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Next up for JPMorgan: $2-billion settlement in Bernard Madoff case

December 12, 2013|By Andrew Tangel
  • The headquarters of JPMorgan Chase on Park Avenue in New York. JPMorgan and federal authorities are close to a $2-billion settlement over the bank's ties to financier Bernard Madoff.
The headquarters of JPMorgan Chase on Park Avenue in New York. JPMorgan… (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images )

NEW YORK -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. can't stop writing checks to the federal government.

The nation's largest bank may, according to a person familiar with the matter, soon pay about $2 billion to settle investigations into its dealings with Bernard Madoff, the notorious fraudster whose epic Ponzi scheme collapsed five years ago.

This next payout would come as the ink was still drying on a landmark $13-billion settlement the New York company struck with state and federal authorities in late November. That settlement -- the largest ever paid by a single company to the government -- involved shoddy mortgage investments sold by JPMorgan as well as two troubled banks it gobbled up during the housing meltdown in 2008.

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JPMorgan's looming Madoff settlement centers on breakdowns in its compliance systems, and how the bank failed to alert U.S. authorities about suspicious activity in Madoff's accounts at the bank. Financial institutions are required by law to have sufficient checks in place to detect questionable transactions and report them to the government.

The office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and the office of the comptroller of the currency have been investigating JPMorgan's dealings with the bank. JPMorgan has said in regulatory filings it is cooperating with the probes.

A deal with Bharara's office would come in the form of a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, an unusual criminal penalty but one that stop shorts of requiring JPMorgan to plead guilty, according to the person familiar with the negotiations, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The deal could be finalized by year's end, the person said. Under such an arrangement, the bank would likely stipulate to alleged facts in the case, and would be forced to prove it has improved its compliance systems over a number of years.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's chairman and chief executive, told an investment conference in New York on Wednesday that the bank faced two bad choices in deciding whether to fight government actions or settle. The best for shareholders, he said, is to "pay the price and try to move on."

"We've got a lot of the litigation in mortgage behind us," Dimon said at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference.

"We have more to go," he said. "You read about Madoff in the paper the other day. We have to get some of these things behind us so we can do our job. Our job is to serve clients around the world. That's our job. So I want to get it behind us."

JPMorgan declined to comment, as did Bharara's office and the OCC. News of the deal was earlier reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

The bank's shares rose in early trading despite broader market declines. JPMorgan's stock added 19 cents, or 0.35%, to $56.26.

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