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Monday, 21 October 2013 07:31

JP Morgan to Pay $13 Billion in Fines, NYT Says, but Still No Criminal Charges Against Top Wall Street Execs

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dimon10 21"So I said, Mr. Attorney General, We Own Washington, Not the Other Way Around." (Fictitious Words Placed in the Mouth of Jamie Dimon by BuzzFlash)The amount sounds gargantuan to a member of the 99%.  JP Morgan Chase, after personal negotiations between US Attorney General Eric Holder and JP Morgan Chief Honcho Jamie Dimon, has -- the New York Times (NYT) reports -- agreed to pay $13 billion dollars in fines to settle a number of US government charges of financial fraud, particularly in the mortgage area.  That is the arena of shady lending, as you may recall, that nearly crashed the US economy in 2008.

Of course, whatever the large "settlement," Dimon is still walking around strutting like a rooster -- an impeccably coiffed one -- with all indications that he has been assured that he and his top execs will not face any prosecution.  Although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has demanded that a criminal investigation of JP Morgan in California continue in Sacramento, even if the bank were charged and found guilty, the NYT speculates, "If criminal charges arise, it could mean additional fines and a deal that requires an independent monitor to keep an eye on the bank."

In short, all JP Morgan would face if charges in Sacramento arise is another big bank basically getting a slap on the wrist as far as criminal accountability.

The NYT notes that JP Morgan, as is with the case for most big banks, balks at admitting criminal liability, even if they get a sentence that is akin to self-monitored probation:

Even now, a significant obstacle stands in the way of a deal: whether JPMorgan will admit to all of the improper actions cited by the Justice Department. Banks are typically loath to acknowledge wrongdoing, fearing it could expose them to shareholder lawsuits. 

In short, the paychecks and bonuses for the likes of Jamie Dimon and other Wall Street execs are not generally impacted by financial settlements with the government.  The shareholders pay the price of fradulent bank practices.

This summer, Bloomberg News reported:

The six biggest U.S. banks, led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Bank of America Corp., have piled up $103 billion in legal costs since the financial crisis, more than all dividends paid to shareholders in the past five years.

That’s the amount allotted to lawyers and litigation, as well as for settling claims about shoddy mortgages and foreclosures, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The sum, equivalent to spending $51 million a day, is enough to erase everything the banks earned for 2012.

The mounting bills have vexed bankers who are counting on expense cuts to make up for slow revenue growth and make room for higher payouts. About 40 percent of the legal and litigation outlays arose since January 2012, and banks are warning the tally may surge as regulators, prosecutors and investors press new claims. The prospect is clouding outlooks for stock prices, and by some estimates the damage could last another decade.

Thus far, there has not been a shareholders' revolt against the malfeasance committed under the leadership of the likes of Jamie Dimon. 

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Neither has there been any serious DOJ attempt -- as BuzzFlash has repeatedly written commentaries about over the past few years -- to hold the Wall Street execs criminally accountable for acts of fraud with a devastating financial impact that almost crashed the US economy.

Our prisons are filled with burglars, check kiters, income tax evaders and others who are pikers compared to the masters of the universe who run Wall Street.

Yet, the Wall Street 1% strut about and live opulently to this day.

After all, they don't personally pay the fines from their humongous salaries (or bonuses) -- and their friends in DC aren't going to put them in jail.

It's business as usual: corrupt and free from prosecution or individual financial liability.

(Photo: jurveston)