Amid the federal government’s renewed efforts to hold big banks accountable for their actions during the mortgage crisis, JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently announced that the bank is under federal criminal investigation relating to the sale of mortgage-backed securities – the same securities the U.S. Department of Justice have already determined violated civil laws. As many legal and financial experts have stated, the Justice Department’s consideration of criminal charges is unprecedented.
For many, though, holding banks criminally accountable for their role in the subprime mortgage crisis is wholly warranted. While a formal indictment is a possibility, some believe that conducting civil and criminal inquiries is a tactic that increases pressure for a more widespread civil resolution. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against Bank of America for misleading institutional investors by misrepresenting the quality of mortgages backing an $850 million bond. Investigations are focusing on mortgages originated by JPMorgan, rather than those assumed by the bank after the acquisition of Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual.
As probes continue, JPMorgan has received subpoenas for information about the bank’s loan origination, mortgage buying, and securitization of debts into bonds. Still, the future holds uncertainties as to whether criminal charges will ever manifest. This is due in part to concerns expressed by prosecutors and other experts that filing criminal allegations against a large bank can have a negative impact on national or global economies.
While there are a number of complex issues at stake, the fact remains that the U.S. government is taking decisive steps to hold banks accountable for their actions. Although the scale may be magnified, the government’s actions do help in highlighting the fact that consumers and investors who have been wronged by institutions, financial advisors, or securities firms have legal recourse available. At Crary Buchanan, our Stuart securities arbitration attorneys are prepared to protect our clients’ interests in these matters. For JPMorgan, however, only time will tell what particular actions the U.S. government will take and what impact these actions will have. The resolution may not be so cut and dry.