The Justice Department has opened an inquiry into JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s $2 billion-plus trading loss, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The probe is at an early stage and it is not clear what possible legal violation federal investigators may be focusing on. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission began its own review of the matter, examining the company's accounting and disclosures to investors. The trading loss has aroused intense scrutiny in Washington, D.C., where some lawmakers have been fighting efforts by big banks to delay or scale back regulations mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul. Read more. (Subscription required.)
ANALYSIS: BANKS TREAD A FINE LINE IN TRADING
When JPMorgan Chase revealed its $2 billion loss last week, it looked as though the big Wall Street banks were up to their old tricks, using their government-backed funds to make risky trades in a misguided effort to improve their profits, according to an analysis in the New York Times' Dealbook Blog on Sunday. While few other banks pursue the complex strategies that led to JPMorgan's losses, many traditional lenders regularly buy and sell securities, and make bets with derivatives, as part of their core operations. Financial firms say that such activities allow them to earn a basic return on the deposits they collect and to offset risks on their balance sheets. These widespread trading practices are creating a headache for regulators, who are trying to devise new rules to prevent another financial crisis. Regulators are putting the finishing touches on the so-called Volcker Rule, which would ban banks from making speculative bets with their own money. However, regulators face a dilemma when faced with the question of "what constitutes proprietary trading?" Such activities are easy to spot when financial firms run independent trading units devoted to making profits. Already, most big banks have moved to exit these businesses in preparation for the Volcker Rule. Regulators, however, are having a harder time telling when other trading activities — like market-making and portfolio hedging — cross the line. Big banks, even those with little presence on Wall Street, contend that their trading activities are part of prudent risk-management. Without the ability to invest in bonds and other securities, these companies argue that they would not be able to make loans or extend credit as easily. Read more.
DOJ NOT KEEPING STATS ON FINANCIAL CRISIS CONVICTIONS
The Department of Justice has been short on answers for congressional inquiries looking to find out how many executives have been convicted of criminal wrongdoing related to the financial crisis of 2008-09, as the department said that it does not keep count of the numbers of board-level prosecutions, according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal. In a response earlier this month to a March request from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Justice Department said that it does not hold information on defendants' business titles. "Consequently, we are unable to generate the [requested] comprehensive list" of Wall Street convictions stemming from the 2008 meltdown, the letter from the Department of Justice to Grassley said. Prof. William Black, a former bank regulator, said that the government used to keep these figures. He points to a 1993 report by the Government Accountability Office on the savings-and-loan crisis of a generation ago. The report said that "30 percent of those prosecuted are the major corporate insiders—CEOs, presidents, shareholders, directors and officers" of the affected firms. Some other law-enforcement agencies are keeping a similar tally for the latest financial crisis. The Securities and Exchange Commission highlights on its website its civil crisis-related enforcement actions against senior corporate officers—a total of 55 so far. Read more. (Subscription required.)
In related news, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday titled "Examining the Settlement Practices of U.S. Financial Regulators." Click here to view the witness list.
COMMENTARY: SAYING NO TO STATE BAILOUTS
States that have followed Europe's economic policy model of unbridled spending are getting Europe's economic results: low growth and looming fiscal catastrophe, according to a commentary by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), members of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), in today's Wall Street Journal. Compared with the 10 U.S. states with the lowest rates of economic growth since 1990, according to a JEC report released today, the states with the highest rates of growth had smaller unfunded pension ratios (by 26 percent); lower debt ratios (by 18 percent); less tax revenue collected (by 22 percent); and lower welfare benefits (by 31 percent). The report also shows that over the last decade, states with no income tax have much higher rates of job growth and population growth than states with the highest income taxes. The fuse on the U.S. debt bomb—which according to the National Bureau of Economic Research may be armed with as much as a $211 trillion fiscal shortfall—may prove to be the states' public-employee pension systems, according to the commentary. Years of overly optimistic growth projections, underfunding and overpromising by politicians, according to the commentary, have rendered many of these public pension systems toxic assets on states' books. Read more. (Subscription required.)
REGISTER FOR THE LABOR & EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE'S "EVOLVING LABOR ISSUES IN CHAPTER 11" WEBINAR
Make sure to mark your calendars for May 23 from 2-3:30 p.m. ET for the ABI Labor and Employment Committee's "Evolving Labor Issues in Chapter 11" Webinar. A panel of experts will be discussing recent developments in several large complex bankruptcy cases, including Hostess, Kodak, Nortel and American Airlines. The expert panel includes Babette A. Ceccotti of Cohen, Weiss & Simon LLP (New York), former chief counsel of the PBGC Jeffrey B. Cohen of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC (Washington, D.C.), Marc Kieselstein of Kirkland & Ellis LLP (New York) and Ron E. Meisler of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
Issues to be discussed include:
• Hostess' efforts to eliminate their multi-employer pension plan contribution liability through motions to reject their labor agreements under Section 1113.
• Kodak's attempt to terminate retiree health benefits.
• The effect of the automatic stay upon efforts by the U.K. Pension Protection Fund and the U.K. Nortel Pension Plan to enforce its powers under the U.K. Pensions Act.
• American Airlines' efforts to reduce legacy costs in bankruptcy.
U.S. TRUSTEE PROGRAM RE-OPENS COMMENT PERIOD ON PROPOSED GUIDELINES FOR ATTORNEY COMPENSATION IN LARGE CHAPTER 11 CASES
The U.S. Trustee Program has re-opened the comment period until May 21, 2012, on proposed guidelines for reviewing applications for attorney compensation in large chapter 11 cases ("fee guidelines"). The USTP also scheduled a public meeting for June 4, 2012, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. on the proposed fee guidelines. Click here for more information on submitting comments or attending the public hearing.
JUNE 5 WEBINAR WILL EXAMINE HOW TO HANDLE AN ADMINISTRATIVELY INSOLVENT ESTATE
Panelists from one of the top-rated sessions at the 2011 Winter Leadership Conference are going to reconvene for an ABI and West LegalEd Center webinar on June 5 titled, "Handling the Administratively Insolvent Estate- What to Do When Your Chapter 11 Goes South." CLE credit will be available for the webinar, which will last from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. ET.
• Robert J. Feinstein of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP (New York)
• Cathy Rae Hershcopf of Cooley LLP (New York)
• Robert L. LeHane of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP (New York)
Robert J. Keach of Bernstein Shur (Portland, Maine) will be the moderator for the webinar.
The webinar costs $115, and purchase provides online access for 180 days. If you are purchasing a live webcast, you will receive complimentary access to the on-demand version for 180 days once it becomes available. Click here for more information.
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: MCNEAL V. GMAC MORTGAGE, LLC (IN RE MCNEAL; 11TH CIR.)
Summarized by Melissa Youngman of McCalla Raymer, LLC
The Eleventh Circuit held that a wholly unsecured junior lien on a chapter 7 debtor's home may be "stripped off" pursuant to Section 506(d) of the Bankruptcy Code.
More than 500 appellate opinions are summarized on Volo typically within 24 hours of the ruling. Click here regularly to view the latest case summaries on ABI’s Volo website.
NEW ON ABI’S BANKRUPTCY BLOG EXCHANGE: FURTHER INSIGHT ON HOW THE SUPREME COURT MAY APPROACH CREDIT BIDDING IN THE RADLAX CASE
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A blog post provides further insight on a few approaches that the Supreme Court may take on the credit-bidding issues presented in the RadLAX case.
Hear a discussion of the RadLAX post-argument featuring lead counsel David Neff by clicking here. ABI will hold a webinar on the Court’s decision as soon as it is announced in late June.
Be sure to check the site several times each day; any time a contributing blog posts a new story, a link to the story will appear on the top. If you have a blog that deals with bankruptcy, or know of a good blog that should be part of the Bankruptcy Exchange, please contact the ABI Web team.
ABI Quick Poll The Constitutional scheme of uniform federal bankruptcy is a bad idea; the states should have more leeway to adopt their own different approaches to financial distress, at least for their own individual citizens and companies with purely intra-state operations.Click here to vote on this week's Quick Poll. Click here to view the results of previous Quick Polls.
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ABI'S "Evolving Labor Issues in Chapter 11" Webinar
May 23, 2012 Register Today!