Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

Thursday, July 7, 2011

JPMorgan Chase Settles with States and Feds over Anti-Competitive Bidding Practices in Municipal Bonds Derivatives Market

Both the New York AG and the SEC announced settlements with JPMorgan Chase resulting from investigations that uncovered fraudulent and anticompetitive conduct in the bank’s municipal bond derivative transactions with governments and nonprofits across the country from 1997 to 2005. To settle the SEC’s fraud charges, JPMS agreed to pay approximately $51.2 million that will be returned to the affected municipalities or conduit borrowers. JPMS and its affiliates also agreed to pay $177 million to settle parallel charges brought by other federal and state authorities.

The SEC alleged that from 1997 through 2005, JPMS’s fraudulent practices, misrepresentations and omissions undermined the competitive bidding process, affected the prices that municipalities paid for reinvestment products, and deprived certain municipalities of a conclusive presumption that the reinvestment instruments had been purchased at fair market value. JPMS’s fraudulent conduct also jeopardized the tax-exempt status of billions of dollars in municipal securities because the supposed competitive bidding process that establishes the fair market value of the investment was corrupted. The employees involved in the alleged misconduct are no longer with the company.

The settlement with the states follows a parrallel investigation led by the Attorneys General of New York, Connecticut, Texas and Illinois.  The multistate settlement is the single largest component of coordinated settlements between JPMC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), as well as the states. 

JPMC is the third of several financial institutions involved in the ongoing municipal bond derivatives investigation to resolve the claims against it. Bank of America entered into a settlement in December 2010, and UBS entered into a settlement in May 2011.  To date, the state working group has obtained settlements totaling close to $250 million.

Pursuant to the state agreement, JPMC will pay a total of $92 million. Governmental and nonprofit entities nationwide that entered into municipal derivative agreements with JPMC between 2001 and 2005 will be entitled to more than $65.5 million in restitution from the state settlement. The agreement also provides that JPMC will pay the states $3.5 million in penalties and $6 million in fees and costs of the investigation. JPMC will pay another $17 million directly to other governments and nonprofits as part of its resolutions with the SEC and OCC.

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