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JPMorgan may settle with government for record $11 billion

JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Manhattan headquarters.

Eleven billion dollars -- that’s what JPMorgan Chase is looking at to settle with federal regulators. That’s after regulators reportedly rejected a $3 billion dollar settlement offer from JPMorgan. It would be a record fine for the Justice Department. At issue is whether JPMorgan misled investors about the safety of mortgage backed securities it sold between 2005 and 2007.

The bank is also potentially liable for the subprime mortgage bonds sold by Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns -- JP Morgan acquired both of those companies during the financial crisis.

Why would JPMorgan ever agree to such a big settlement? Max Wolff, chief economist at ZT Wealth, says a big settlement could spare JPMorgan the death by a thousand settlements that other banks are dealing with.

“You don’t want to be Bank of America, which sort of limps around getting hit by various accusations and making settlements,” says Wolff. “What they want to do is say: ‘We’ve settled everything out. There’s no hangover. So we can rebuild our reputation and further rebuild our stock price. In other words, we’ve put it behind us.'”

The other reason to settle now? Getting out in front of any possible criminal charges. A conviction on those charges would trigger a slew of civil cases from wronged investors.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.
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