Big Banks Fined Billions, J.P.Morgan Boosts Dividend: Finance Winners & Losers

 

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The market had a lot of financial news to digest on Wednesday. The Justice Department announced that Citigroup (C), J.P.Morgan Chase (JPM), and four other banks would be on the hook for $5.9 billion in fines for manipulating foreign currency markets.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its April meeting, which made a June rate hike seem less likely.

Trading was choppy throughout the day, and the S&P 500 closed slightly down at 2,125.85 after reaching an intraday high following the release of the Fed minutes.


The Justice Department's nearly two year investigation into currency rate manipulation led to hefty fines against six of the world's largest banks. Many of the companies named in the Justice Department's investigation settled similar charges last November to the tune of $4.3 billion.

Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Barclays (BCS) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) pleaded guilty to currency rate rigging charges while UBS (UBS) and Bank of America (BAC) received fines for their "unsafe and unsound practices." Citigroup will be paying a combined total of $1.26 billion to the Justice Department and the Federal Reserve while J.P. Morgan is on the hook for $892 million.

In a somewhat surprising twist, many of the banks charged in the Justice Department's investigation saw their stock tick upward following the settlement announcements. In notes to clients, Gerard Cassidy, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets sees the settlements as a "positive step" in resolving Citigroup's and JPMorgan's remaining legal battles.

Shares of Citigroup dropped 44 cents to $54.89, while shares of JPMorgan fell 53 cents to $66.48.


Not all news is bad news for J.P. Morgan. On Tuesday the bank declared a divided of 44 cents, payable July 31 to investors who hold shares as of July 6.

That represents a 10% increase from last quarter's dividend and a nearly nine-fold increase from the 5 cent dividends the bank paid during the financial crisis in 2009.


Finally, Benjamin Lawsky announced he's stepping down as New York State's Superintendent of Financial Services.

Lawsky had been with the agency since its creation in 2011 to provide uniform regulation of both banks and insurance companies after the financial crisis, and he styled himself as a sheriff of Wall Street. The financial services department supervises about 3,800 financial firms with assets totaling more than $7 trillion.

For his swan song, Lawsky filed enforcement actions against Barclay's in the massive currency rate-rigging case settled on Wednesday. About $488 million of the total $2.32 billion fines against the London-based bank will go to New York state.

"I am deeply proud of the work our team has done building this new agency and helping strengthen oversight of the financial markets," Lawsky, who is starting his own law firm, said in a statement.

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