JPMorgan in talks to admit wrongdoing over 'London Whale' losses

JPMorgan Chase headquarters in New York City, May 14, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Sources say JPMorgan Chase is preparing to admit wrongdoing in civil settlement
  • Case concerns its "London whale" losses racked up by UK-based traders
  • However, bank is resisting any attempt to tie wrongdoing to senior executives

JPMorgan Chase is preparing to admit wrongdoing in a civil settlement with authorities in the US and UK over its "London whale" trading losses in a departure from controversial practice of banks "neither admitting nor denying" culpability.

People familiar with discussions between the bank and regulators including the Securities and Exchange Commission said JPMorgan had conceded it would have to pay some amount of money and acknowledge failures around disclosure and controls over the $6bn losses racked up by UK-based traders.

But as in the recent settlement between JPMorgan and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over alleged manipulation of power markets, the bank is resisting any attempt to tie wrongdoing to senior executives.

Settlement talks around the London Whale trade are ongoing and it could be weeks before a pact is reached, one of these people said. JPMorgan is pushing back against paying a penalty arguing to regulators that the bank's shareholders suffered from the $6bn loss and should not have to suffer twice by paying a fine, this person said. JPMorgan is also negotiating a pact with the UK's Financial Conduct Authority.

The admission would be the first under a new programme initiated by SEC chair Mary Jo White, a former lawyer who represented JPMorgan and ex-prosecutor who took over the helm of the agency earlier this year. Ms White has vowed to be a strong enforcer of securities laws and in June the SEC said it would seek admission of wrongdoing in cases of "egregious misconduct" or when it would be "in the public interest". Ms White and Andrew Ceresney, cohead of the SEC's enforcement division, are both recused from the case

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Jamie Dimon, chief executive, has repeatedly acknowledged mistakes publicly. "I don't know what more I can say," he said in June. "Bad strategy, badly vetted, badly monitored, badly controlled. Embarrassing. Terrible. Sorry."

It was Mr Dimon himself who dismissed reports of huge credit derivatives positions at the bank as a "tempest in a teapot" before announcing a month earlier that such positions were racking up large losses. But he also vowed to fight "to the end" private lawsuits that suggested misconduct among his operating team. "There was no hiding, there was no lying, there was no bullshitting. Period." he said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and US attorney's office in Manhattan are also investigating whether criminal laws were broken by traders allegedly attempting to hide losses.

Spokesman for JPMorgan and the SEC declined to comment.