JPMorgan Lucks Out With This Dismissal

GavelOne good piece of news has joined the long train of seemingly unending and concerning updates about JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM). The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations launched examination of the bank’s London Whale trading loss; the Federal Reserve found weaknesses in the capital-management plan the bank submitted to this year’s stress tests; and, the Officer of the Comptroller of the Currency downgraded the bank in a key metric used to determine the strength of financial institutions.

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But the bank did win a dismissal of nearly all of a lawsuit brought by the Belgian-French bank Dexia SA (DXBGF.PK) — which accused JPMorgan of misleading it into buying more than $1.6 million world of troubled mortgage debt. The ruling — made Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan — is fortunate for JPMorgan and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon as it removed approximately 99 percent of the potential damages.

Emails and other materials that were revealed during hearings indicated that JPMorgan was aware the mortgage-backed securities up for sale were toxic, but the sold them anyway, reported Reuters. These documents brought notoriety to Dexia’s case and made Rakoff’s ruling surprising at first glance. It is also surprising that he dismissed much of the case after deciding in February to reject JPMorgan’s bid to have the case dismissed. The judge said, according to the publication, that he would explain his reasoning “in due course.”

Rakoff dismissed the case with prejudice — which means it cannot be brought again. He showed skepticism during court hearings about whether Dexia had the legal standing to raise the claims and whether some of the alleged misrepresentations even supported its claims, which explains his ruling to some degree…

“You’re saying that if you know that 84 percent of a given loan pool does not comply with your own guidelines, but you make no representation about compliance with your guidelines, it’s still an actionable omission to fail to reveal this,” Rakoff told a Dexia lawyer at a March 4 hearing, according to Reuters. “How could that be?”

The trial — over the remainder of Dexia’s claim — could begin in early July, the judge said.

JPMorgan’s law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, said in a statement that the court’s decision to dismiss Dexia’s claims on all but five of the 65 residential mortgage-backed security certificates issued lowered potential damages from $774 million to approximately $5.7 million.

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However, the Dexia case is only one of many lawsuits that have accused the bank of packaging low-quality mortgages into seemingly safe securities — a process that hid the risks and failed to ensure that the loans were underwritten. JPMorgan has also been sued over securities created by Bear Stearns — a brokerage the bank purchased in 2008 — by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the National Credit Union Administration. In addition, it is one of 17 banks involved in a lawsuit with the Federal Housing Finance Agency regarding sales of about $200 billion worth of troubled mortgage securities to housing financiers Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) and Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB).

The bank’s legal tangle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over the agency’s claim that Bear gave investors troubled home loans was settled with a $296.9-million payment.

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