The photo above captures the character of legendary banker and tycoon John Pierpoint Morgan, as Morgan “canes” a photographer. His legendary market-grabs have carried forward into modern times, but let’s take a look at how he got his start in high finance, at this web page:
“.. Morgan was involved in a perfidious scheme to sell general John C. Frémont its own faulty breech-loading rifles called Hall Carbines.
The government had 5,000 breech-loading rifles left over from the U.S.-Mexican War. The rifles were defective and the government offered to sell them for $3.50 each. Morgan bought them and then sold them back to the same government for $22,00 each:
A certain Simon Stevens, who had an option for 5,000 Hall carbines, through another dealer named Eastman, came to Morgan with urgent request for a loan against this war material which he soon hoped to sell to the government at a profit. In advance, he had by telegraph arranged to sell them to General Frémont, who headed the eastern Army quartered near St. Louis. Stevens, who had long been engaged in obscure transactions with customhouse officials, may or may not have divulged that he needed the sum of $17,486 from Morgan in order to purchase the carbines from the very same government at Washington whose army in the West clamored for guns.This paradoxical situation was caused by the fact that the carbines in question were found by inspection to be so defective that they would shoot off the thumbs of the soldiers using them. The quartermaster at Washington sold them for $3.50 apiece. “The government had sold one day for $17,486 arms which it had agreed the day before to purchase for $109,912,” as a Congressional committee discovered. That young Morgan knew of this situation is plain from the fact that after arrival of the consignment of guns at General Frémont’s division, he bluntly presented his claim not for the money he had advanced, but for all of $58,175, half of the shipment having already been paid already in good faith. (Josephson, The Robber Barons, p. 61).”
Fast forward to modern Morgan scandals, we look at the revealing website “Wall Street On Parade”:
What JPMorgan and Citigroup Have in Common When It Comes to Crime
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 23, 2017
Jamie Dimon became the CEO of JPMorgan Chase on January 1, 2006. At that point, the bank was more than a century old and had never been charged with a criminal felony. In 2014, the Justice Department charged JPMorgan Chase with two felony counts in connection with their role in facilitating the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The bank was given a two-year deferred prosecution agreement.
The very next year, in May 2015, JPMorgan Chase was hit with a new felony count for its role in rigging foreign currency markets as part of a banking cartel. That’s three felony counts in two years and yet Jamie Dimon kept his job. Before the felony counts there was a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department and Federal and State regulators in 2013 for JPMorgan Chase’s role in selling toxic mortgage investments to investors as worthwhile products when the bank had good reason to believe they would blow up.
In 2012, Dimon himself was hauled before Congress to explain why his bank was making speculative bets with depositors’ money in high risk derivatives in London. The bank eventually owned up to losing $6.2 billion in the wild trades. The scandal became infamously known as the London Whale. In 2013, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a damning 307-page report on the London Whale matter. The same year, the regulator of national banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), released the following statement regarding the London Whale trades:
“The credit derivatives trading activity constituted recklessly unsafe and unsound practices, was part of a pattern of misconduct and resulted in more than minimal loss, all within the meaning of 12 U.S.C. § 1818(i)(2)(B)”; and “The Bank failed to ensure that significant information related to the credit derivatives trading strategy and deficiencies identified in risk management systems and controls was provided in a timely and appropriate manner to OCC examiners.”
Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations at the time, said that the bank “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.” And, unbelievably, Jamie Dimon continued his tenure as Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
The crime spree at JPMorgan Chase became so surreal that two trial lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer, published a breathtaking book on the subject, comparing the bank to the Gambino crime family. In addition to the settlements noted above, the authors add more details as to what has occurred on Dimon’s watch, such as:
“In April 2011, JPMC agreed to pay $35 million to settle claims that it overcharged members of the military service on their mortgages in violation of the Service Members Civil Relief Act and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.
“In March 2012, JPMC paid the government $659 million to settle charges that it charged veterans hidden fees in mortgage refinancing transactions.
“In October 2012, JPMC paid $1.2 billion to settle claims that it, along with other banks, conspired to set the price of credit and debit card interchange fees.
“On January 7, 2013, JPMC announced that it had agreed to a settlement with the Office of the Controller of the Currency (‘OCC’) and the Federal Reserve Bank of charges that it had engaged in improper foreclosure practices.
“In September 2013, JPMC agreed to pay $80 million in fines and $309 million in refunds to customers whom the bank billed for credit monitoring services that the bank never provided.
“On December 13, 2013, JPMC agreed to pay 79.9 million Euros to settle claims of the European Commission relating to illegal rigging of benchmark interest rates.
“In February 2012, JPMC agreed to pay $110 million to settle claims that it overcharged customers for overdraft fees.
“In November 2012, JPMC paid $296,900,000 to the SEC to settle claims that it misstated information about the delinquency status of its mortgage portfolio.
“In July 2013, JPMC paid $410 million to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to settle claims of bidding manipulation of California and Midwest electricity markets.
“In December 2013, JPMC paid $22.1 million to settle claims that the bank imposed expensive and unnecessary flood insurance on homeowners whose mortgages the bank serviced.”
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