JPMorgan Chase's Rumored Settlement Is Bad for Investors

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I usually roll my eyes when I hear people talking about "evil" bankers and how they caused the financial crisis and how they price credit card fees too high.

In an article Tuesday, I shared my opinion that the government -- not Wall Street -- caused the housing crash.

But JPMorgan's ( JPM) rumored agreement to reportedly pay at least a $750 million fine has me questioning whether bank executives are getting free passes on some bad behavior.

But to answer that, we have to ask another question, "Is JPMorgan really paying the fine?" The answer is no, the shareholders are paying for it, even though they didn't commit a crime or violate regulations. Some current investors weren't even shareholders at the time the alleged events took place.

Two of three key players were indicted.

Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout have been charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and falsifying books and records. Not only is it appropriate for prosecutors to charge individuals, it's the direction prosecutors should take.

The third person is Frenchman Bruno Iksil, better known as the "London Whale" because of his portfolio size. Iksil doesn't face sanctions or punishment for any wrongdoing, although he was Martin-Artajo and Grout's boss. Iksil avoided possible prosecution by entering into an immunity agreement in exchange for assisting prosecutors.

Iksil may have had little or no involvement with any of the alleged criminal activity, but here's the problem with the SEC's shakedown (and that's what it truly is, a shakedown, of JPMorgan's shareholders).

JPMorgan is allegedly paying a fine, in part, because "JPMorgan" didn't supervise the traders adequately. Wasn't that Iksil's job? If not, wasn't it someone else's responsibility to monitor the activity if regulations called for it? Whoever that person or people are, they should open up the checking account and write a check.

In May, Goldman Sachs ( GS) was fined $875,000 because a trader named Glenn Hadden violated a rule governing position size.

Hidden paid a fine of $80,000 and was suspended from trading for 10 days. We don't know whether Hidden took a vacation during the suspension, but at the time of the suspension, he was working for Morgan Stanley ( MS).

How is that equitable? Hadden is the one who supposedly violated a rule, and yet the supervisor's shareholders pay the largest fine, a fine that won't mean anything to anyone next year in terms of deterrence. Where is Hadden's supervisor in the story and why isn't that person opening up the checkbook?

The problem is (almost) everyone loves the current situation. The SEC loves headline-grabbing fines from companies, while the people who commit the violations often walk untouched. The only people who don't love this situation are the shareholders.

This type of punishment doesn't create much incentive for traders or their supervisors to exhibit self-control.

It's time for a re-examination of the system.

At the time of publication, Weinstein had no positions in stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Robert Weinstein is an active trader focusing on the psychological importance of risk mitigation, emotion and financial behavior of market participants. Robert co-founded the investing blog StockSaints, where he writes a journal about his trading activity and experiences.

In addition to TheStreet, Robert also contributes to Real Money Pro, providing real-time trading ideas for stocks, options and futures.

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