JP Morgan Says Employees Lied About Size of Trading Loss

JP Morgan's highly anticipated earnings today kicked off with the firm's admission that its employees fudged the size of the firm's estimated loss on its London Whale trading bet, to make it look smaller.

Initially, JP Morgan said the loss would be $2 billion.

Now the firm is saying that just in the past three months, the trade lost $4.4 billion. The official earnings announcement is here.

But JP Morgan is also claiming in its official announcement that the trade lost money in the first three months of the year too.

In JP Morgan's 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which you can read in its entirety here, the firm says,

However, the recently discovered information raises questions about the integrity of the trader marks, and suggests that certain individuals may have been seeking to avoid showing the full amount of the losses being incurred in the portfolio during the first quarter. As a result, the Firm is no longer confident that the trader marks used to prepare the Firm’s reported first quarter results (although within the established thresholds) reflect good faith estimates of fair value at quarter end.

Translation: JP Morgan believe its traders lied all along about the correct value of the losses. These kinds of statements to the public are closely policed by the SEC. If JPM is correct about the alleged lies, regulators are sure to investigate for fraud, and you can expect investor lawsuits as well.

Conveniently, however, the restatement allows JP Morgan to push some of the losses from the London Whale into its first-quarter earnings, which will be restated - and won't be revealed for another few weeks, according to JP Morgan. That will make the second-quarter earnings, announced today, look better than they should.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.
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