Friday, July 8, 2011

JP Morgan fined $228M for bid-rigging

Let's get this straight. A 28-year-old construction worker walks into a JPMorgan Chase branch in Washington State and tries to cash a cashier's check issued by JPMorgan Chase. He spends five days in jail because the teller doesn't like his looks. He loses his car and his job. He did nothing wrong.

JPMorgan does something wrong. The bank rips off millions of dollars from American taxpayers by rigging bids for investment securities. Investors Hub reports today,
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) agreed to pay $228 million to settle federal charges that the bank conspired to rig the bidding on investment contracts sold to state and local governments to boost its profits at taxpayer expense.
This is not the first time JPMorgan Chase did something wrong.
In November 2009, the bank agreed to a $722 million accord with the SEC to end an investigation over its sales of derivatives to Jefferson County, Alabama, where its bankers made undisclosed payments to friends of county commissioners to win business.
That was not a victimless crime. Poor people in Jefferson County, Ala., suffered after JPMorgan fleeced them. Here's Bloomberg:
As nighttime temperatures plunged in Birmingham, Alabama, last October, Dora Bonner had a choice: either pay the gas bill so she could heat the home she shares with four grandchildren, or send the Birmingham Water Works a $250 check for her water and sewer bill.
Bonner, who is 73 and lives on Social Security, decided to keep the house from freezing.

``I couldn't afford the water, so they shut it off,'' she says. Bonner's sewer bills have risen more than fourfold in the past decade. So have those of others in Jefferson County, which has 659,000 residents and includes Birmingham, the state's largest city.

What's threatening to increase them even more isn't the high cost of treating waste; it's the way county officials chose to finance the $3.2 billion in debt they took on to build a new sewer system. The county relied on advice from a bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., to arrange its funding, rather than use competitive bidding.
Not only did no one at JPMorgan Chase spend a single day in jail, but the bank's CEO took home $21 million last year.

Will it ever stop?