Critics: JPMorgan Settlement No Deterrent to Crimes-as-Usual

As the Justice Department trumpets its deal with JPMorgan on Tuesday as a record-setting government crackdown on a big bank, critics charge that the penalty in fact allows JPMorgan to destroy people’s lives with impunity and invites other banks to do the same.

“The issue is that JPMorgan broke the law. They made criminal misrepresentations,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in an interview with Common Dreams. “If there aren’t criminal sanctions for individuals I don’t see how you can change incentive. The penalty is no big deal.”

Critics charged that even the $13 billion figure being championed by the Justice Department is not what it seems.

Four billion of this fine is the result of litigation between JPMorgan and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, settled independently from the Justice Department over a month ago. David Dayen writing for Salon argues that this sum was folded into the overall settlement because Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to “stand at a podium and give out a really big settlement number.”

Yet, the $9 billion of fines that is left does not represent real dollars. As Dayen explains, “Nearly half of the [$9 billion dollar] figure comes in the form of ‘mortgage relief,’ which an independent monitor (and what’s so independent about a monitor chosen by the bank?) has four years to distribute. Any time you extend the time horizon of a penalty, you’re reducing its real value.”