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JPMorgan's Whale expedition costs $920 million

The head office of JPMorgan Chase rises over Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan on July 13, 2012 in New York City.

Today was a day of financial reckoning for JPMorgan Chase over the case of the “London Whale," the nickname given to a trader in the company's London office who was blamed for a $6 billion loss last year. Today, regulators -- the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) -- announced JPMorgan will pay $920 million in fines. Based on how fast JPMorgan made money last quarter, that is about 13 days' worth of profit, give or take a few hours.

According to James Cox, Brainerd Currie Professor of Law at Duke University, a lot of that JPMorgan settlement money will help us pay down our federal debt.

“It just goes into the vast sieve called ‘the federal purse,’” he says.

Some money from JPMorgan could end up in your purse or wallet. In a separate settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the company agreed to pay an additional $309 million to credit card customers charged for add-ons they didn’t receive.

Now, not all of the London Whale settlement will go to the Treasury Department. Some $220 million will go to the U.K., and some money could end up with investors.

According to Hillary Sale, the Walter D. Coles Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, the SEC has options.

“The SEC can take money and, instead of putting it into the Treasury, can, at its discretion, figure out how to route that money back to the harmed investors,” she says.

That process could take a while, and so could civil suits. Those could grow because JPMorgan did something today other big financial firms haven’t done: It admitted wrongdoing.

Sale says it seems JPMorgan has anticipated more legal bills. A few weeks ago, the company announced it is building up its legal reserves.

“They also made public that they have hired 3,000 new employees to do legal and compliance work,” Sale says.

Those employees don’t come cheap. JPMorgan has earmarked an extra $1.5 billion to cover litigation costs.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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