JP Morgan fined $920m for “unsafe” energy market trading

American and UK regulators today slapped the United States’ largest bank JP Morgan with fines totalling $920m (£574m) for “unsafe” trading practices. This includes allegations some of the bank’s traders […]

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By Vicky Ellis

American and UK regulators today slapped the United States’ largest bank JP Morgan with fines totalling $920m (£574m) for “unsafe” trading practices.

This includes allegations some of the bank’s traders manipulated domestic energy markets in California and the Mid-West. Known as the ‘London Whale’ trades, they led to $6.2billion worth of losses for the bank.

Four regulators handed the bank with penalties: the largest sum, $300m, is from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), with the Federal Reserve Board and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) both imposing $200m and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) charging $220m (£137.6m).

By settling early with the FCA, the bank got a discount fine.

The FRB said its penalty was for “deficiencies” in the bank holding company’s “oversight, management and controls governing its Chief Investment Office (CIO)”.

The CIO’s “serious failings” were also criticised by the UK’s FCA which said JPMorgan’s conduct “demonstrated flaws permeating all levels of the firm”.

In a statement the FCA said the losses were caused by a “high risk trading strategy, weak management of that trading and an inadequate response” to important information which “should have notified the firm of the huge risks present”.

Tracey McDermott, the FCA’s director of enforcement and financial crime said: “When the scale of the problems at JPMorgan became apparent, it sent a shock-wave through the markets… We consider JPMorgan’s failings to be extremely serious such as to undermine the trust and confidence in UK financial markets.”

She added: “Firms must learn the lessons from this incident and ensure that they have business practices, values and culture to control the risks in their businesses.”

Responding to the fines today, Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JP Morgan said: “We have accepted responsibility and acknowledged our mistakes from the start and we have learned from them and worked to fix them… we have made numerous changes that have made us a stronger, smarter, better company.”

Two former JP Morgan traders allegedly behind the ‘London Whale’, Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout, have already had fraud charges filed against them by the SEC. Another, Bruno Iksil, is said to be co-operating with authorities in investigating the disastrous trading loss.

Attempting to move past the affair in a letter to shareholders in April this year, Mr Dimon wrote: “The ‘London Whale’ episode not only cost us money — it was extremely embarrassing, opened us up to severe criticism, damaged our reputation and resulted in litigation and investigations that are still ongoing,” reported Wall Street Cheat Sheet.