Former JP Morgan trader Javier Martin-Artajo was released after telling a Madrid court he opposed attempts by U.S. prosecutors to extradite him on charges he hid trading losses that cost the bank $6.2 billion. The former trader turned himself in this morning after being contacted by investigators, a Spanish police official said. He was released after a hearing in Madrid today in which he said he was unwilling to be extradited, according to a spokeswoman for the National Court. The U.S. this month charged Martin-Artajo, a Spanish citizen, and Julien Grout, a French citizen, with trying to hide the losses stemming from trades by Bruno Iksil, the Frenchman at the center of the case who became known as the “London Whale.” Grout and Martin-Artajo face as long as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious counts, including conspiracy and wire fraud…Martin-Artajo’s lawyer, Lista Cannon, didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment today. He “is confident that when a complete and fair reconstruction of these complex events is completed, he will be cleared of any wrongdoing,” a spokeswoman for his law firm said earlier this month. [Bloomberg, Earlier: If There’s Some Reason Indicted JP Morgan Employee Should Cut Vacation Short, Fly To U.S., He Hasn’t Heard It]
“Well That’s My Cue To Leave” Says Guy Who Handles “All Litigation And Government Investigations Affecting JP Morgan Around The World” After 957th Probe Into Bank’s AffairsBy Bess Levin
Michael Coyne is gonna take off now. Read more »
Bloomberg Investigation Concludes Drawing Parallels Between JPMorgan, Nazis Might’ve Been A Tad MuchBy Jon Shazar
From here on, the news organization will frown upon comparing the destruction of world-historic landmarks during wartime to unfavorable interest-rate swap settlements forced by JPMorgan Chase. Read more »
Hundreds of miles from the bustling trading rooms where he worked with the “London Whale”, a former JPMorgan trader has taken refuge in a French hamlet where few have heard of the $6.2 billion scandal to which he is being linked. U.S. authorities on Wednesday filed charges against Julien Grout for crimes related to the scandal, including wire fraud, conspiracy and the falsifying of books and records. But in sun-drenched Sarrazac, a village of two dozen stone houses built around a medieval church in southern France, the affair had barely registered before this week….”He has just arrived, he seems to be a very nice guy,” said Sarrazac mayor Habib Fenni, who met Grout a day earlier and was not aware of JPMorgan’s troubles or the role the French village’s new resident is alleged to have played in them. Village restaurant owner Chantal Guerby, meanwhile, described Grout as “a nice guy who keeps himself to himself”. [Reuters]
Today U.S. prosecutors charged former JPMorgan CIO traders Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout with various crimes for mis-marking the London Whale structured credit portfolio positions. The complaints are here and here and reading them you get the strong sense that Bruno Iksil, the Whale himself, was the hero of the whole saga. Oh, sure, he built a colossal portfolio of what turned out to be massively money-losing speculative trades, and yes, he did sit by and watch as his boss Martin-Artajo and his underling Grout conspired to mis-mark that portfolio to disguise hundreds of millions of dollars of losses, but: it made him angry.1 So that’s something? Anyway, he is not being charged and is cooperating with authorities, and I guess one benefit of cooperating, in addition to the not prison, is that you come across pretty well in the complaints.
Meanwhile Martin-Artajo and Grout were not pure of heart, per the complaints; they conspired to mis-mark the book to, in Martin-Artajo’s case, make sure that their bosses didn’t take it away from him,2 and in Grout’s case, I dunno, to do what Martin-Artajo told him to do I guess. The dynamics of this terrible terrible team are a bit unclear. From the emails and recorded calls Martin-Artajo seems like the sort of guy you would not want to work with if you were law-abiding and massively money-losing; he spent a lot of time yelling at Iksil for his conscience.3 Read more »
UBS is selling its over-the-counter commodity derivatives portfolio to JPMorgan, prompting John Carney to say this:
Here’s a good rule of thumb. When one bank buys a business from another bank, it’s almost always a case of regulatory arbitrage. It’s never really because of synergies or managerial talent or whatever other hokum the media relations churn out to their willing dupes in the press. It’s just about one bank being better able to take advantage of the rules.
So even though the rationale for JPMorgan Chase buying the over-the-counter commodities derivatives business of UBS remains mysterious, you can safely surmise this is regulatory arbitrage. Most likely, it’s got to do with capital requirements.
Umm maybe? I don’t know, this question seems a little over-determined; the thing is that pretty much everyone thinks that (1) JPMorgan is pretty good at running an investment bank, the occasional hiccup aside, and that (2) UBS is pretty crap at doing so. So are US regulators relatively more comfortable with JPM managing this portfolio than Swiss regulators are with UBS doing so? Sure, probably, but probably so are the respective shareholders, and counterparties, and senior managements, and anyone else you might ask. Really moving any portfolio of anything from UBS to JPMorgan is probably Pareto optimal.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fined JPMorgan $410mm today and you can see why JPMorgan would be okay with that. The details are in this marvelously complicated FERC order and settlement agreement,1 but the outlines of the story are simple. FERC built a terrible box, and the box had some buttons that were labeled “push here for money,” and JPMorgan pushed them and got money. You can understand the category mistake very easily:
- FERC thought the box was for generating electricity at market prices but with a robust backup system to ensure reliable supply, and
- JPMorgan thought the box was for dispensing money.
It’s a perfectly understandable mistake to make if you have spent your career building and operating boxes that dispense money, as JPMorgan global commodities head Blythe Masters has. What else could the box be for?
I suppose we should talk about how the box worked, because this is that sort of blog. Read more »