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JPMorgan Wins Preliminary Municipal Bond Accord Approval

JPMorgan Chase & Co. won preliminary court approval of a $44.6 million settlement of a lawsuit in which it was accused of conspiring to rig bids on municipal bond deals.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York ruled yesterday in a 2008 class-action antitrust case against JPMorgan and other banks. This settlement applies to only JPMorgan and its Bear Stearns unit. Other banks have settled, and state attorneys general have entered into accords with banks.

“The court finds the agreement was entered into at arm’s length by highly experienced counsel and is sufficiently within the range of reasonableness,” Marrero wrote.

Justin Perras, a spokesman for New York-based JPMorgan, declined to comment on the ruling. Investors who brought the suit include the city of Baltimore and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Michael D. Hausfeld, a lawyer for the investors, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the approval. The judge scheduled a hearing in the case for Dec. 14. As part of his ruling, Marrero agreed that certification of the case as a class-action suit was warranted.

The investors claim that the banks rigged bids and “restrained, suppressed or eliminated” competition for municipal derivatives, according to court papers.

The case is In Re Municipal Derivatives Antitrust Litigation, 08-cv-2516, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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