Yesterday, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay a record $13 billion settlement as an apology for misleading investors about mortgage securities in the run up to the 2008 financial collapse. Can all of this be traced to a single ill-fated meeting in 2006?
No! This can all be traced to capitalism's inherent flaws combined with a lax regulatory environment. (Here, by the way, is a brief overview of the case that this settlement was a great deal for JPMorgan.) But as the tick-tock stories about how the settlement was made come out today, one of the more interesting factoids can be found in the Wall Street Journal's piece—an account of a meeting seven years ago, during the height of the boom, in which JPM deliberately decided to go ahead with selling mortgage securities that they knew full well were pieces of shit.
Among the key pieces of evidence fueling the Justice Department probe were accounts of a 2006 meeting between J.P. Morgan executives and the company that had originated the suspect mortgages, where the two sides came up with ways to re-categorize suspect loans so that they would satisfy the bank's due-diligence standards, at least on paper, according to people familiar with the government's probe. The employee who had previously warned her bosses about the quality of the loans told investigators she approached a bank executive after the meeting, saying she still had concerns. She was told, in essence, not to worry, because the bad loans would be spread out over a number of bond offerings, these people said.
The next offering still had a high portion of such loans, according to people familiar with the investigation. Investigators say J.P. Morgan agreed to keep issuing bonds using the suspect loans—what one person involved in the probe called "blowing past'' the bank's own internal warnings.
The bank still faces criminal charges regarding its pre-crisis behavior. None of this evidence of humongous malfeasance will be interpreted as meaning that Jamie Dimon is not the best guy in the whole wide world.