Once again federal regulators have turned to JPMorgan Chase to rescue a failing smaller bank. For the moment, the customers of First Republic Bank may be pleased that their accounts are being taken over by a larger and more stable institution.
Yet they may not be quite so happy to learn that their savior has a much worse record when it comes to compliance with laws and regulations. As shown in Violation Tracker, First Republic was named in only a handful of enforcement actions and paid penalties of less than $4 million. JPMorgan, on the other hand, has 236 Violation Tracker entries and has paid over $36 billion in fines and settlements.
The contrast with First Republic is partly a matter of size. JPM’s vast operations give it many more opportunities to get into trouble. Those operations have included the marketing of residential mortgage-backed securities which turned out to be toxic and which resulted in legal actions that cost the company billions. Some of these entanglements were inherited by JPM when it took over Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual in 2008.
Yet JPM has also had problems when it comes to the treatment of its own customers in the course of routine banking functions. This has become clear to me in the course of assembling data for the latest category of class action litigation to be added to Violation Tracker: consumer protection lawsuits.
The collection is not yet done, but I have already identified more than a dozen settlements in which JPM has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars. Among these are the following:
* In 2012 JPM agreed to pay $100 million to settle litigation alleging it improperly raised interest rates on loan balances transferred to credit cards.
* In 2020 JPM agreed to pay more than $60 million to settle litigation alleging it overcharged customers serving in the military, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
* In 2014 JPM agreed to pay $300 million to settle litigation alleging it pushed mortgage borrowers into force-placed insurance coverage whose cost was inflated due to kickbacks.
* In 2012 JPM agreed to pay $110 million to settle litigation concerning improper overdraft fees resulting from the way that debit-card transactions were processed.
* In 2011 JPM agreed to pay up to $7.8 million to settle litigation alleging it charged credit card customers hidden fees after deceptively marketing special deals on balance transfers and short-term check loans.
* In 2014 JPM and several subsidiaries agreed to pay more than $18 million to settle litigation alleging the use of misleading loan documents to steer borrowers to adjustable-rate mortgages.
* In 2018 JPM agreed to pay over $11 million to settle litigation alleging it improperly charged interest on Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages that were already paid off.
These were all cases brought by private plaintiffs. JPM also paid hundreds of millions more in consumer protection fines and settlements to federal and state agencies. Among these was a 2013 case brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in which JPM paid a $20 million penalty to the agency and over $300 million in refunds to two million customers for what were said to be illegal credit card practices.
There is widespread concern that rescue deals are allowing a too-big-to-fail bank like JPM to grow even larger. Yet we should also worry that more and more of the population is being forced to do business with megabanks that seem to regard themselves as too big to have to comply with laws that protect consumers.