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JPMorgan Settlement Could Wipe Out Q3 Earnings

Updated from 9:08 a.m. ET with afternoon market action and Attorney General Eric Holder's comments after his meeting with JPMorgan CEO James Dimon.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) could see its third-quarter earnings wiped out, based on the latest leaks reported on Thursday.

The nation's largest bank is negotiating a settlement of criminal and civil charges with the Department of Justice, regulators and other authorities, and the total figure has "shot up to $11 billion," according to a Wall Street Journal report that cited "people familiar with the matter."

Attorney General Eric Holder rejected a $3 billion settlement offer from JPMorgan, according to a Journal report on Tuesday.

JPMorgan Chase CEO James Dimon visited the Justice Department in Washington and met with Holder. During a press conference following that business, Holder limited his prepared comments to discussing "significant enforcement developments in the Justice Department's efforts to crack down on price fixing and bid rigging in the automobile parts industry."

When asked about his meeting with Dimon, Holder said he "did meet with representatives of JPMorgan," and that he expected "to be making further announcements in the coming weeks, the coming months." The Attorney General refused to discuss the details of his conversation with Dimon, but did say "this is something of a priority."

Investors' reaction to JPMorgan's legal circus was muted after the company entered into a $920 million settlement with four regulators over the "London Whale" hedge trading debacle on Sept. 19, with another $369 million in settlements with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, springing from an investigation of the bank's " illegal credit card practices."

The firmness in JPMorgan's shares after last week's settlements possibly reflected the relatively small size of the settlements when compared with the estimated $6.2 billion in losses from the hedge-trading problems during 2012. The $1.289 billion total from Sept. 19 was also lower than the third-quarter litigation expenses CFO Marianne Lake hinted at when speaking at a conference on Sept. 9.

Lake said the bank was expecting net losses in its mortgage origination business during the second half of 2013, and that a "crescendo" of regulatory activity would lead to additions to third-quarter additions to litigation reserves "which will more than offset the $1.5 billion or so of consumer reserve releases."

Despite -- or maybe because of -- the endless flow of media reports throwing out potential settlement figures as high as $20 billion, as the leakers from the Justice Department and other agencies, investors really have no idea how much of an effect the expected settlement will have on JPMorgan's earnings.

Oppenheimer analyst Chris Kotowski in his third-quarter earnings preview for large-cap U.S. banks on Thursday cut his third-quarter earnings estimate for JPMorgan Chase by more than 50% to 70 cents a share from $1.42. The analyst's previous estimate assumed "no reserve releases or litigation accruals in it because we figured that they would generally be offsetting." Factoring in an expected decline in trading revenue of $0.5 billion, Kotowski's third-quarter EPS estimate would have declined to $1.35.
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