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JPMorgan Chase loss will be scrutinized, SEC's Mary Schapiro says

May 11, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera

WASHINGTON -- Regulators are looking into the $2-billion trading loss by JPMorgan Chase & Co., the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday as lawmakers and analysts said the bank's revelation would increase pressure for tighter financial rules.

“I think it's safe to say that all the regulators are focused on this,” SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro told reporters after a speech at a Washington conference, according to news reports. She would not comment further.

The Federal Reserve and Britain's banking regulator learned of the trading loss last month and have been in discussions with JPMorgan Chase about it, the New York Times reported Friday.

The huge loss from a trading portfolio intended to help the bank manage credit risk comes as JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon has helped lead the charge against tougher financial rules being drafted by regulators.

The news could lead regulators to resist efforts to soften the so-called Volcker Rule, a key provision in the 2010 Wall Street reform law. The rule, still being finalized, would limit trading by banks for their own accounts.

"This regrettable news from JPMorgan Chase obviously goes counter to the bank’s narrative blaming excessive regulation for the woes of financial institutions," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the lead authors of the law.

"The argument that financial institutions do not need the new rules to help them avoid the irresponsible actions that led to the crisis of 2008 is at least $2 billion harder to make today," he continued.

Frank noted a recent estimate by JPMorgan Chase that complying with new regulations would cost the bank $400 million to $600 million.

"In other words, JPMorgan Chase, entirely without any help from the government has lost, in this one set of transactions, five times the amount they claim financial regulation is costing them," Frank said.

An Obama administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, said JPMorgan's trading loss underscored the need to keep pushing to implement the new regulations in the financial reform law.

Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a nonpartisan group advocating financial reform, said a strong Volcker Rule is needed to limit risky bets by large banks.

"Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase just proved what anyone not getting a paycheck from a Wall Street bank already knows: gigantic too-big-to-fail banks are too big to manage," Kelleher said. "They must not be allowed to continue to threaten our financial system and our economy."

Many lawmakers have been pushing for legislation to break up huge financial institutions, and the $2-billion hit taken by JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank by assets, is likely to add fuel to that push.

On Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), introduced a bill to limit the size of U.S. banks. And last week, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), introduced the Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act, which would force the breakup of banks whose failure could threaten the economy.

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