Former And Current JPMorgan Chase Officials To Face Senators Over 'London Whale' Trading Scandal

  on
JPMorgan Chase
JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) officials are being hauled in front of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Friday morning to be dressed down by senators after the Senate issued a highly critical report on the bank’s cavalier attitude toward risky hedge strategies that were partly funded with federally insured deposits and led to $6.2 billion in losses.

Starting at 9:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C., the following people will sit before the committee: the bank’s former Chief Investment Officer (CIO) Ina Drew, the key player in the scandal who had to step down in May after the losses were made public; Ashley Bacon, the bank’s current chief risk officer; former head of market risk for the bank, Peter Weiland; Michael Cavanagh, co-CEO; and Douglas Braunstein, the bank’s current vice chairman. Notably absent: Chairman, President and CEO Jamie Dimon, who has been largely unscathed by the scandal.

Ranking members of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the government’s bank regulator, will also attend the hearings to explain to the senators why they failed to see the red flags as the risky derivatives hedge trades began to go awry. The scandal erupted in May 2012 and thrust trader Bruno Michel Iksil, who was nicknamed the London Whale for his outsize trading strategies. He was stripped of his responsibilities, but the blame ended up largely in the lap of his boss, CIO Drew, who was forced to step down.

In its report issued Thursday, the subcommittee called for an immediate implementation of the so-called Volcker Rule, the section of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which would bar banks from risky speculative investments with federally insured money.

Among other conclusions, the subcommittee said banks should be compelled to publicly disclose all internal investments involving derivatives trading when these portfolios reach a certain size; should be required to detail their hedging procedures and to provide results of periodic risk assessment tests; should be more transparent in how their internal risk evaluations work.  

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are the ranking members of the subcommittee.

Among the report’s findings:

- JPMorgan Chase & Co failed to disclose the assets being hedged or to engage in routine risk analysis and disclosure of its Synthetic Credit Portfolio (SCP).

- Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew used bank deposits, some that were federally insured, to establish its high-risk $157 billion SCP. The banks did not inform regulators of the risky behavior until after the story went public.

- The bank disregarded its risky SCP positions in the first quarter of 2012. Instead of divesting as the warning signs began to appear, the banked allowed Drew to raise the bank’s tolerance for risk and adjust its risk evaluation processes to hide the level of risky behavior.

- Through its chief investment officer the bank hid over $600 million in losses in the SCP for months as Drew overstated the value of the bank’s credit derivatives.

- The bank then failed to inform investors by downplaying what it knew at the time was a much larger mess.

- The bank failed to inform the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the government’s bank regulator, when the size of its SCP ballooned in 2011 and early 2012. Likewise, the Senate Report found, the OCC failed to investigate the chief investment officer’s trading activity and ignored omissions of SCP performance that would have exposed the high level of risk the bank was downplaying.

Join the Discussion