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JPMorgan's Dimon Expected to be Cleared in Ongoing SEC 'Whale' Probe

Stocks in this article: JPM

Updated from 4:42 p.m ET Thursday, with JPMorgan's settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Friday premarket action.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- JPMorgan (JPM) Chairmain and CEO Jamie Dimon isn't expected to be drawn into an ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into a $6.2 billion trading loss that caused the nation's largest bank by assets to restate its first quarter 2012 earnings.

The SEC, even after winning an admission by JPMorgan that it broke federal securities laws in its handling of the trade, continues to investigate individuals involved. The regulator's settlement also repeatedly notes that senior management at the bank failed to adequately disclose the extent of the trading loss to its Board of Directors and to investors by way of its financial statements, however, an ongoing investigation is unlikely to target Dimon.

"Our counsel has had discussions with the SEC Staff, and the Staff has informed us that based on the evidence now known to them, they do not anticipate recommending any action against Mr. Dimon," JPMorgan said in an emailed statement.

In total, the bank's regulatory tab on Thursday was $1.289 billion, split between $920 million in fines from four regulators over its "London Whale" trading loss, and $369 million in fines and customer refunds from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, springing from "illegal credit card practices."

In a settlement with the SEC, the bank also admitted it violated federal securities laws and its senior management failed to ensure that traders in the bank's now-disbanded Chief Investment Office (CIO) properly valued a portfolio of illiquid structured products that swelled to over $150 billion by early 2012.

That settlement and a report detailing what senior JPMorgan management knew of the trading losses, however, left open the prospect that some top executives would face additional sanction from regulators.

JPMorgan admitted its senior management failed to timely escalate deficiencies within the CIO unit to the firm's audit committee, according to the SEC. By late April 2012, the SEC also said JPMorgan senior management knew that the firm's Investment Banking unit used far more conservative prices when valuing the types of assets in its CIO portfolio, and that applying those valuations would have caused approximately $750 million in losses for the CIO in the first quarter of 2012.

Unnamed senior managers also personally rewrote the CIO's valuation policies before the firm filed with the SEC its first-quarter report for 2012, which showed minimal losses. Internal reviews of the CIO unit also led some executives to express reservations about signing certifications for that quarter's earnings report.

"Senior management failed to adequately update the audit committee on these and other important facts concerning the CIO before the firm filed its first quarter report for 2012," the SEC said. Ultimately, JPMorgan restated its first quarter 2012 earnings by $459 million, as CIO losses swelled into the billions.

The SEC also said on Thursday its inquiry into JPMorgan's trading loss and accounting disclosures remain open.

"Although today's settlement resolves claims against JPMorgan relating to this matter, our investigation is continuing as to individuals," the SEC said.

Given JPMorgan's statement late on Thursday, it appears that Jamie Dimon is unlikely to face additional claims from the SEC. However, it is unclear if the SEC's investigation will reach other top management ranks.

"The investigation is continuing," Kevin Callahan, a spokesman at the SEC, said in an e-mail. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission did not settle with JPMorgan and continues to investigate derivatives trades within the CIO unit.

Lawmakers reacted to the SEC's settlement and fines announced by the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Financial Conduct Authority of the U.K. by urging regulators to hold individuals at JPMorgan accountable for their conduct.

Senator John McCain, ranking minority member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Thursday's settlement only levied fines against the bank as a whole and did not address the culpability of individuals.

"This agreement addresses the bank's risk management and controls, without naming individuals at the bank who engaged in wrongful acts...The government's incomplete enforcement actions to date fail to achieve that goal.," McCain said.

"The size of the penalties is testimony to the great damage risky derivatives bets can do, and that's important. However, the whole issue of misinforming investors and the public is conspicuously absent from the SEC findings and settlement," Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said in a statement.

JPMorgan shares fell by more than 1% in Thursday trading and closed at $52.75. The shares were up a penny in premarket trading Friday.


-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.

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