$13 Billion Settlement With JPMorgan Is Announced

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from The New York Times,

JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department finalized a $13 billion settlement on Tuesday, punctuating a long legal battle over the risky mortgage practices that became synonymous with the financial crisis.

The civil settlement, which materialized after months of wrangling, resolves an array of state and federal investigations into JPMorgan’s sale of troubled mortgage securities to pension funds and other investors from 2005 through 2008. The government accused the bank of not fully disclosing the risks of buying such securities, which imploded in 2008 and helped plunge the economy to its lowest depths since the Depression.

JPMorgan’s settlement strikes at the core of the accusations, requiring the bank to pay fines to prosecutors and provide relief to struggling homeowners as well as compensation for harmed investors. JPMorgan initially planned to pay about $3 billion, a position it abandoned midway through negotiations.

The final $13 billion deal eclipses other major Wall Street settlements. In fact, it is the largest sum that a single company has ever paid to the government.

The magnitude of the payout reflects a broader strategy shift within the Justice Department to hit Wall Street where it hurts most: the bottom line. Once content to extract multimillion-dollar fines that critics dismissed as little more than a slap on the wrist, prosecutors have signaled to the nation’s biggest banks that the billion-dollar mark is a floor rather than a ceiling.

“Without a doubt, the conduct uncovered in this investigation helped sow the seeds of the mortgage meltdown,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. , said in a statement. “JPMorgan was not the only financial institution during this period to knowingly bundle toxic loans and sell them to unsuspecting investors, but that is no excuse for the firm’s behavior.”

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