JP Morgan Chase to Pay $75 Million in Penalties and Forfeit $647 Million to Settle SEC Charges Over Alleged Municipal Bond Payment Scam

JP Morgan Chase has settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges that the securities firm was allegedly involved in an illegal payment scam to get municipal securities business from Jefferson County, Alabama. As part of its settlement with the SEC, JP Morgan Chase agreed to pay penalties of $75 million and forfeit $647 million in termination fees that it says the county owes. JP Morgan Securities will also pay Jefferson County $50 million, as well as a $25 million penalty. By agreeing to settle, the securities firm is not admitting to or denying the commission’s charges.

The SEC had accused JP Morgan Securities and former managing directors Douglas MacFaddin and Charles LeCroy of making over $8 million in undisclosed payments to friends of certain Jefferson County commissioners. These friends either worked for or owned broker-dealers in the area. The SEC says that these payments led to the commissioners voting for JP Morgan Securities as its managing underwriter of bond offerings. They also voted for JP Morgan Securities’s affiliated bank as the transactions’ swap provider.

The SEC claims JP Morgan Securities charged Jefferson County higher interest rates on swap transactions. This allowed it to pass on the unlawful payments’ costs. According to Robert Khuzami, SEC Enforcement Director, senior bankers with JP Morgan made illegal payments to earn fees and garner business.

The SEC has filed a civil lawsuit against LeCroy and Macfaddin. The SEC is accusing the two men of committing securities fraud for allegedly directing the illegal payments to the Jefferson County commissioners’ associates.

The commission claims the two men knew that the transactions, which occurred between October 2002 and November 2003, were “sham transactions.” The SEC says the men’s failure to disclose these payments or related “conflicts of interest” to either Jefferson County or bond offering investors or the county in the challenged swap agreements deprived those involved of swap agreement negotiations and bond underwriting processes that were impartial and objective. The SEC is seeking disgorgement plus prejudgment interest and permanent injunctions against the two men.

Related Web Resources:

JPMorgan to Pay $75 Million in Alabama Case, NY Times, November 4, 2009
Read the civil complaint (PDF)

Read the administrative complaint (PDF)

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