JP Morgan’s $13 Billion Deal Sends $300 Million to Calif. Pension Funds

 

People walk by JP Morgan Chase & Company headquarters in New York. (Emmanuel Dunand)
People walk by JP Morgan Chase & Company headquarters in New York. (Emmanuel Dunand)

JP Morgan Chase and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $13 billion civil settlement to resolve an array of state and federal suits involving JP Morgan’s sale of troubled mortgage securities to pension funds and other investors, from 2005 through 2008.

The deal includes a settlement of nearly $300 million to California’s massive pension funds for public employees and teachers —  the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The deal also stipulates that JPMorgan provide $4 billion in mortgage relief to states including California.

At a news conference in his Sacramento office, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said the deal “is the largest single-company civil settlement” in the history of the Justice Department.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “Wagner and four attorneys on his staff were key players in the settlement by virtue of their year-old investigation of JPMorgan. Wagner’s focus on the rampant mortgage fraud in the Central Valley led to high ranking justice officials deciding to let him carry the ball in a nationwide investigation.”

The government accused the nation’s largest bank of not fully disclosing to investors the risks of buying defective mortgage-backed securities. Their implosion in 2008 helped send the economy to its lowest depths since the Depression.

“JP Morgan Chase profited by giving California’s pension funds incomplete information about mortgage investments,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “This settlement returns the money to California’s pension funds that JP Morgan wrongfully took from them.”

Here is the Associated Press story:

By Don Thompson

SACRAMENTO — JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $299 million to California’s public employee and teacher pension funds as part of a settlement related to mortgage-related investments, state Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Tuesday.

The money will settle claims that the company misrepresented the value of residential mortgage-backed securities sold to the California Public Employees Retirement System and California State Teachers’ Retirement System between 2004 and 2008.

“JP Morgan Chase profited by giving California’s pension funds incomplete information about mortgage investments,” Harris said in a statement. “This settlement returns the money to California’s pension funds that JP Morgan wrongfully took from them.”

The settlement is part of a broader, $13 billion settlement between the investment company and the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the larger settlement, which also was announced Tuesday, JPMorgan will provide $4 billion in mortgage relief to the states, including California.

Harris said her office’s investigation found that documents provided by the company did not accurately disclose the nature of the underlying mortgages and that the company did not properly eliminate risky loans from the securities it was offering the pension funds.

The settlement will reimburse the funds for the losses they took for investing in mortgage-backed securities offered by JPMorgan, Washington Mutual Bank and Bear Stearns. JPMorgan acquired the other two companies in 2008 and has said most of its mortgage-backed securities came from them.

The $4 billion in consumer mortgage relief that is included in the larger national settlement goes to those who were harmed by the same three firms. That money will go toward loan modifications, forgiving the principal on mortgages and efforts to improve blighted neighborhoods.

Harris’ office could not predict how much of the $4 billion will come to California but said the distribution will be overseen by an independent monitor to make sure the company meets its obligations under the settlement. It was not clear how the $300 million is being carved from the $13 billion settlement.

California also is receiving about $20 billion from a separate national mortgage settlement in 2012. That deal was with the nation’s largest banks, including JPMorgan.

California has had nearly 1 million foreclosed homes — more than any other state — since the housing meltdown began in early 2007, according to DataQuick, a San Diego-based research firm.

California also leads the nation in the number of short sales, during which a home is sold for less than what was owed on the mortgage. DataQuick estimates there were 460,000 short sales between 2007 and September of this year, out of 706,000 nationally in the regions it tracks.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in Sacramento said the activity described in Tuesday’s settlement with JPMorgan was “symptomatic of the recklessness on Wall Street.” His region includes the Central Valley, which he describes as being “ravaged” by the mortgage crisis.

“The stakes were very high, and I think there was pressure on the due-diligence people to get the deal done,” he said during a news conference about the issues underlying the civil settlement.

Since 2008, his office has charged about 350 people in connection with mortgage fraud.

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