I need to apologize to that growing class of big bankers who've admitted — time and time and time again — to fleecing their own clients and the entire global financial system through wholesale, systematic fraud and abuse.
My mistake was not in assessing the widespread damage you've caused, such as triggering a worldwide recession that caused tens of millions of people to lose their homes and livelihoods, utterly destroying the financial futures for years to come, if not permanently. No, on all those counts (counts, by the way, upon which you should have been indicted, convicted and jailed) I am right.
No, my mistake was in thinking you just made bad choices. You know, like driving a car made in France. But clearly, new evidence is proving beyond the least possible doubt that you bankers suffer from an irresistible compulsion to flim-flam. And for that, we must pity you.
Chase settles for $50M
The latest evidence comes in an announcement from the Department of Justice detailing a settlement between JPMorgan Chase and the U.S. Trustee Program, which oversees federal bankruptcy law. Chase is going to pay $50 million to settle new robo-signing charges that it submitted fraudulent, perjured documents to the U.S. bankruptcy courts around the country. That includes 50,000 notices signed by people who hadn't reviewed the accuracy of the paperwork, with 25,000 notices signed in the names of former employees or workers who had nothing to do with the filings.
Robo-signing is the practice of having workers signs affidavits and other legal documents without making sure they are accurate or legal, and this is hardly Chase's first visit to the robo-signing rodeo. The bank is being sued by the California attorney general over robo-signing of scummy credit-card collection documents. Last year, Chase and 12 other banks agreed to a $9.3 billion settlement — over robo-signing — with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. And we all remember the granddaddy of all of them, the 2012 robo-signing settlement between Chase and four other big mortgage servicers to pay $25 billion for phony mortgage documents, including a $5.29 billion penalty paid by Chase.
Are we sensing a pattern here?
Let's cue Director Cliff White of the U.S. Trustee Program, coming to us straight out of "Casablanca" for his Capt. Renault moment:
"Years after uncovering improper mortgage servicing practices and entering into court-ordered settlements to fix flawed systems, it is deeply disturbing that a major bank would still make improper court filings," White said in a Justice Department statement.
If Director White is shocked — shocked! — to find that bankers are still breaking the law, he's not only missed years of Chase's robo-signing settlements, but others pertaining to its illegal credit-card insurance, fraudulent checking account charges, illegal foreclosures on active-duty members of the military, currency manipulation and more.
Since 2011 JP Morgan Chase alone has paid out more than $10 billion for illegal banking activities in 16 different major cases of fraud. If the three-strikes laws applied to financial institutions (Hey — they're people, too, my friend!) wardens could have locked up Chase for life five times over.
The only explanation I can see is that bankers at Chase and its ilk suffer from a kind of crazed corporate kleptomania. Maybe they need some kind of intervention. At the very least, I'd like to see Chase CEO Jamie Dimon get to a 12-step meeting:
Chairperson: I'd like to welcome a new member here to Bankaholics Anonymous. Jamie, would you care to speak?
Jamie Dimon: Hi. My name is Jamie Di …
Chairperson: No last names, please!
Jamie Dimon: Sorry. My name is Jamie D. and I'm a bankaholic.
Group: Hi, Jamie!
Jamie Dimon: It's been, uh, three hours since my bank last blatantly lied in legal filings, misrepresented loans to investors, manipulated global currencies and voraciously ripped-off account holders.
Chairperson: Couldn't make it through the day, could you? I'm sorry, Jamie, but you'll need to give back your silver chip.
Jamie Dimon: Can't I just settle the charges without admitting guilt?
Jamie Dimon: I can quit anytime I want! I don't have a problem!
And on that point, he could be right. Maybe Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase and all the other bankaholics don't have a problem.
But we sure do.
Brian O'Connor is author of the award-winning book, "The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese."