Wall Street Erases the Line Between Its Jocks and Nerds – WSJ

Wall Street Erases the Line Between Its Jocks and Nerds
— Read on www.wsj.com/articles/wall-street-erases-the-line-between-its-jocks-and-nerds-1534564810

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New From Credit Suisse: Bonds for Self-Inflicted Catastrophes

Sagacious LLC will help customize a similar program to save op risk regulatory capital at your institution. 

By ANUPREETA DAS and LESLIE SCISM
May 16, 2016 1:21 p.m. ET WSJ

Credit Suisse Group AG is going to give it a try in the bond market. The bank plans as early as this week to launch unusual new securities that would pay investors relatively high interest rates. The catch is Credit Suisse could take their principal if incidents like rogue trading, information-technology breakdowns or even accounting errors lead to massive losses for the bank, people familiar with the offering said.

The deal is a first-of-its-kind twist on the “catastrophe bonds” that insurers have used for years to lay off the risk of natural disasters like hurricanes. Credit Suisse’s offering covers self-inflicted disasters as well as external events and has been marketed to hedge funds and other big investors.

The insurance feature of the bonds would be triggered if Credit Suisse’s annual operational risk-related losses cross $3.5 billion. Buyers have a level of comfort, however, because it’s a “second-event” bond. The most any single event could contribute to the trigger is $3 billion, meaning it would take more than one event to cross the threshold. The odds of that are remote: Credit Suisse has put them at roughly 1 in 500, the people said.

A Credit Suisse spokeswoman declined to comment.
The appetite for such offerings in the capital markets, as persistently low interest rates send investors searching for higher yields, is encouraging Wall Street companies to test new uses for the structure.

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Heard on the Street: Credit Suisse Takes Out Insurance on Itself
Insurance-industry executives said that they haven’t previously seen a bank attempting to tap capital markets to cover this type of risk. The move has its roots in regulation. Under European bank rules, banks must calculate operational risk and may use insurance products as part of meeting their capital requirements, according to industry participants.

In general, operational risk is the possibility of losses resulting from insufficient internal controls, errant systems or rogue employees. The Credit Suisse offering doesn’t cover market losses from trading that is authorized by the bank, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

Paul Schultz, chief executive of the Aon Securities unit of global insurance brokerage Aon PLC, said an offering like Credit Suisse’s reflects “growing investor sophistication on the underwriting side and a general view that to continue to grow the asset class, investors are going to have to expand from simply writing property risk.”

Zurich-based Credit Suisse, via a Bermuda company called Operational Re, plans to issue a five-year bond of up to 630 million Swiss francs ($646 million) to qualified institutional buyers such as hedge funds, asset managers and firms that pool together capital from pension funds. The bonds are part of a planned package that includes an insurance policy of up to 700 million francs issued by Zurich Insurance Group. Most of the cost of any claim would be paid for by the bonds. The size of the bond offering and the policy limits ultimately will be determined by investor interest, the people said. A spokeswoman for Zurich said the company’s policy is not to comment on current or potential commercial relationships.

The coupon is expected to be in the “mid-single digits,” one of the people said—higher than what Credit Suisse was initially planning, in order to entice investors to buy the novel security.

Credit Suisse last week reported a first-quarter net loss of 302 million francs, compared with a profit of 1.05 billion francs in the same period last year. The bank’s new chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, has been retooling the bank away from its investment-banking business toward its more stable wealth-management unit.

European banks have long used insurance products to meet capital requirements set by regulators or to unload risk from their balance sheets. Before the financial crisis, giant insurer American International Group Inc. sold financial derivatives known as credit-default swaps to major European banks as insurance against losses in their holdings of subprime mortgage assets. AIG’s near collapse in 2008 in the wake of the housing-bubble burst was tied to the massive volume of credit-default swaps it had sold.

As for Credit Suisse’s new bond, the bank can’t call on the money to cover regulatory liabilities or government fines, the people said. Losses from rogue trading, which have hobbled large banks such as Société Générale and UBS Group AG in recent years, could be covered by the insurance provided by the bond, but any fines stemming from it wouldn’t be, they said.

Write to Anupreeta Das at anupreeta.das@wsj.com and Leslie Scism at leslie.scism@wsj.com

Sagacious LLC can customize a disaster bond for your institution.

After Crisis, Risk Officers Gain More Clout at Banks U.S. Banking Industry Bends to Pressure to Make Operations Safer and Simpler

 

ByJAMES STERNGOLD WSJ

June 25, 2014 10:38 p.m. ET

At Wells Fargo WFC +0.21%& Co., some executives pushed last year to relaunch a program letting homeowners get a line of credit secured by the equity in their house—and pay only the interest due on the loan. Such credit lines have been scarce since the financial crisis, but the executives saw them as a way to boost revenue as housing prices climb.

The bank’s chief risk officer, Michael Loughlin, said no. He proposed requiring regular payments that shrink the borrower’s debt over time and didn’t budge when told Wells Fargo might lose business to other lenders. The other bankers agreed to go along with his decision.

“Five years ago, if the risk group recommended against a strategy or product, it might just be one part of a debate,” he says. Now, “when we say no, it’s usually no.”

Mr. Loughlin is an example of the naysayers who are gaining power and multiplying in number across the U.S. banking industry as financial institutions bend to pressure from regulators to make their operations safer and simpler following the financial crisis that began in 2008.

The ultimate goal is to reduce the likelihood of another round of catastrophic losses that could shake the financial system. In a report released Wednesday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency warned that “credit risk is now building after a period of improving credit quality and problem loan cleanup.”

Wells Fargo now has 2,300 employees in its core risk-management department, up from 1,700 two years ago, and the department’s annual budget has doubled to $500 million in the same period. The company’s overall workforce has remained flat.

In February, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +0.09% put its chief risk officer on the company’s management committee for the first time in Goldman’s 145-year history. The 34-person group oversees the entire firm and is traditionally dominated by executives who made their name as traders or investment bankers.

Regulators say they don’t track the total number of risk-management or risk-control employees at the nation’s roughly 6,700 banks, though officials believe that big and small institutions everywhere are turning jobs long seen as ho-hum into front-line commanders.

Senior risk officers earn as much as 40% more than they did a few years ago, says the OCC, a federal agency that regulates units of Bank of America Corp. BAC -0.13%, Citigroup Inc., C +0.02%J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and about 1,700 smaller institutions.

The number of people who passed a risk-management exam often required for jobs in the field nearly tripled in the four years that ended last year compared with 2004 to 2007, according to the Global Association of Risk Professionals.

“These are the basic regulations and the norms now,” says Thomas Curry, head of the OCC.

The changes are hugely expensive amid sluggish loan growth and a steep decline in trading revenue. But banks have no choice. The OCC and Federal Reserve are using leverage they got through the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law and other postcrisis changes to restrain risk-taking.

Under rules issued in February, the biggest U.S. bank-holding companies are required to have a chief risk officer and a risk committee on the company’s board of directors. The chief risk officer must get direct access to the board committee and chief executive to make sure the risk officer’s opinions aren’t watered down or whitewashed. The companies have until 2016 to comply, but most have already made the changes.

In addition, large banks are being prodded to produce detailed statements specifying how much risk—and what kinds—the banks are willing to take to meet financial goals. Risk officers are being urged to investigate large losses and question bankers who make unusually big profits. Either one could be a sign of risk-taking run amok, regulators say.

“We look for patterns of behavior that reinforce a strong or weak risk-management culture both within and across lines of business,” says Martin Pfinsgraff, who is in charge of large-bank examinations at the OCC.

To keep a closer eye on banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says it has about 45 examiners, about twice the precrisis level, who just assess risk management at each bank-holding company overseen by the regulator. Those companies include Goldman and Morgan Stanley. MS +0.62%

Regional bank KeyCorp, KEY +0.92%based in Cleveland, has rewritten its compensation guidelines so that loan officers can lose a chunk of their bonus if they fall short of new risk-management standards. Before the financial crisis, bonuses were determined largely by profit goals.

“Before, you threw something over the wall, and the risk managers said yes or no,” says William Hartmann, KeyCorp’s chief risk officer. “Now we’re more involved in the development of the strategy or the plan.”

Partly as a result, KeyCorp has sharply reduced its loan commitments for construction and real-estate development. Bankers there also work harder to judge the overall riskiness of a borrower, instead of one project at a time.

It is too soon to tell if any of the changes will make a difference in the long run. Regulators say banks still have a long way to go before complying fully with the toughened standards, known as “heightened expectations.”

Last year, none of the 21 largest banks subject to the requirements were deemed “strong” overall by the OCC in all categories. The number climbed to two earlier this year.

Another big challenge is the slippery nature of risk itself. Before the financial crisis, for example, many lenders believed they had properly weighed the dangers of subprime mortgages—and had set aside a financial cushion of reserves that was big enough to absorb losses on the loans. Those predictions were disastrously wrong.

“Our abilities to measure market risk are akin to where medicine was in the 1700s,” says Damian Handzy, chairman and chief executive of Investor Analytics, a New York firm that operates risk-control systems. “Everyone is honestly trying to get better at this, but we’re still in the laboratory. The old systems do not address systemic risk at all. Traditional banking tools are just not designed for that.”

Jeffrey Wallis, president of SunGard Consulting Services, a unit of SunGard Data Systems Inc. that sells risk-management software and systems to banks, says financial firms are “still developing the right technology, the processes and the right people to do this.”

“At the individual bank level, I think we’re safer,” Mr. Wallis adds. “I don’t know that on the macro level we really have a better handle on things. A lot of the risks that could hurt us are still not fully understood, or we don’t know how to detect them.”

Other bank-industry veterans are more optimistic. Donald Lamson, a partner at law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP who worked for 30 years at the OCC, predicts that the rise of risk managers “will change the world for banks because now they have to speak this language, they have to go through this process.” Under the new rules, “the point is you cannot have a system where an intermediary manager can block a recommendation by the risk manager.”

By some measurements, the banking industry has become less vulnerable. At the end of 2013, five of the largest bank-holding companies by assets had $792.83 billion in combined equity capital, a buffer against possible losses. The total is up 19% from $666.91 million in 2009, according to the OCC.

The same companies’ combined value at risk, an estimate of a securities firm’s exposure to losses in any given trading day, fell 64% to $381 million from $1.05 billion during the same period.

Part of the shift reflects regulatory cudgels like the Volcker rule, part of Dodd-Frank that curbs banks’ ability to bet with their own capital and led to an exodus of swing-for-the-fences traders. The 30 largest institutions also must pass annual “stress tests” by the Federal Reserve to raise dividends and buy back shares. Inside those companies, chief risk officers help lead the grueling, anxious process.

For decades, risk managers spent most of their time worrying about types of trouble seen as relatively easy to measure, such as vulnerability to interest-rate changes, stock-market swings or loan losses. Ambitious young executives often saw the risk-management department as a dead end.

At many banks, the number of employees responsible for steering clear of bad surprises is now climbing by more than 15% a year, recruiters say. “This is a real career path now, something people want to get into, not something they fall into,” says Jeanne Branthover, a financial-industry recruiter at Boyden Global Executive Search in New York.

Near the top of the corporate ladder, chief risk officers can earn roughly as much as a chief financial officer or general counsel. Before the financial crisis, chief risk officers got about one-third less, according to Ms. Branthover.

Federal regulators are tracking the pay figures as a gauge of how serious banks are about improving risk oversight. “Pay is how we can ensure these are people of stature and they’re competent,” says Mr. Curry, the OCC chief.

At Goldman, Chief Risk Officer Craig Broderick’s ascent to the management committee in February signaled the growing importance of the New York securities firm’s risk police since it became a bank-holding company during the crisis.

Officials won’t say how many employees work in risk management or compliance, but managers in that unit are known throughout Goldman as the “Federation,” a nod to the benevolent forces in “Star Trek” responsible for protecting members from intergalactic marauders.

The nickname was around before the crisis but seldom used outside the group. “If anyone ever wondered how important the Federation is to the firm, they don’t have to wonder anymore,” Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s chairman and chief executive, wrote in an email to The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Broderick, a 55-year-old former assistant scoutmaster of his son’s troop, says his duties have grown far beyond quantitative risk management. They also include areas such as assessing and controlling exposure from Goldman’s digital infrastructure, derivatives-clearing operation, litigation and malfeasance by traders and other employees.

“People sometimes talk about building an airplane while it’s flying,” Mr. Broderick says. “To me, it feels like we’re turning a two-engine plane into a four-engine plane in flight.”

Wells Fargo’s Mr. Loughlin, 58, has had his office near John Stumpf, the fourth-largest U.S. bank’s chairman, president and CEO, since before the financial crisis. But Mr. Loughlin has gained even more authority.

After being promoted to chief risk officer in 2010, his duties expanded to include oversight of market-related risks and potential dangers that could hurt the entire company. “I’m afraid I brought the mood of the party down somewhat,” Mr. Loughlin told investors at a meeting in May. “That is my job.”

He also knows how to say yes. In February, Mr. Loughlin agreed to lower the minimum credit score for certain mortgages eligible for backing by the Federal Housing Administration, which helps first-time and low-income families buy homes. Wells Fargo said it would make loans to borrowers with credit scores as low as 600, down from its previous limit of 640. Borrowers with scores below 620 have traditionally been considered subprime.

Mr. Loughlin says the move doesn’t expose Wells Fargo to greater risk because the bank requires ample documentation of an applicant’s income and carefully scrutinizes the ability to make loan payments.

Write to James Sterngold at james.sterngold@wsj.com

 

 

Most Banks Would Fail Real Stress Tests

From Bloomberg, Mar 19, 2014, 11:54:55 AM
This week, the Federal Reserve will present the results of stress tests designed to ensure that the largest U.S. banks won’t turn the next financial crisis into an economic disaster. There’s just one problem: If the tests were realistic, most of the banks would fail.

To read the entire article, go to http://bv.ms/1kIpdZm
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Reforming banking’s risk culture requires breaking “accountability firewall”

Reforming banking’s risk culture requires breaking “accountability firewall”

September 11, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

By Guest Contributor

By Henry Engler, Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Sept. 11 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – If there is one part of the cultural makeup of Wall Street that remains firmly in place despite the financial crisis and subsequent avalanche of regulations, it is the reticence among those who lose money to come clean early.

Many of the most spectacular losses in recent years — whether the JPMorgan “London Whale” episode, the UBS “rogue trader” incident, or Jerome Kerviel’s manipulation of internal systems at Société Générale — have all had one thing in common: concealment of trades gone badly wrong, or at a minimum, a lack of transparency and early acknowledgement of losses. And if one can point to a single reason for such behavior, it is the well-known fact that raising the red flag would mean the individual responsible would be shown the door.

The blowup at JPMorgan was noteworthy not just for the size of the loss ($6.2 billion), coming in a unit that was supposed to hedge risk, but also for senior management’s role in cultivating a culture that discouraged individuals to identify problems.

“Ina (Drew) never wanted to hear bad news,” said a JPMorgan bank executive familiar with the management style of the former Chief Investment Officer where the loss was incurred.

In a lengthy piece by the New York Times [1] last year that examined the failure of controls at JPMorgan, CEO Jamie Dimon said: “Honestly, I don’t care what second-guessers say in life If anyone in the company knew, they should have said something. No one came to us beforehand and said we have a problem we should be looking at.”

Dimon’s comment could well have been made by other chief executives. In a scathing review of banking practices by the UK Parliamentary Committee on Banking Standards [2] earlier this year, the panel highlighted a disturbing lack of awareness and accountability by senior managers:

“Too many bankers, especially at the most senior levels, have operated in an environment with insufficient personal responsibility. Top bankers dodged accountability for failings on their watch by claiming ignorance or hiding behind collective decision-making… Ignorance was offered as the main excuse. It was not always accidental. Those who should have been exercising supervisory or leadership roles benefited from an accountability firewall between themselves and individual misconduct, and demonstrated poor, perhaps deliberately poor, understanding of the front line.”

The “accountability firewall” might well have been facilitated by management practices that hindered the type of information flow necessary in an effective risk culture. In a separate survey [3] by the London School of Economics, the findings of which are due to be updated in coming weeks, researchers pointed to the fear of punitive action as a primary concern. The study quoted one individual who summarized the views of many:

“One of the things that helps greatly with the flow of information through the organization is how it’s reacted to when it gets to the next level. So being able to report risks openly and honestly without getting your head bitten off from the second that’s done is crucial […] For example, if I told you something that might be happening you do not want your directors on your back saying ‘What have you told them? Why?’ So managing the flow of information through an organization to ensure key stakeholders are properly engaged is quite important […] to avoid the wrong reaction happening.”

What has led us to this state of affairs? And how might it be corrected?

Excesses of short-termism

Establishing a robust risk culture is a subject that management consultants have written volumes on. And when one scours the long list of recommendations, embedding risk awareness across the organization and fostering an environment in which people are comfortable challenging others without fear of retribution are critical components.

But this ideal state would appear far from the current reality at many institutions. In understanding what has led us to an environment of fear and lack of accountability, some argue that the finance sector has taken short-termism to the extreme. The enormous pressures that individuals are under to meet their financial targets, and how those goals are wrapped-up in the quest to meet quarterly revenue and profit objectives, create disincentives to identify risk events early.

“The connection that hasn’t been made is how short-termism invites corrupt behaviour — lawful, but corrupt” says Malcolm Salter of the Harvard Business School, who has written extensively on institutional corruption [4] on Wall Street. In order to rectify the problems, many banks have taken a much closer look at compensation policies, but this may not be enough. “Who is modeling the behavior at the banks?” asks Salter. “There is the cultural aspect of the business: how do you change that culture short of the firm having a breakdown.”

In the UK, the Committee on Banking Standards proposed a series of sweeping reforms aimed at establishing much great accountability on senior management. Among these would be the “replacement of the statements of principles and the associated codes of practice, which are incomplete and unclear in their application, with a single set of banking standards rules to be drawn up by the regulators. These rules would apply to both senior persons and licensed bank staff and a breach would constitute grounds for enforcement action by the regulators.”

The rules proposed, and which have been embraced by the UK government, are intended to shift the burden of proof of management failure away from the regulator and onto senior management, who will have to “demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent or offset the effects of a specified failing.” But the new regulatory standards are only UK-specific. International coordination is needed to guard against regulatory arbitrage.

Indeed, what Salter and others see within the industry are ongoing attempts to “game” the system, and legally circumvent many of the regulations that have been piled on since the 2008 crisis. It is this legal gaming, if you will, that remains problematic when envisioning an enhanced risk culture and ethical banking environment. To change that type of behavior requires the type of leadership from the top that we have yet to see, and a regulatory environment that enforces accountability.

(This article was produced by the Compliance Complete service of Thomson Reuters Accelus [5]. Compliance Complete provides a single source [6] for regulatory news, analysis, rules and developments, with global coverage of more than 400 regulators and exchanges. Follow Accelus compliance news on Twitter: @GRC_Accelus [7])

[1] New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/magazine/ina-drew-jamie-dimon-jpmorgan-chase.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[2] UK Parliamentary Committee on Banking Standards: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/banking-commission/Banking-final-report-volume-i.pdf

[3] separate survey: http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/CARR/pdf/Risk-culture-interim-report.pdf

[4] institutional corruption: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2247545&download=yes##

[5] Thomson Reuters Accelus: http://accelus.thomsonreuters.com/

[6] provides a single source: http://accelus.thomsonreuters.com/solutions/regulatory-intelligence/compliance-complete/

[7] @GRC_Accelus: https://twitter.com/GRC_Accelus

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Creating A Compliance Culture Should Include: The CEO and The Board of Directors ?

At JPMorgan, Trying to Do the Right Thing Isn’t Enough

Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

Stephen Cutler, center, formerly the chief of enforcement for the S.E.C., is now on the receiving end of lectures from his successor.

 

By 
Published: September 20, 2013
  • As the Securities and Exchange Commission’s chief of enforcement from 2001 to 2005, the era of landmark fraud settlements with Enron, WorldCom and Tyco, Stephen Cutler earned a reputation as a tough and, at times, feared regulator. He was particularly dismayed by chief executives, chief financial officers, general counsels and compliance officials who, even if not directly implicated in wrongdong, created a culture in which it was ignored, tolerated, or even worse, tactily encouraged.

In a speech in 2004 to the General Counsel Roundtable, he said: “You’ve got to talk the talk; and you’ve got to walk the walk. Both are critical to maintaining a good tone at the top.” And he called for more accountability: “Hold all of your managers accountable for setting the right tone. That means disciplining or even firing them when they have failed to create a culture of compliance. Human nature being what it is, there will be those who break the rules. But if managers don’t do enough to prevent those violations, or let them go unaddressed for too long, then they should be held responsible — even in the absence of direct involvement in those violations.”

How times have changed.

As general counsel of JPMorgan Chase & Company, Mr. Cutler is now on the receiving end of the lectures, which this week came from George S. Canellos, a successor to Mr. Cutler and currently the co-chief of enforcement at the S.E.C. On Thursday, the S.E.C. and other regulators announced that JPMorgan had agreed to admit wrongdoing and pay nearly $1 billion in fines for its conduct in the “London Whale” matter, in which the bank’s chief investment office lost more than $6 billion and bank officials misled regulators about the losses. The S.E.C. faulted JPMorgan’s “egregious breakdowns in controls” and said that “senior management broke a cardinal rule of corporate management” by failing to alert the board to the full extent of the problem.

The S.E.C. didn’t name any of those senior managers, but made reference to the “chief executive,” who is Jamie Dimon. Mr. Cutler oversaw both the legal and compliance departments during those events. (Mr. Cutler no longer oversees compliance.)

And the London Whale affair isn’t JPMorgan’s only regulatory problem. The bank faces multiple other regulatory actions and investigations, ranging from manipulating energy markets, to mortgage-backed securities fraud, to failing to disclose suspicions about the Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff, to conspiring to fix rates in the setting of the global benchmark interest rate informally known as Libor. As the allegations have mushroomed, JPMorgan has gone with almost dizzying speed from one of the world’s most admired banks to one tainted by scandal.

And all of this happened on Mr. Cutler’s watch. “You have to say, he didn’t run a tight enough ship,” said John C. Coffee Jr., a professor of law and expert in corporate governance at Columbia University. “It’s not just the London whale episode. I wouldn’t call that the crime of the century. But taken with everything else, the energy manipulation, the mortgage fraud cases, the Libor rigging, it suggests that there was not enough investment in compliance and the general counsel was not proactive enough. He’s done a very good job at defending the firm but not enough at preventing it in the first place.”

A lawyer whose company was an S.E.C. target during Mr. Cutler’s tenure said this week, “I have to admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude,” adding: “At the time, he did a lot of grandstanding about lawyers being gatekeepers and the moral compass for the organization and how we should have prevented all this. He sounded great on the soapbox. Now I’ve been following JPMorgan and it’s pretty ironic.”

This lawyer was among the many I contacted who didn’t want to be named. Indeed, I quickly realized that I was wasting my time trying to get people to offer unconflicted comments about Mr. Cutler or anyone else at the bank, since a) their firm represents JPMorgan; b) they represent someone for whom JPMorgan is paying the legal bills; or c) they’re trying to get into category a or b. James Cramer joked on CNBC’s “Mad Money” this week that JPMorgan should just buy the Manhattan law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, famed for its high-stakes litigation practice.

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Brad S. Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss, worked with Mr. Cutler when he headed S.E.C. enforcement and has represented JPMorgan in various matters over the years. “JPMorgan is fortunate to have Steve lead its legal function during this period of unprecedented regulatory activity,” he said. “Steve is an extraordinary talent, with absolute integrity, an unwavering ethical compass and seasoned judgment. There is no better general counsel on Wall Street.”

Speaking on background, nearly all the lawyers I interviewed praised Mr. Cutler’s judgment, experience and legal skills. He remains a trusted adviser to Mr. Dimon. And the lawyers stressed that no one person, not even the general counsel or head of compliance, can prevent all wrongdoing in a company the size of JPMorgan. As the country’s largest bank, it is only to be expected that it’s going to have its share of regulatory and compliance issues, the lawyers said.

Still, Mr. Cutler acknowledged that the array of regulatory issues at JPMorgan had been “humbling.” When I visited him this week at his office at the bank’s Park Avenue headquarters, there was a surprising atmosphere of hushed calm given that the bank had announced the settlement and acknowledged wrongdoing that morning. He told me he hadn’t changed the view he articulated as enforcement chief. “You have to get the culture right,” he said. “It’s critical. That was true when I was at the S.E.C., and now I’ve seen it from the inside. I totally believe this. But I’ve discovered that it’s necessary but not sufficient.”

Institutions like JPMorgan, he said, and their senior managers can never lose sight of execution. “Just because you haven’t had any problems doesn’t mean you can stop testing and auditing. You have to trust but verify.” To that end, JPMorgan said this week that it would spend an additional $4 billion and commit as many as 5,000 employees to compliance and risk-management functions, including a new office of oversight and control. “We made mistakes,” Mr. Cutler acknowledged. “But we’ve spent a lot of time on self-reflection. What lessons can we learn? How can we do better? We’re trying to implement that.”

Donald Langevoort, a professor at Georgetown University School of Law who has written about compliance issues, said, “JPMorgan is throwing manpower at the problem, but whether a body count can be effective remains to be seen.” He said he knows Mr. Cutler, “and I have confidence in him, and I’m sure he did whatever he could.”

The problem, from his vantage point, is that Wall Street attracts risk-takers, which is how banks like JPMorgan make money. “JPMorgan is by no means unique,” he said. “None of these big banks really want compliance people causing traders and investment bankers to second-guess themselves too much because that gets in the way of making money. No one will say this, but it’s more effective to run the risk of noncompliance and pay a few fines, which is just a cost of doing business.”

Mr. Cutler disputed that: “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard Jamie Dimon tell someone to do the right thing, and I don’t care what it costs.”

Mr. Cutler said that two of his “proudest days” as general counsel were May 10 of last year, when JPMorgan publicly disclosed the London Whale problem and acknowledged that it was the result of a badly conceived, executed and vetted trading strategy, and two months later, on July 13, when the bank told investors what had gone wrong and restated its first quarter results. “People and companies will inevitably make mistakes,” he said. “So the question is, how do you deal with it? We may not have been perfect, but we tried to get it right.”

JP Morgan fined $920m and admits wrongdoing over ‘London Whale’

US’s biggest bank to pay penalties to US and UK regulators for ‘unsound practices’ relating to $6.2bn losses last year

JP Morgan has agreed to pay about $920m in penalties to US and UK regulators over the “unsafe and unsound practices” that led to its $6.2bn London Whale losses last year.

The US’s biggest bank will pay $300m to the US office of the comptroller of the currency, $200m to Federal Reserve, $200m to the securities and exchange commission (SEC) and £137.6m ($219.74m) to the UK’s financial conduct authority.

JP Morgan admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement, an unusual step for a finance firm in the crosshairs of multiple legal actions.

“JP Morgan failed to keep watch over its traders as they overvalued a very complex portfolio to hide massive losses,” co-director of the SEC’s division of enforcement, George Canellos, said.

“While grappling with how to fix its internal control breakdowns, JP Morgan’s senior management broke a cardinal rule of corporate governance and deprived its board of critical information it needed to fully assess the company’s problems and determine whether accurate and reliable information was being disclosed to investors and regulators.”

In a statement the OCC blamed “unsafe and unsound practices related to derivatives trading activities conducted on behalf of the bank by the chief investment office (CIO)”, for the fine.

The OCC said its inquiries had found inadequate oversight and governance to protect the bank from material risk, inadequate risk management, inadequate control over pricing of trades, inadequate development and implementation of models used by the bank, and inadequate internal audit processes.

The US authorities are still pursuing JP Morgan. The Justice Department is pursuing criminal charges against some of the bankers responsible for the massive loss. In an indictment unsealed in federal court this week Javier Martin-Artajo, who oversaw trading strategy at the bank’s London office, and Julien Grout, a trader who worked for him, were charged with securities fraud, conspiracy, filing false books and records, wire fraud and making false filings to the SEC.

Grout’s lawyer said this week that his client was being “unjustly played as a pawn in the government’s attempt to settle its highly politicized case against JP Morgan Chase”.

The bank also faces another fine from the commodity futures trading commission which is still investigating whether the bank is guilty of market manipulation.

Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chairman and chief executive, initially dismissed the mounting losses at the bank’s London offices as a “tempest in a teapot”. In a statement Dimon said: “We have accepted responsibility and acknowledged our mistakes from the start, and we have learned from them and worked to fix them. Since these losses occurred, we have made numerous changes that have made us a stronger, smarter, better company.”

This week in a letter to staff he warned: “Unfortunately, we are all well aware of the news around the legal and regulatory issues facing our company, and in the coming weeks and months we need to be braced for more to come.”

The admission of wrongdoing is a major victory for the SEC. US judges in recent years have questioned fines where banks were allowed to neither admit nor deny wrongdoing. Judge Jed Rakoff blocked a 2011 SEC settlement with Citigroup because he said the lack of an admission of wrongdoing made it impossible for him to determine whether the fine was “fair, reasonable, adequate and in the public interest”.

 

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