretchen Morgenson is absolutely right. This kind of fine isn’t really getting tough with the banks. It’s merely carrying on the long tradition of banks paying some proportion of the losses they caused while criminal prosecution as individuals is off the table. 

There is no real penalty here. The billions are just the cost of doing business. The bank has paid out fines before. The bank will pay out fines again. The fun and enormous profits of reckless speculation will remain.

There will only be an effective deterrent when wrongdoers are punished personally by fine and imprisonment.

You can’t attack prevent crime by attacking organizations with minor financial penalties. You could effectively if you were willing to pull the corporate charter from the bank and destroy it, or seize all of its assets. But I see no willingness to do that. The only effective tool present is the power to prosecute individuals.

It is bizarre to tell students to act with business ethics when they can read everyday in the news of the incredible money being made by individuals under the cover of banks deliberately, knowingly breaking the law. But even that is eclipsed by the simple and horrible fact that we do not impose penalties on individuals.

Without justice, how we expect people less favored than bank executives to believe in the law?

James Pilant

Why JPMorgan May be Getting off Easy

In a criminal investigation, JPMorgan Chase is facing action from federal authorities who suspect that the bank turned a blind eye to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. That’s yet another headache in a week of migraines for America’s largest bank; last Friday JPMorgan Chase reached a tentative $13 billion settlement with federal prosecutors for its alleged manipulation of mortgage securities, which helped trigger the Great Recession. There may be more pain to come as the megabank faces litigation on a number of fronts.

And JPMorgan Chase is not alone – it is one of several banks being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. While many headlines in the financial press accuse the government of conducting a witch hunt, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson offers a different perspective: “If the Justice Department were being tough on Wall Street they would be talking about bringing criminal cases against individuals who helped to perpetrate this immense crisis.” she said. Morgenson adds that the investigations into JPMorgan Chase show that it and many other financial institutions are still ‘too big to fail,’ which means taxpayers could once again be forced to bail them out.

http://occupyamerica.crooksandliars.com/diane-sweet/why-jpmorgan-may-be-getting-easy#sthash.lIimWj0v.dpbs

From around the web.

From the web site, Democracy Now!

Corporate Governance and JPMorgan Chase


 

An American Fable
An American Fable

Corporate Governance and JPMorgan Chase

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase

You’d think shareholders would be up in arms at Dimon and the Board of Directors for mismanaging their bank so badly. And yet they’re all still in their seats, thanks in part to the way large corporations are allowed to manipulate their own corporate governance.  Dimon is both CEO and Board Chair, an extraordinarily privileged position he was not asked to give up after the London Whale scandal.

And about that scandal: There are four things worth knowing about the Whale:

  1. The trades were illegal, according to all the evidence.
  2. Despite the bank’s bragging about its risk management model — which it publicized widely as a lure to investors — that model wasn’t followed by the London office.
  3. Jamie Dimon’s publicists and politician friends have burnished his reputation as “America’s best banker” – and he bypassed his bank’s org chart so that the London unit reported directly to him.
  4. His friends and publicists have also burnished his reputation as the country’s most ethical banker. As Henny Youngman used to say, How do ya like me now?

We’ve been all over JPMorgan Chase and Jamie Dimon for a long time. (See below for a partial listing), so we’re glad to see the public tide finally turning against the bank and its leader. One of the triggers for that shift was the Senate’s report on the bank’s trade, which is as damning in its own way as Rosner’s.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase

 

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Banks Poor Record Keeping Strikes Again


 

Debt collectors assisted by poor bank record keeping.
Debt collectors assisted by poor bank record keeping.

Banks Poor Record Keeping Strikes Again

Big Banks Face Investigation Into Whether They Helped Debt Collectors Pursue Faulty Judgments

The largest U.S. banks face a multi-state investigation into whether they helped debt collectors pursue faulty judgments against credit card customers, according to people familiar with the matter.
At issue is whether weak record-keeping by banks or a failure to pass accurate information to collection agencies harmed consumers.
The allegations against the banks echo those central to last year’s $25 billion federal-state mortgage settlement to resolve charges that the banks “robo-signed” documents and pursued foreclosures with faulty information.
This latest probe targets the same banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are continuing.
As with the mortgage cases, the investigation focuses on the banks’ poor paperwork and their weak tracking of the debts.

Big Banks Face Investigation Into Whether They Helped Debt Collectors Pursue Faulty Judgments

Poor record keeping or phrasing it differently, a reckless indifference to the property rights of mortgage holders, is in the news again.  The banks originally used their record keeping to facilitate seizing properties they lacked proper title to. But that wasn’t the only damage being done. It would appear they sold to debt collectors, debts owed to them by the mortgage holders dependent on the very same records they misused for years. You would think they would have noticed there would be a problem but no, people don’t like to think about their mistakes and crimes. So, we have former bank clients who owe no money being hounded by debt collectors.

Has anything been done to discourage these practices? It seems the profit never ends and no one is penalized? Does that mean that the banks can preserve for use over the next decades? Are these going to become standard bank practices?

These practices of poor record keeping and lying affidavits are illegal but with scarcely any penalty imposed they are undeniably profitable.

Aren’t these what Milton Friedman referred to as the “rules of the game,” and if you play by those, isn’t everything okay, you know – free choice, freedom to choose?

I suppose the feds will follow the usual practice of fining the banks a pittance and then allowing them to choose who should receive monetary relief if anyone at all.

This may not discourage the banks from continuing these kinds of acts.

James Pilant

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Mortgage Industry as the Wolf?


Mortgage Companies as Wolves
Mortgage Companies as Wolves
Mortgage Industry as the Wolf?

Foreclosure Review In New Settlement Leaves Homeowners In Banks’ Hands

For more than a year, housing advocates and their allies worried that a review of foreclosed loans managed by banking regulators was vulnerable to mortgage industry interference.

On Monday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board — the two regulatory bodies that had taken the lead in making the nation’s largest banks accountable for rampant foreclosure fraud — announced that homeowners no longer need worry about the independence of the reviews. The regulators, essentially admitting that the reviews were too difficult to conduct, and that assigning appropriate compensation to those most harmed by the banks was no longer a priority, said the mortgage companies themselves will determine how to distribute $3.3 billion to more than 4 million homeowners forced into foreclosure in 2009 or 2010.

Housing advocates, while acknowledging that the foreclosure reviews were flawed, said they don’t understand how turning the process over to mortgage companies improves a system already insufficiently independent.

“The regulators have decided to replace the fox in the henhouse with the wolf,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based housing nonprofit. “It is just incomprehensible to me that they could not find a third party that has the wherewithal and independence to fairly determine what the damage is to homeowners.”

Foreclosure Review In New Settlement Leaves Homeowners In Banks’ Hands

Is this good business ethics? Well, let’s look at it from the mortgage companies’ point of view. They made an enormous profit by misleading courts and mortgage holders as to who actually owned the property. In many cases, they told clients that they should skip payments, usually three payments, explaining to them that they would then qualify for government programs like HAMP. Once the home owner had skipped the payments, the bank immediately foreclosed. It terms of money, it was an incredible success.

Let’s analyze based on the Social Responsibility. Social responsibility rests on four pillars: economic, legal, philanthropic, ethical, and philanthropic.

Did the mortgage companies profit? Yes, but it depends on which stakeholders you look at. The shareholders did well. The employees did very well. The customers, at least as far as mortgage holders, were crushed. They are unlikely to ever be customers again. It is very difficult for families to buy a home in the first place. A second bite after foreclosure is not likely. The community was hurt badly by the thousands of empty homes, the collapse of the housing industry and the larger economic bust.

But let us have a special look at our last major shareholder, the regulatory agencies. They came, they saw, they said it was too difficult and gave it all back to the banks after extracting a promise that the banks will be good and give back 3.3 billion of the money they stole in the first place. It would appear the regulators are doing okay. They have shed their responsibilities to the public, which is always much easier than doing your job.

Was it legal? No. The banks violated the law thousands of times, perhaps hundreds of thousands. They lied routinely in official documents requiring affidavits and, for all intents and purposes, were in the business of stealing homes. They have, however, walked away unscathed.

Was it ethical? You have lying on a cosmic scale and theft of the property in the many billions of dollars. I don’t feel further analysis is required here.

And finally, was it philanthropic? Did they give back to the community? This is a pure case of negative philanthropy. The banks often had no concept of what to with the homes they took. They often didn’t care for them. Sometimes, they found it cheaper just to bulldoze them. They took value out of the community and replaced it with negative costs.

This is another sorry episode, which I will wonder if it is wise to mention to my business students? Should I tell them that stealing people’s homes will make you enormously rich while you with virtually no penalties? I am honest. I will. But I would rather not have negative business ethics taught so well by the mortgage companies. It makes what I do look foolish.

James Pilant

From the web site, The Support Center:

Major banks have once again agreed to a settlement, this time worth $8.5 billion, to compensate homeowners whose homes were fraudulently foreclosed upon in 2009 and 2010 through practices such as “robo-signing.” JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and and Wells Fargo will pay $3.3 billion to homeowners, and the remaining $5.3 billion will reduce mortgage bills and forgive principals on homes that were sold for less than what the owners owed on their mortgages. 3.8 million homeowners will be eligible to receive compensation ranging from a few hundred dollars to a maximum of $125,000.

In another settlement, Bank of America has agreed to pay the federal housing finance agency, Fannie Mae, $11 billion for selling the agency bad mortgages that defaulted, causing Fannie Mae to assume all the losses. $3.6 billion will be used to compensate for the bad mortgages, and $6.75 billion will be used to buy back mortgages.

Both of these agreements are part of a process to mitigate the impacts of the housing crisis and to hold the banks accountable for their role in both creating the housing bubble and in using questionable, if not fraudulent, methods in servicing their loans and processing foreclosures. Having faced significant losses, Bank of America continues to move out of the mortgage market, and in the deal with Fannie Mae, it agreed to sell the servicing and collection rights for 2 million loans, totaling $306 billion. Some economists and analysts are concerned that as the major banks shift away from mortgage lending, the industry is being consolidated into the hands of a few banks. However, though the housing market is recovering slowly, banks, such as Bank of America, might not be in a position to compete, given the losses they’ve already incurred and the problems they’ve had in servicing loans.

From the web site, Buzz Sourse:

Housing advocates, while acknowledging that the foreclosure reviews were flawed, said they don’t understand how turning the process over to mortgage companies improves a system already insufficiently independent.

“The regulators have decided to replace the fox in the henhouse with the wolf,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based housing nonprofit. “It is just incomprehensible to me that they could not find a third party that has the wherewithal and independence to fairly determine what the damage is to homeowners.”

Regulators said the review process, which sought to determine if specific loans were unfairly foreclosed upon, was too costly and time-consuming. Under the new deal, 10 mortgage companies, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, will pay $8.5 billion. Of that, $3.3 billion is earmarked for direct payments to “eligible borrowers” whose foreclosures were handled improperly. The remaining $5.2 billion will help struggling borrowers with programs such as loan modifications.

And finally, from the web site, 4Closure Fraud (reprinted from ProPublica):

The Independent Foreclosure Review was supposed to be a full and fair investigation of the big banks’ foreclosure abuses, and it was trumpeted as the government’s largest effort to compensate victimized homeowners. Federal regulators, who designed the review, forced banks to spend billions to carry it out. Millions of homeowners were eligible and hundreds of thousands submitted claims. But Monday morning, the very regulators who launched the program 18 months ago announced that it had all been a massive mistake and shut it down.

Instead, 10 banks have agreed to pay a total of $3.3 billion in cash to the 3.8 million borrowers who had been eligible for the review. That’s an average of around $870 per borrower. But typical of a process that’s been characterized by confusion, delays and secrecy, regulators said the details of how the money will be doled out were not yet available.

The headline number for the settlement is $8.5 billion, but that includes $5.2 billion in “credits” the banks will receive for actions they take to avoid foreclosures, such as providing loan modifications. That’s very similar to the separate $25 billion settlement reached last year between five banks, 49 states and the federal government. That settlement has been criticized for awarding credit to banks for things they were already doing.

 

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Banks Need to be Protected from Themselves


 

Waiting for a bank loan.

Banks Will Always Suck At Trading, Badly Need A Volcker-Like Rule: Study

A new study by economists Arnoud Boot at the University of Amsterdam and Lev Ratnovski at the International Monetary Fund finds that recent blow-ups in the banking sector — JPMorgan Chase’s $6.8 billion “London Whale” losses and that whole financial-crisis thingy, to name two — are not isolated events, but “a sign of deeper structural problems in the financial system.”

The only prescription? Less trading by big dumb banks.

“Without policy action, crises associated with trading by banks are bound to recur,” Boot and Ratnovski write in a blog post about the paper. “Even strong supervision will not be able to prevent them. Consequently, it appears necessary to restrict trading by banks.”

Banks Will Always Suck At Trading, Badly Need A Volcker-Like Rule: Study

If you read the fuller article, and I recommend you do, you will find that banks have incentives to do what is essentially speculative trading. Right now with interest rates low, there is a terrible temptation to take their money and gamble with it since there is little profit in traditional investments. And, of course, why do legitimate investments in business, industry and homes, when you can make so much more money speculating?

The banks have to be regulated to perform their traditional functions of lending to build a strong economy. We protect banks from collapse and insure their deposits with taxpayer money because when they loan money that develops the economy and creates opportunities. What we are getting now is a lot less useful investing and a lot more gambling at the public’s expense.

James Pilant

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