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JPMorgan in shock $2-B loss on derivatives

Agence France-Presse
The US banking giant may suffer another $1 billion loss by June this year due to market volatility

NEW YORK (AFP) – US banking giant JPMorgan Chase said it had lost $2 billion on derivatives since March in what chief executive Jamie Dimon called a “flawed” and “poorly executed” trading operation.

In a unscheduled conference call, Dimon also said the bank could face another $1 billion in losses through the end of June due to market volatility.

“It could easily get worse this quarter,” he told analysts and journalists.

The loss came over the past six weeks in the New York bank’s risk management unit, the Chief Investment Office, and involved trading in credit default swaps, a so-called “synthetic hedge”.

The CIO trades bank assets with the aim of hedging against other risks the bank takes in its own investments.

But Dimon called the CIO’s strategy “poorly reviewed, complex, poorly executed.”

“These were egregious mistakes,” Dimon said. “They were self-inflicted and this is not how we want to run a business.”

JPMorgan shares fell nearly seven percent in after-hours trade.

The losses are a humiliation for Dimon — one of Wall Street’s best known titans — and for the bank, after it proudly came through the 2008 financial crisis in far better shape than its rivals.

Then, the collapse of the market in mortgage derivatives punched a giant hole in banks’ balance sheets and plunged the world’s largest economy into the worst recession in a generation, costing millions of jobs. 

As recently as last month, JPMorgan executives told investors they were “very comfortable” with positions held by the bank, raising questions about how much was known by senior management and when.

But Dimon downplayed the reports by the Wall Street Journal last month that a powerful London-based JPMorgan trader, nicknamed “The Big Whale”, was behind huge losses in the company’s derivatives trading.

The losses he reported Thursday only had “a little bit to do with the article in the press,” he said, branding much of the reports “speculation”.

The revelation came as Dimon has been leading a charge against new rules aimed at preventing banks from incurring massive losses in their own trading operations.

Dimon has labelled the “Volcker Rule”, which will ban banks from many kinds of often lucrative proprietary trading, as unnecessary and said it will actually hamper banks.

In the call Thursday, he lamented that the losses would feed into criticism of the bank and his position on the proposed regulations.

But he said the CIO trading was not what would be covered by the rule.

“This trading does not violate the Volcker rule, but it violates the Dimon principle,” he said. – Agence France-Presse