It just hasn’t been JPMorgan’s year. Or several years for that matter. The bank which has been on a steady downward slope when it comes to paying billions in quarterly “non-recurring, one-time” legal settlements and charges, and for which engaging in criminal behavior which is neither admitted nor denied, yet which has cost JPM nearly $30 billion in the past several years, has just had its latest “wristslapping” incident, one which involves none other than the recently departed CEO of JPM Asia, Fang Fang, whose office was raided on March 26 by Hong Kong’s anti-corruption agency amid a U.S. investigation into the bank’s hiring practices as reported by Bloomberg.
“We will not comment on individual cases,” Alan Tse, an ICAC spokesman, said by phone yesterday. Marie Cheung, a Hong Kong spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment on the ICAC search.
The New York-based bank announced Fang’s resignation March 24. His departure comes amid an investigation into JPMorgan (JPM)’s Asian hiring practices. U.S. authorities are examining whether the bank employed people in Asia so that their relatives in government would steer business to the bank, people with knowledge of the probes have said.
The banker joined JPMorgan in August 2001 and became head of the firm’s China investment-banking unit in 2007 and was made vice chairman for Asia investment banking in 2009. Prior to joining the bank, Fang worked as a vice president of Beijing Enterprises Holdings Ltd., an investment company controlled by the Beijing government.
JPMorgan, the world’s biggest investment bank by fees last year, said in August that the U.S.’s Securities and Exchange Commission had sought information on its employment practices and client relationships in Hong Kong. U.S. prosecutors were given e-mails written by Fang in which the banker supported the hiring of China Everbright Group Chairman Tang Shuangning’s son, the Wall Street Journal reported March 24. Those e-mails also highlighted the potential for doing business with China’s state-backed conglomerate while Fang hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, the paper said.
The probes have posed hurdles to JPMorgan’s involvement in at least two recent investment-banking transactions. The bank decided to quit China Everbright Bank Co.’s Hong Kong share sale in November because the investigation delayed an internal approval process, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The $3 billion deal was the largest first-time offering by any company in Hong Kong last year.
If indeed as Bloomberg suggest the investigation was driven by US authorities, it would imply that the US is getting even more aggressive in its pursuit of high-level JPM employees only not so much in the US, but increasingly in that gold mine for banking, China, and specifically Hong Kong, where we remind readers, a month ago a JPM FX trader jumped to his death.
Which means only one thing: even more billions in “one-time, non-recurring” fines are coming.
As for Fang: “Fang quit the bank as he wants to spend more time with his family, a person with knowledge of the matter said earlier.” Depending on how strong of a message Obama’s political circle wants to send Jamie Dimon, Fang may soon be out of luck with the whole “spending time with the family” plan.
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