NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Five years after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO James Dimon has quite a bit to be proud of, but the nation's biggest bank is facing a major political and regulatory onslaught at a late stage of the banking industry's recovery.
"The big U.S. banks have been taking turns in the hot seat," according to Gimme Credit analyst Kathleen Shanley, who wrote in a note on Aug. 21 that "Bank of America dominated the headlines for several years, given its hefty exposure to mortgage-related issues. But now the baton has been passed to JPMorgan, where the legal department is working overtime."
While investors should expect to see a continuing flow of negative headlines for at least another year, JPMorgan has been quite a profit machine over the past three years. With the stock trading at a very low valuation historically and to its peers right now, long-term investors with the patience to sit tight for several years could make a killing.
Before reviewing JPMorgan Chase's success in taking advantage of opportunities presented by the credit crisis, it's appropriate to consider what the company is facing right now.Most investors realize that the forces behind JPMorgan Chase's stock underperforming its peers are the mounting political and regulatory challenges the company faces, at a much later stage in the banking industry's recovery than may have been expected a few years ago. The bank in its second-quarter 10-Q filing said it was facing six separate investigations by the Department of Justice, along with four investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and three by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Sanjay Sanghoee -- a former banker, political and business commentator and author of the novel Killing Wall Street -- says that despite JPMorgan's strong operating track record in the wake of the financial crisis, "James Dimon should resign now, because he has a responsibility to the company. Being the largest bank, there needs to be a distinction between the company and the leadership. For good or bad, Dimon has become a lightning rod for government investigations and a symbol of poor corporate governance." "I believe JPMorgan Chase needs a fresh perspective and a fresh face to reassure the markets that there will be some changes at the bank, including better risk management, internal accountability and more oversight to make sure they are not violating laws or their ethical obligations to the public," Sanghoee adds. When asked why JPMorgan has become federal authorities' favorite target five years after the peak of the credit crisis, Sanghoee says "JPMorgan is not being singled out for this, although they may have been spared the government's first salvo. In terms of the subprime mortgage crisis, JPMorgan seems to have been the least investigated or inspected to date. I am surprised it has taken so long for the regulators to get to JPM." Considering how the federal agencies time their leaks to the media, there are dozens of negative headlines ahead for JPMorgan. Recent leaks have led to reports that the Federal Housing Finance Agency -- which regulates Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) -- is seeking a $6 billion settlement of mortgage repurchase claims against the bank. According to a recent New York Times DealBook report, which cited unnamed sources, JPMorgan is facing $80 million in fines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, over the sale of "credit protection" products to credit card customers. The Wall Street Journal recently cited unnamed sources when reporting that JPMorgan could be fined between $500 million to $600 million by a group of federal regulators over the "London Whale" fiasco. Of course, that type of fine would beg the question -- haven't JPMorgan's shareholders suffered enough from the $6.2 billion in "London Whale" losses? The bank last month agreed to pay $410 million in penalties and "disgorgement to ratepayers" to settle the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's charges of energy market manipulation. Those figures really add up, and could put quite a dent in JPMorgan's earnings this year and/or next year.
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