Josh Rosner (
This is part 2 of 5;
Washington Mutual: a Story of Opacity and Impunity
Perhaps no other example illustrates JPMorgan’s scorched-earth legal approach better than the disputes over the estate of Washington Mutual (WaMu), which the firm acquired from the FDIC in September 2008. JPMorgan portrays its purchase of WaMu during the depths of the financial crisis as a patriotic act performed by a well-run bank. Its public statements and regulatory filings tell a different tale.
In August 2009, Deutsche Bank, as trustee for about $92 billion of notional WaMu securitizations, filed suit against the FDIC demanding the repurchase of billions of dollars of mortgages that they argued violated representations and warranties in the pooling agreement. The FDIC moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that JPMorgan had assumed the liabilities in the WaMu purchase. Consequently, Deutsche Bank amended its complaint to add JPMorgan[i]. JPMorgan is protected by a broad gag order that has sealed away, from public view, any internal communications on Washington Mutual. We have had to rely on public information and information provided as a result of freedom of information requests.
After several years of agreeing with the FDIC’s position and acknowledging that it acquired the mortgage liabilities of Washington Mutual[ii], JPMorgan appears to have changed its mind when it realized the enormity the industry’s mortgage putback risks[iii]. JPMorgan is now boldly demanding indemnification from the FDIC Insurance Fund.
JPMorgan, which in the aftermath of the financial crisis, accepted more than $391 billion of government emergency program support[iv], is seeking to shift losses on over $190 billion of Washington Mutual-related mortgage securities onto the FDIC – claiming that for a mere $1.9 billion it bought nearly all of the positive value of WaMu and was able to stick the public with essentially all of the ongoing losses. If the firm fails in these efforts it could be stuck with settlement costs on claims of between $3 and $5 billion. Unfortunately, a continued lack of clarity about the firm’s reserves coupled with recent plaintiff-friendly court rulings that may increase putback settlement costs make it difficult to assess whether JPMorgan is adequately reserved.
Since it began to deny its obligation, JPMorgan has repeatedly tried getting the FDIC to agree that it has approval to settle and then send the FDIC the bill. The arrogance, impunity and extent to which lengths JPM’s lawyers go in attempts to saddle the FDIC with its own losses are amazing. In a strongly worded letter of response to JPM’s repeated attempts to fool the FDIC into stating or implying it accepted consent, the FDIC strongly states that it has not consented to any actions or inactions by JPM and that “insomuch as these assertions may have become boilerplate language in correspondence from this firm, please consider this letter to be the FDIC’s standing rebuttal” [v]. Still, recent press reports suggest that JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are engaged in settlement talks and that JPM’s strategy may be to settle with the Deutsche Bank (Trustee) investors, indemnify those investors and have them file a claim against the FDIC for indemnification.
READ MORE AT http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/03/jpm-wamu/