Weil on Finance: JPMorgan’s Endless Woes
Welcome back, View fans. Here’s a look at some of my morning reading. Once again the financial news media is looking more like a police blotter.
Yesterday it was mortgage bonds, today it’s Madoff
The New York Times reports that federal authorities are preparing to take action in a criminal investigation of JPMorgan Case & Co., “suspecting that the bank turned a blind eye to Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.” This, coming shortly after a tentative $13 billion settlement between the bank and various government agencies over sales of defective mortgage-backed securities. A deferred-prosecution agreement in the Madoff matter is possible, according to the newspaper. Brace yourself for another round of loony-tunes diatribes from Wall Street cheerleaders decrying how unfair all of this.
Plus, lots more mortgage-bond probes still left to go
The Financial Times reports at least nine other large banks face Justice Department investigations into their sales of mortgage-backed securities, as part of the same task-force effort that led to JPMorgan’s $13 billion accord: Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Wells Fargo. So pretty much all the big ones. (Congratulations to Barclays and everyone else that managed to stay off the list.)
Baidu selling wealth-management products? Seriously?
This story is just bizarre. Beijing-based Caixin Online reports that Baidu, which is China’s version of Google, said it plans to introduce a wealth-management product that would have an 8 percent annual yield and would let investors withdraw money from their account at any time. But then the company deleted the post that contained the guarantee. A Baidu spokesman was quoted as saying the post was removed because “it fell out of line with financial regulations.” Sure, this is China. But why is a search-engine operator with a $54 billion stock-market value even thinking about getting into a business like that?
More on Deloitte & Touche’s latest embarrassment
Caleb Newquist of Going Concern, which covers the accounting profession, has a write-up on the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s latest disciplinary action against the Big Four audit firm. I had flagged the case in yesterday’s morning links. To recap, Deloitte was fined $2 million because it let a former partner continue working on audits even though it knew he was under suspension by the PCOAB. Here’s Newquist: “There’s nothing to like about this disciplinary order. If you give one rat crap about the state of the auditing profession and the PCAOB’s role as an effective regulator of said profession, then this is just more of the same stuff that drives you berserk.”
Flip this house, Hamptons-style
From Bloomberg News reporters Prashant Gopal and Oshrat Carmiel: “Hamptons real estate deals are surging, fueling a boom in knock-downs, expansions and quick resales in the beachfront towns favored by Wall Street financiers and celebrities.” In New York’s Suffolk County, home to the Hamptons, 188 residential properties priced at $750,000 or more changed hands within a year of the previous purchase, up from 22 such high-end flips a year earlier. The Federal Reserve must be thrilled.
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)