Fortune Global Forum 2013 by Fortune Live Media
JP Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon
The top headline in yesterday's New York Times read, "Tentative Deal Hands JP Morgan Record Penalty, $13 Billion Settlement, Inquiry Involves Sale of Mortgage Backed Securities Before Recession".
At first glance one might think "wow", that's a huge number, but let's put that in perspective. JP Morgan Chase assets [i] total well over $1 trillion so a $13 billion fine is less than 1% of its assets which certainly doesn't put much of a dent in the holdings of the country's biggest bank.
At present, according to the Times article sources, the bank is squabbling over what else, its role (along with the other big banks, insurance underwriter AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac et al) in not having to admit any wrongdoing in perpetrating the 2008 financial meltdown.
Then there's the matter this is a civil suit brought by the Justice Department so a fine is ultimately all the bank will face.
And lastly this "deal" between JP Morgan and the Justice Department is still tentative. Nothing has been finalized and signed with that "little matter" of the bank admitting any wrongdoing (something they're loathe to admit, possibly opening themselves up to other lawsuits by shareholders) still to be negotiated.
But wait, federal prosecutors in California have launched a parallel criminal investigation of its own into the banks malfeasance, which Attorney General Eric Holder said he couldn't shut down. So jail time may be in the offing for some of JP Morgan's "masters of the universe", (though that almost certainly won't include Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan who is the man Holder is negotiating with).
Now jail time for those who committed absolute fraud isn't really blood lust. It would finally be justice served against those who committed the worst kind of deceit and excess while enriching their selves in the process. Because what else will get their attention; a fine? Please!
In the end it doesn't matter how big a fine is levied on the bank. The "banksters" themselves are let off the hook and get away scot free.
Let's not forget, these banksters sold these sub-prime mortgage backed securities knowing they were worthless to unsuspecting state government pension funds, domestic state governments as well as foreign national governments and were never held accountable for the fraud they were committing.
Call it what you will but it's high level criminality at its worst. They said, "Trust us". Meanwhile the buyers got screwed, harsh federal, state and foreign country austerity measures resulted and the people had to survive and endure the worst recession since the great depression.
But getting back to the "tentative" $13 billion fine of JP Morgan; it's still no more than a slap on the wrist. Only the California criminal investigation of the bank holds any promise for potentially holding these miscreants criminally responsible so maybe the culture could begin to change and the greed that propels them to so easily commit fraud could be contained.
Meanwhile other critical measures need to be enacted. First overturn "Graham, Leach, Bliley" the act Bill Clinton signed in 1999 that totally unhinged the deregulated financial sector and bubble madness that ensued and culminated in the 2008 financial crisis then reinstate "Glass Stiegel", the 1933 act that separated the investment banks from the commercial banks at the height of the 30's depression which effectively contained the banks for over 60 years from their worst depredations and reverse the deregulation mania begun in the Reagan years which finally culminated in the 2008 financial collapse and the great recession.
[i] When it comes to JP Morgan's assets it's hard to pin down an exact figure with so much of its holdings diversified but something called "assets under management", according to its own website revealed a figure well over $1.47 trillion.