JPMorgan Fighting 10,000 Lawsuits

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) is a defendant in more than 10,000 legal proceedings and may be $4.5 billion short of reserves needed to cover those costs in a worst-case scenario, the firm said in a regulatory filing on Monday.

The New York-based bank's legal woes range from individual actions against JPMorgan Chase to class actions with "potentially millions" of litigants to "regulatory/government investigations." The suits include common law tort and contract claims, statutory antitrust claims, securities claims and consumer protection claims, the bank said in its 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

JPMorgan is the last of the four big U.S. banks to detail some of its exposure to litigation in its annual report. While the banks didn't say what their overall litigation reserves are, JPMorgan, Citigroup ( C), Bank of America ( BAC) and Wells Fargo ( WFC) outlined a potential $11.2 billion shortfall in litigation reserves altogether.

Last week, Citi said it might fall $4 billion short, while BofA said it might be $1.5 billion behind legal cost reserves and Wells Fargo said it might be $1.2 billion behind.

Banks' legal woes have gotten much attention ever since the so-called "robosigning" scandal erupted last fall. Banks made a practice of letting employees sign off on thousands of foreclosure affidavits without properly vetting the underlying information. In some cases, homes were seized and in others there is doubt over who rightly owns the property - both in terms of mortgage-bond investors and in terms of occupants.

Regulators and all 50 state attorneys general have been investigating big banks' mortgage practices. Federal agencies are trying to pull together a plan to settle with big mortgage servicers in a deal that may result in billions of dollars' worth of principal forgiveness for troubled borrowers. The result of private litigation is more difficult to predict.

In a conference call last month, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon predicted that securitization lawsuits alone will be a long, difficult battle.

"It is going to be years before this plays out and this litigation is going to be fought almost securitization by securitization," Dimon said. "There is almost no other way to do it."

In its 10-K filing, JPMorgan said it "believes it has meritorious defenses to the claims asserted against it in its currently outstanding legal proceedings and it intends to defend itself vigorously in all such matters."

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

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