U.S. charges former JPMorgan bankers in 'London Whale' case

JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Manhattan headquarters.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has filed charges against two former JPMorgan Chase employees for their role in a multibillion dollar trading loss last year at the nation’s largest bank.

Quick refresher: JPMorgan Chase trader Bruno Iksill lost the bank $6 billion last year when his investment book ballooned with risky bets on derivatives. Iksill, however, was not charged.

Who was?

Javier Martin-Artajo -- a former executive in charge of trading strategy and Julien Grout, a low level trader. They didn’t make the bad bets, but they are accused of covering them up from the public and their own bosses in New York by falsifying documents and understating the value of the trades by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Martin-Artajo, the executive, is said to have kept two sets of books on these trades -- the rosy one which made the bank’s losses look a lot smaller than they were, and the real one.

What about Iksill?

Bruno Iksill, known as the “London Whale” for his enormously failed investments (in fairness, he made the bank billions before the big mistake) warned his boss that the losses were huge and shouldn’t be covered up. (“Idiotic” is the word he reportedly used in emails.) That seems to have bought him some relief from prosecutors, but the other reason he’s avoiding prosecution is because he’s singing like a canary about the other guys who were allegedly involved.

The two traders were also charged with a civil suit from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It’s possible that JPMorgan the bank could be fined by British regulators and sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for not employing safeguards to prevent such disastrous trading from taking place.

CEO Jamie Dimon who, by the way, urged more risk taking , saw his pay cut in half, and the bank was able to recover $100 million in back pay from other executives in one way or another linked to the trade.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.

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