JPMorgan's latest legal tab rises as bank hammers out Justice deal

JPMorgan's latest legal tab rises as bank hammers out Justice deal
JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon leaves the Justice Department in Washington last month. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

NEW YORK -- A large chunk of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s mounting legal bills may get even bigger.

The nation's largest bank could now pay a record $13 billion to settle a raft of federal and state probes, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.


Such a settlement would be an increase from the $11-billion figure under discussion three weeks ago when Jamie Dimon, the bank's chairman and chief executive, attended a high-level meeting in Washington, D.C., with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.

Of the $13 billion, $4 billion would be set aside as relief for troubled homeowners, according to the person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The government investigations reportedly involve investments tied to faulty mortgages, many of them stemming from troubled banks Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, which JPMorgan acquired during the financial crisis.

JPMorgan, which is based in New York, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesman could not immediately be reached late Saturday. It's unclear when the deal could be final and when it might be announced.

The bank's legal woes have been mounting lately. JPMorgan has faced inquiries from regulators and prosecutors into a range of its business practices.

JPMorgan has been the target of intense scrutiny over its "London Whale" trading losses, which last year cost the bank more than $6 billion. In that episode, traders in London took risky, complex bets that backfired. Two mid-level former employees have been criminally charged.

The bank has also faced investigations into its energy trading business, its collections litigation practices and its role in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Litigation has taken such a financial toll on the bank that JPMorgan recently reported its first quarterly loss since 2004, the first under Dimon's leadership.

Last week, the bank for the first time revealed it had set aside $23 billion in litigation reserves to cover legal costs. And JPMorgan also said those costs could increase by as much as $5.7 billion.

In a conference call with analysts as the bank released its third-quarter results last week, Dimon could not predict precisely when the legal costs would ebb.

"It will abate over time, and the underlying power of the company you can see," he said. "So I wish I could give you a better answer, but one day it won't be a big number."