JPMorgan Chase & Co will pay more than $2 billion of penalties to settle charges by U.S. federal authorities that it failed to report suspicious activity involving Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
As part of the deal, JPMorgan is admitting it violated laws requiring it to monitor customer activity for money laundering during its two decade relationship with Madoff, authorities said on Tuesday.
The penalties resolve another government probe for the largest U.S. bank, which faces at least eight other government investigations covering everything from its hiring practices in China to whether it manipulated the Libor benchmark interest rate. In November, JPMorgan agreed to a $13 billion settlement with the U.S. government over the bank’s mortgage bonds.
The deal includes a two-year deferred prosecution agreement and settles outstanding probes by multiple bank regulators into failures in JPMorgan’s anti-money laundering policies. The bank also agreed to improve its controls.
JPMorgan is paying a $1.7 billion penalty to settle with the Department of Justice, and another $350 million to settle with the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Shares of JPMorgan were down 1.4 percent at $58.19 in midday trading.
“We recognize we could have done a better job pulling together various pieces of information and concerns about Madoff from different parts of the bank over time,” JPMorgan spokesman Joe Evangelisti said in an email. “We filed a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) in the UK in late October 2008, but not in the U.S.”
He added: “We do not believe that any JPMorgan Chase employee knowingly assisted Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.”
As part of the deal, the bank agreed not to apply for a tax deduction or tax credit for the $1.7 billion payment. The $1.7 billion will go to the victims of Madoff’s fraud, according to Tuesday’s announcement.
U.S. bank regulators will appear with prosecutors and the FBI at a press conference scheduled for 1:15 p.m. (1815 GMT) in New York.
JPMorgan is admitting it had failed to raise the alarm about Madoff’s activities to a bank regulator, even though bankers in more than one area of its operations had identified inconsistencies in Madoff’s behavior and his fund’s returns.
Madoff, through his Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC hedge fund operation, was revealed in December 2008 to be the operator of a massive Ponzi scheme. Convicted in 2009 of defrauding thousands of investors, he is serving a 150-year prison sentence.
Madoff’s is the largest known Ponzi scheme in history. He kept an account at JPMorgan Chase, or banks it had bought, from 1986 until his arrest in December 2008, according to a statement of facts that the bank agreed to for public disclosure.
The account at the bank received deposits and transfers of about $150 billion, almost exclusively from investors in Madoff Securities, yet the money was not used to buy securities as Madoff had promised, according to the statement.
The balance in the account reached $5.6 billion in August 2008 but was down to $234 million when Madoff was arrested four months later.
At various times between the late 1990s and 2008, employees of various divisions of the bank “raised questions” about Madoff Securities and the validity of its investment returns. Yet “at no time during this period” did they bring their concerns to U.S. anti-money laundering employees who were responsible for monitoring the bank’s relationships with its clients, according to the statement of facts.
The bank did not file any suspicious activity reports on Madoff Securities in the United States until after Madoff’s arrest.
According to the statement, Madoff routinely made “round-trip” transactions during the 1990s between two accounts, one he held at an undisclosed bank and one at JPMorgan held by one of that bank’s private banking clients. By taking advantage of the normal delays in the check-clearing process, he made it seem as though both accounts had more money than they did.
JPMorgan paid interest on the inflated amount in its private banking client’s account and continued dealing with Madoff even after the other bank notified it of the scheme, according to the statement.
An employee of JPMorgan’s private bank said in a 1994 memo that “the daily cost associated” with Madoff’s withdrawals was “outrageous.” But when the employee tried to tell JPMorgan’s private banking client about the scheme, the client responded: “If Bernie is using the float, it is fine with me; he makes a lot of money for my account.”