JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department have reached a tentative $13 billion settlement over the bank’s questionable mortgage practices leading up to the financial crisis, a record penalty that would cap weeks of heated negotiating and underscore the extent of the bank’s legal woes, people briefed on the talks said Saturday.
To resolve an array of federal and state investigations into the bank’s sale of troubled mortgage securities to investors, the bank would be expected to pay about $9 billion in fines, according to one of the people.
JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank, also very likely will provide about $4 billion in relief for struggling homeowners, another person briefed on the talks said.
The total $13 billion penalty would surpass other major Wall Street settlements. HSBC, for example, agreed to a $1.9 billion penalty last year over money-laundering accusations.
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The penalties also eclipse what the bank previously offered to pay. Until now, the bank was offering about $11 billion in total. And it refused to increase its offer unless the Justice Department dropped a parallel criminal investigation into the bank’s sale of troubled mortgage securities to investors.
But the bank, one of the people briefed on the talks said, tentatively backed down from that demand, a major victory for the government and one that allows the Justice Department to pursue its criminal investigation of JPMorgan.
The preliminary deal materialized late Friday after Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. spoke on the phone to the bank’s top executives, including the chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and the general counsel, Stephen Cutler, one person said.
Holder told Dimon that he could not shut down the criminal investigation, reiterating an argument he made when the two met last month in Washington, D.C. The associate attorney general, Tony West, was also at that meeting and on the phone call Friday night.
The people briefed on the matter cautioned the deal still could fall apart as the final details were hammered out. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private negotiations.
One significant obstacle stands in the way of a deal. West and Cutler continue to negotiate over a statement of facts in the case, one of the people briefed on the talks said. Those negotiations could hit a snag if JPMorgan seeks to limit the conduct that the Justice Department wants to include in the settlement deal.
A spokesman for JPMorgan declined to comment. Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.
The settlement, if approved, would involve several lingering government investigations into JPMorgan’s sale of securities backed by subprime and other risky mortgages.
The cases, which focus on securities the bank sold from 2005 to 2007, raised questions about whether JPMorgan had failed to fully warn investors about the risks of the deals.
One of the largest pieces of the $13 billion deal could come from a settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The agency sued JPMorgan over loans it had sold to the mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Many of the cases involve mortgages that JPMorgan itself did not sell. Rather, the bank inherited the legal liabilities when it bought Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual at the height of the financial crisis.
Faced with regulatory problems, one more vexing than the next, JPMorgan’s board is eager to strike a conciliatory stance with government authorities. Toward that goal, last month the bank’s board approved the payment of $1 billion in fines to government authorities so it could resolve investigations into a multibillion-dollar trading loss in London last year and an inquiry into the bank’s credit-card products.
While a settlement will go far toward wrapping up a number of JPMorgan’s mortgage-related issues, the bank is still weathering a broad wave of scrutiny.
With the bank’s legal woes escalating — at least seven federal agencies, several state regulators and two foreign countries are investigating the bank.