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JPMorgan to Pay $300 Million to Settle U.S. Allegations

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay more than $300 million to settle U.S. allegations that it didn’t properly inform clients about what the Securities and Exchange Commission called numerous conflicts of interest in how it managed customers’ money over a half decade.

The largest U.S. bank by assets failed to tell customers that it reaped profits by putting their money into mutual funds and hedge funds that generated fees for the company, the SEC said in announcing $267 million in penalties and disgorgement against JPMorgan. The bank agreed to pay $40 million more as part of a parallel action by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

JPMorgan admitted disclosure failures from 2008 to 2013 related to two units that manage money — its securities subsidiary and its nationally chartered bank — as part of the SEC settlement. The New York-based bank said that the omissions in its communications were unintentional and that it has since enhanced its disclosures.

“Firms have an obligation to communicate all conflicts so a client can fairly judge the investment advice they are receiving,” Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “These JPMorgan subsidiaries failed to disclose that they preferred to invest client money in firm-managed mutual funds and hedge funds, and clients were denied all the facts to determine why investment decisions were being made by their investment advisers.”

Two-Year Probe

The settlement caps roughly two years of investigations during which the government deposed asset-management executives and issued subpoenas for internal documents. The SEC’s enforcement division had been looking into whether the bank encouraged their financial advisers to steer clients improperly into investments that generated fees for the bank, people familiar with the investigation said earlier this year.

In its order, the SEC said the bank cooperated with commission staff, hired an independent compliance consultant and carried out its recommendations.

The disclosure weaknesses cited in the settlements “were not intentional and we regret them,” said Darin Oduyoye, a JPMorgan spokesman. “We have always strived for full transparency in client communications, and in the last two years have further enhanced our disclosures in support of that goal.”

Record Penalty

While the agency extracted a record penalty for an asset manager, JPMorgan can continue operating as it has been in one of its most profitable businesses. The $307 million in fines and disgorgement accounts for a bit more than 1 percent of the company’s annual operating profits, or about a month of those at its asset-management division.

The settlement, announced on the Friday before Christmas, didn’t go far enough, said Dennis Kelleher, a lawyer who runs Better Markets, a consumer advocacy group.

“The conduct involves steering clients into proprietary products so brokers get higher commissions and JPMorgan gets good asset-management numbers,” said Kelleher, who said the practices remain costly for customers, additional disclosures notwithstanding. “This wasn’t a rogue trader. It wasn’t an individual employee. It’s not a mistake. It’s a five-year pattern.”

‘Exhausting Process’

With the settlement, the bank moves beyond one of its last major regulatory challenges since the 2008 financial crisis. JPMorgan has been penalized more than $23 billion in major settlements with U.S. authorities in recent years, in connection with allegations that included conspiring to manipulate foreign-currency rates, allowing the “London Whale” trader to exceed risk limits, failing to flag transactions related to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and misrepresenting the value of mortgage-backed securities.

“Investors are glad that the bank agreed to a settlement to move forward and this isn’t an overhang for the business anymore,” said Pri de Silva, a senior banking analyst at CreditSights Inc. in New York. “We are at the tail-end of the post-crisis litigation actions, but its been an expensive, exhausting process. I think both banks and the investor base are tired of it.”

JPMorgan shares fell 2.8 percent to $64.40 at 4:15 p.m. amid a broad decline in financial shares. The bank has climbed 2.9 percent this year, outperforming the 2.3 percent decline of the KBW Bank Index.

Expanded Operation

The SEC’s inquiries looked into JPMorgan Asset Management, a unit that grew rapidly after the 2008 financial crisis, as new regulations crimped areas including hedge-fund and proprietary trading operations that have traditionally been lucrative for Wall Street firms. The bank expanded an operation that pairs wealth management and investment funds in one reporting structure, run by Mary Erdoes, seen as one of a half-dozen in-house favorites to eventually replace Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon.

JPMorgan expanded its in-house mutual funds even as many competitors pulled back. Over the past decade, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. have shed such fund businesses after being fined for allowing conflicts of interest to result in sales abuses.

JPMorgan Asset Management — with mutual funds, alternative investments, private wealth management and some trust operations — had the highest rate of revenue growth among the bank’s four main operating units. It also had the highest percentage growth in asset inflows of any large manager in the five years through 2014, ending the year with $1.7 trillion under management, according to a February presentation to investors.

Cross-selling and synergies between units was worth $14 billion across the bank in 2012, it said in a February 2013 presentation to investors. The bank attributed $1.1 billion of that to the synergies of selling the bank’s investment-management products to private banking clients.

‘Numerous Conflicts’

JPMorgan “failed to disclose numerous conflicts of interest to certain wealth management clients,” the SEC said in its announcement. That included not telling customers of a retail product, Chase Strategic Portfolio, that it was designed to favor in-house mutual funds, or that the bank might put them into a higher-fee fund when a lower-fee version of the same fund was available. The bank’s investment advisory business, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, also failed to disclose that it had a financial incentive to favor the bank’s funds because it received a discount on them from another JPMorgan unit, the SEC said.

At one point in early 2011, JPMorgan invested 47 percent of mutual-fund assets and 35 percent of hedge-fund assets in products and accounts that had ties to it, according to the SEC order.

‘Retrocession Payments’

JPMorgan Chase Bank failed to disclose its preference for third-party funds that shared revenue with the bank, the SEC said. During initial meetings, third-party managers were typically asked if they were willing to share their fees. If they declined, JPMorgan typically would look for an alternative manager who was willing. The bank began disclosing that it may receive these “retrocession” payments in August 2015, the SEC said.

JPMorgan agreed to pay a $40 million civil penalty to the CFTC, which also cited $60 million in disgorgement that was part of the SEC settlement.

The bank’s settlement with the SEC included a penalty component of $127 million. That surpassed the agency’s previous record of $100 million, levied on Alliance Capital Management 11 years ago, according to an SEC spokeswoman.

SEC Waiver

As part of the settlement, JPMorgan received permission to continue raising money for private companies including hedge funds and startups. The bank could have been barred from that lucrative activity based on investor protections that automatically disqualify firms found to have violated securities laws. That so-called waiver came with a condition that JPMorgan hire an independent consultant to annually certify its plan for complying with rules for private fundraising.

A senior bank executive or legal officer will have to certify in writing that they reviewed the consultant’s report. The SEC can revoke the waiver if JPMorgan is found to have repeated the kind of wrongdoing that triggered the latest SEC enforcement action.

“J.P. Morgan put its interest before its clients by failing to disclose significant conflicts of interest,” said Democratic Commissioner Kara Stein, who supported the added waiver restrictions. “These failures were part of an institutional breakdown that operated as a fraud on both its clients and its prospective clients.”

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Amazon Launches First ‘Real Life’ Clothing Store For Men And Women

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American multinational technology company, Amazon is launching its first apparel store, ‘Amazon Style’.

Investors King gathered that the clothing store, located in a Southern California mall, later this year will feature women’s and men’s apparel, shoes, and accessories from a mix of well-known and emerging brands, with prices catering to a wide range of shoppers.

According to Amazon, shoppers will get personalized recommendations pushed to their phones as they browse the new Amazon Style store. The company also noted that the clothing store will feature a mix of well-known and emerging brands, adding that every individual’s budget would be met.

The store which will be about 30,000 square feet would be digitalized as shoppers will rely heavily on their smartphones in order to browse the store.

Managing Director of Amazon Style, Simoina Vasen told CNBC that when shoppers walk into the store, they’ll see “display items,” featuring just one size and color of a particular product; the remaining inventory for each product will kept in the back of the store.

He added that after logging into the Amazon app on a smartphone, they’ll scan a QR code on the item to view additional sizes, colors, product ratings and other information, such as personalized recommendations for similar items.

“This allows us to offer more selection without requiring customers to sift through racks to find that right color, size and fit,” he said.

After scanning the QR code on an item, shoppers can click a button in the Amazon app to add the item to a fitting room or send it to a pickup counter.

According to Vasen, shoppers will be able to access their in-store purchase history in the Amazon app.

A recently released research by Wells Fargo analysts shows that Amazon has surpassed Walmart as the No. 1 apparel retailer in the U.S.. This is largely due to the e-commerce boom recorded as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wells Fargo estimates that Amazon’s apparel and footwear sales in the U.S. grew by roughly 15% in 2020 to more than $41 billion, which is 20% to 25% above rival Walmart.

This represents an 11 to 12 percent share of all clothing sold in the U.S. and 34 to 35 percent share of all clothing sold online.

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Merger and Acquisition

Sullivan, Ellis Were Top M&A Legal Advisers by Value and Volume in financial Services Sector in 2021

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Sullivan & Cromwell and Kirkland & Ellis were top M&A legal advisers by value and volume in financial services sector for 2021, finds GlobalData.

Sullivan & Cromwell and Kirkland & Ellis were the top mergers and acquisitions (M&A) legal advisers in the financial services sector for 2021 by value and volume, respectively, according to GlobalData. The leading data and analytics company notes that Sullivan & Cromwell advised on 42 deals worth $105.1 billion, which was the highest value among all advisers tracked. Meanwhile, Kirkland & Ellis led by volume, having advised on 76 deals worth $20.1 billion. A total 3,854 M&A deals were announced in the sector during 2021.

According to GlobalData’s report, ‘Global and Financial Services M&A Report Legal Adviser League Tables 2021‘, deal value for the sector increased by 21.1% from $430.6 billion during 2020 to $521.3 billion during 2021.

Aurojyoti Bose, Lead Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Kirkland & Ellis was the only advisor that managed to advise on more than 70 deals during 2021. However, it lagged behind in terms of value and did not find a place among the top 10 by value due to involvement in low-value transactions.

“The average deal size of transactions advised by Kirkland & Ellis was just $264.2 million, while it was $2.5 billion for Sullivan & Cromwell. Apart from leading by value, Sullivan & Cromwell also occupied the fourth position by volume.”

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz occupied the second position in terms of value, with 26 deals worth $79.1 billion; followed by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, with 54 deals worth $55.9 billion; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, with 37 deals worth $51.6 billion; and Cravath Swaine & Moore, with nine deals worth $47.6 billion.

Alston & Bird occupied the second position in terms of volume, with 55 deals worth $7.9 billion; followed by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Sullivan & Cromwell. Willkie Farr & Gallagher occupied the fifth position by volume, with 42 deals worth $13.8 billion.

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Netflix Commits $1 Million Towards Scholarships in Africa

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Netflix, the world’s leading entertainment streaming service, has  announced a commitment of US$1 million towards the newly-established Netflix Creative Equity Scholarship Fund (CESF) for film and TV students in Sub-Saharan Africa. The scholarship fund forms part of Netflix’s global Netflix Creative Equity Fund launched in 2021 to be allocated to various initiatives over the next 5 years with the goal of developing a strong, diverse pipeline of creatives around the world.

The scholarship fund will cover the costs for tuition, accommodation, study materials and living expenses at institutions where beneficiaries have gained admission to pursue a course of study in the TV & film disciplines in the 2022 academic year.

The Netflix CESF is targeted for rollout across the region in the academic year commencing in 2022, starting with an open call for applications in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, in partnership with social investment fund management and advisory firm Tshikululu Social Investments (https://bit.ly/3qLORX2) as implementing partner/fund administrator in Southern Africa. Fund administration partners for East Africa and the West and Central Africa regions will be announced in due course.

“Netflix is excited by the potential of the next generation of storytellers and we’re committed to investing in the future of African storytelling in the long-term,” says Ben Amadasun, Netflix Director of Content in Africa. “We believe there are great stories to be told from Africa and we want to play our part by supporting students who are passionate about the film and TV industry so they too, can ultimately contribute to the creative ecosystem by bringing more unique voices and diverse perspectives to African storytelling that our global audiences find appealing.”

How it works:

The Netflix CESF is designed to provide financial assistance, through full scholarships, at partner higher educational institutions (HEI) in South Africa to support the formal qualification and training of aspiring creatives from a SADC region country that wish to study in South Africa, and are able to obtain the necessary permissions to do so. The following countries will be eligible: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In the SADC region, the fund will be available to students who have obtained admission to study in various film & TV-focused disciplines, for the 2022 academic year, at the following partner institutions:

  • AACA Film and Acting School
  • AFDA
  • Boston Media House
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)
  • City Varsity
  • Durban University of Technology (DUT)
  • Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)
  • University of Cape Town (UCT)
  • University of Johannesburg (UJ)
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
  • University of Pretoria (UP)
  • University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)

Students interested in applying for scholarships for the 2022 academic year will be able to find additional information, application criteria, a list of partner higher education institutions (HEI) and will be able to apply online on our fund manager and advisory partner, Tshikululu’s website. Applications are now open until 04 February 2022 at 23h59 CAT.

The Netflix CESF will also benefit students from other parts of Africa – particularly East Africa as well as West and Central Africa. Fund administration partners for East Africa and the West and Central Africa regions will be announced, along with the calls for applications, in due course.

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