One can only hope that Ohio's proposed legal action against JPMorgan Chase will be the beginning of a punishing lesson for one of the Too Big To Behave banks for its deceptive business practices.
In the now-infamous London Whale case, the bank deceived over 100 embedded examiners from three federal regulatory agencies about the parameters of its internal investment operations. Then, it invested excess, government-insured deposits in high-risk, proprietary trading in synthetic credit derivative securities, which it disguised as benign, risk-management hedging. Then, between the time that Bloomberg reported the disaster in the disguised trading operation and the time the bank acknowledged the growing losses, senior management deceived investors as to the 'material nature' of the problem.
Were this the only example of such questionable activity, one might be persuaded to give the banks a pass — much as members of Congress and representatives of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Securities and Exchange Commission did in last month's hearings.
However, according to published reports, JPMorgan is also being investigated for alleged improprieties in the municipal securities market, the electric power market and in setting Libor, the basic index for corporate and consumer financial instruments worth hundreds of trillions of dollars.
At some point in time, one might think that all but the most rabid banking industry sycophants would wonder why a government-insured financial institution is allowed to perpetrate these "nefarious" activities against countries, states, municipalities, companies and consumers on a global basis, without consequence.
So, much as it has fallen to the state attorneys general to address questionable mortgage servicing practices, and to the federal court in Florida to address questionable bank overdraft practices, we must hope that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine can round up sufficient class-action participants to address JPMorgan's deplorable investment practices, its disregard of regulatory compliance and its disrespect for customers.
Jim Wells is president of Wellspring Consulting International, which seeks to expand access to financial services for consumers who do not use traditional financial institutions.