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Justice Department Hits JPMorgan Again

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Department of Justice is among several federal agencies leaking like a sieve, at least as far as JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) is concerned.

The latest investigation of the nation's largest bank centers on possible manipulation of energy markets in the United States, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

According to "people familiar with the case," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is handling the new investigation, which is "still in its early stages." The Journal's unnamed sources also said "Mr. Bharara will examine some of the same issues at the center of the FERC case."

JPMorgan late last month agreed to pay $410 million to settle charges of market manipulation by the Federal Energy Trading Commission (FERC) in two specific markets in California and the Midwest. The settlement included $125 million in what the FERC termed "unjust profits," and a $285 million civil penalty to be paid to the U.S. Treasury.

The bank, only a few days before the FERC settlement, announced it was considering "strategic alternatives" for its physical commodities business, which includes energy trading.

Several federal agencies seem to be well-focused on continuing the almost daily flow of negative JPMorgan Chase headlines. The Tuesday leak report comes while the new investigation is in its "early stages." If this investigation uncovers what the Justice Department considers to be wrongdoing, it will be time for another leak. Then, if JPMorgan agrees to settle, that news can be leaked before either JPMorgan or the Justice Department makes an announcement, thus milking the investigation for as many days of headlines as possible.

The Tuesday leak follows by one day the New York Times DealBook report that JPMorgan Chase is facing a civil investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its hiring practices in China. The DealBook report cited a "confidential United States government document," while saying "federal authorities have opened a bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business."

According to the DealBook report, "in one instance, the bank hired the son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group." Following the hiring, JPMorgan "secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate," the report said.
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