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.
One of the pleasures of every JPMorgan quarterly earnings call is hearing Jamie Dimon’s, and now Marianne Lake’s, authoritative-sounding pronouncements on proposed regulations. You sometimes get the sense that regulations can’t be adopted without Dimon’s approval, so his views on these calls provide some sort of indicator of which of the proposals might actually happen. Plus, general amusing orneriness.
So how’d everyone do? Well, they think Nouveau Glass-Steagall is pretty silly, for one thing: in response to an analyst question about it, Lake said “we don’t spend much time thinking about it.”1 Oof! Get outta here with your Glass-Steagalls.
But the theme of the call was mostly “could you tell us more about your leverage ratio?” Here, JPMorgan is not so fond of the new Basel III leverage ratio proposals. The earnings deck walks through how JPMorgan will comply with the new U.S. leverage ratio rules, but it does not do any math on the effects of the new Basel proposals to do creepy things like disallow derivatives collateral netting. When asked to quantify the leverage under those proposals, Lake and Dimon declined, saying that there are “fundamental problems” with those proposals. So they have chosen to ignore them and, presumably, they will go away. Read more »
Judge Rules Jefferies Should’ve Just Chilled After Senior Equities Exec Sent Around Video Depicting Jamie Dimon As HitlerBy Bess Levin
Jefferies Group LLC wrongfully fired its former Asia head of equity trading Grant Williams over a newsletter that included a reference to a Hitler parody video, a Hong Kong judge ruled. Williams drafted a newsletter to subscribers which included a link to a video clip depicting Adolf Hitler, with subtitles created by a U.S. filmmaker that mocked JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. The newsletter was released prematurely and Jefferies fired Williams the next day for unacceptable and inappropriate conduct, according to the judge. Jefferies management was “hypersensitive” and “irrational,” in its response to the publication of the Dec. 7, 2010 client newsletter, Judge Conrad Seagroatt said in issuing his decision today in Hong Kong’s High Court…The YouTube Inc. parody video clip uses a scene from the 2004 German movie “Downfall” showing Hitler screaming at his subordinates at the end of the war. Subtitles suggested Hitler’s character was Dimon, speaking in the context of bets on the price of silver. [Bloomberg]
Banks Not Exactly Living Up To Terms Of Mortgage Settlement No Reason To Think That Said Settlement Isn’t Working, Settlement Authors SayBy Jon Shazar
It seems that a few boutique mortgage lenders are playing a little fast and loose with the rules they agreed to follow when they agreed to pay $25 billion to get the government to leave them alone. Read more »
The House of Morgan is about to have to have some pissed off people in upstate New York and the west coast of Florida on its hands. Read more »