Madoff scheme to cost $2.5B
NEW YORK — JPMorgan Chase & Co., beset by costly legal woes, will pay more than $2.5 billion for ignoring obvious warning signs of Bernard Madoff's extensive Ponzi scheme, authorities said on Tuesday.
The nation's largest bank will forfeit a record $1.7 billion to settle criminal charges, plus pay $543 million to settle civil claims by victims. It will pay a $350 million civil penalty for what the Treasury Department called “critical and widespread deficiencies” in its programs to prevent money laundering and other suspicious activity.
The bank failed to carry out its legal obligations while Madoff “built his massive house of cards,” George Venizelos, head of the FBI's New York office, said at a news conference.
“It took until after the arrest of Madoff, one of the worst crooks this office has ever seen, for JPMorgan to alert authorities to what the world already knew,” he said.
Madoff banked at JPMorgan through what court papers referred to as the “703 account.” In 2008, the bank's London desk circulated a memo describing JPMorgan's inability to validate his trading activity or custody of assets and his “odd choice” of a one-man accounting firm, the government said.
In late October 2008, it filed a suspicious activity report with British officials. In the weeks that followed, JPMorgan withdrew $300 million of its own money from Madoff feeder funds. The fraud was revealed when Madoff was arrested in December 2008.
“Despite all these alarm bells, JPMorgan never closed or even seriously questioned Madoff's Ponzi-enabling 703 account,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “On the other hand, when it came to its own money, JPMorgan knew how to connect the dots and take action to protect itself against risk.”
Prosecutors called the $1.7 billion the largest forfeiture by an American bank and the largest Department of Justice penalty for a Bank Secrecy Act violation.
The settlement includes a so-called deferred prosecution agreement that requires the bank to acknowledge failures in its protections against money laundering but allows it to avoid criminal charges. No individual executives were accused of wrongdoing.
The agreement resolves two felony violations of the Bank Secrecy Act in connection with the bank's relationship with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, the private investment arm of Madoff's former business.
The Treasury Department's civil penalty was assessed because the bank failed to pass along to U.S. authorities suspicions about Madoff it had reported to Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, and because the bank failed to detect and report other cases of suspicious activity, including more than $2 billion in transactions involving the Puerto Rican affiliate of an unidentified Venezuelan bank, authorities said.
Under the agreement, criminal charges will be deferred for two years as JPMorgan admits to its conduct, pays the $1.7 billion a fund established for victims of Madoff's fraud and reforms its anti-money laundering policies, prosecutors said.
A statement of facts included in the agreement describes internal communications at JPMorgan expressing concerns about how Madoff was generating his purported returns. As early as 1998, a JPMorgan fund manager wrote that the returns were “possibly too good to be true” and there were “too many red flags.”
In more recent years, executives were disturbed by the fact that Madoff wouldn't let the bank examine his books, according to the statement of facts.
“How much do we have in Madoff at the moment?” a bank analyst wrote in a 2008 email. “To be honest, the more I think about it, the more concerned I am.”
In a statement, JPMorgan said it recognized it “could have done a better job pulling together various pieces of information and concerns about Madoff” but didn't believe any of its employees knowingly assisted the scam.
JPMorgan's shares fell 68 cents to $58.32 in trading on Tuesday.
Madoff, 75, pleaded guilty and is serving a 150-year prison term.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alcoa among 13 firms in $140B carbon-footprint pledge
- Federal safety regulators go into bulldog mode on how automakers handle recalls
- Ambridge’s PittMoss takes off with help from TV show, Mt. Lebanon native Cuban
- U.S. Steel to debut oil, gas pipeline connector
- Israel’s Teva drops bid for Mylan, buys Allergan for $40.5B
- Pitt to start Energy Law and Policy Institute
- Wabtec moves to buy France-based transport company
- Stocks in slump as Chinese shares plunge
- Plummeting natural gas prices slash revenue of Marcellus shale producers
- Muni bond funds stressed
- Invasive beetle costs Pittsburgh-area power companies plenty