Big Banks: Regulatory Uncertainty Losers

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Citigroup ( C) were the losers among large U.S. banks on Thursday.

Shares of JPMorgan were down 2% to $51.7254, and Citigroup's shares fell 2.2% to close at $48.79

Among the myriad regulatory investigations being faced by major banks in the United States and Europe is a major investigation by the Department of Justice, Britain's Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators of possible currency manipulation.

Reuters late on Wednesday reported that JPMorgan had placed Richard Usher -- its chief currency dealer in London -- on leave, and that Usher hadn't "been seen at his desk for around two weeks."

JPMorgan didn't respond to a request for comment, but the company in its second-quarter 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in August said it was cooperating with a Justice department request for "documents and information relating to the Firm's foreign exchange practices."

Bloomberg late on Wednesday reported that Citigroup had told Rohan Ramchandani, the company's head of European spot trading, that he would be placed on leave. A Citigroup spokesman declined comment.

JPMorgan's investors are waiting to see if the company will arrive at a large settlement with the Justice Department, regulators and state attorneys general to resolve criminal and civil investigations of the company's mortgage lending and sales activities. The first part of the overall package was a $5.1 billion settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency last Friday, covering losses on private label mortgage-backed securities sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by JPMorgan, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.

JPMorgan admitted no wrongdoing in the FHFA settlement. However, the Justice Department is expected to require some admittance of wrongdoing as part of the overall settlement.

JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns in a government-sponsored transaction when Bear Stearns was facing a liquidity crisis in March 2008. JPMorgan purchased the failed Washington Mutual from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in September 2008.

According to various media reports, JPMorgan's overall settlement -- rumored to be as high as $13 billion -- is threatened by a dispute over language and over JPMorgan's contention that it isn't liable for actions taken by Washington Mutual before it was shuttered by regulators.

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-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

>Contact by Email.

Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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