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OCC's Collections Scrutiny Squeezes JPMorgan

Regulators have yet to finish cracking down on JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) credit card collection operations, but the bank already appears to be paying a hefty price.

The bank's recoveries of previously charged off credit card debts have fallen by 41%, or almost $600 million, over the past two years. While likely due in part to a broader industry slowdown in card losses, JPMorgan's slump far outpaces declines in recoveries at other big credit card issuers.

It also coincides with regulators' mounting scrutinyof the bank's methods for pursuing borrowers who fall behind on their card debts.

The drop in recoveries, coming after JPMorgan stopped or slowed many collections activities, could serve as a warning to other banks. Lower recoveries may be an inevitable cost of retooling banks' credit card debt collection operations to comply with regulators' increasingly high expectations.

Big banks try to offset their losses from bad consumer loans by suing the delinquent borrowers or by selling the debts to outside collection agencies for pennies on the dollar. Recoveries of those losses can make significant silver linings for banks' credit card write-offs; JPMorgan Chase reported $1.37 billion in so-called "recoveries" for 2010.

Two years later, that figure shrank to $811 million. The drop-off in JPMorgan's recoveries coincides with an investigation the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency began in 2011 into the bank's credit card collections practices, amid broader scrutiny of the industry's practices.

While the bank has said it expects an OCC enforcement action, it has also reined in its own efforts to recover money from delinquent borrowers. In the past two years, JPMorgan has stopped filing its own credit card collections lawsuits against borrowers, and in recent months it has stopped most sales of charged-off consumer debt to outside agencies. Both decisions appear to have taken a toll on recoveries.

A JPMorgan Chase spokesman declined to comment.

Regulatory scrutiny of banks' debt collections and debt sales practices is mounting across the industry in general and at JPMorgan in particular. In June, California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan, claiming that it had consistently taken procedural shortcuts and used illegal "robo-signing" techniques to sue thousands of borrowers with inadequate documentation of the debts.

Banks are collecting less money from recoveries in part because there is less debt to recover; credit card loss rates have fallen steadily after peaking in 2009, meaning that banks now have fewer delinquent customers to sue and fewer bad debts to sell off.

Most other big banks have recorded smaller declines in their credit card recoveries over the past two years. Bank of America (BAC), Capitol One (COF), American Express (AXP) and Wells Fargo (WFC) have all seen their recoveries fall 8% to 16% from 2010 to 2012. (Discover's (DFS) recoveries rose and Citigroup (NYSE:C) does not break out its credit card recoveries from other consumer loans.

But industry members say that the outsize recovery slump at JPMorgan could be a warning to other banks of things to come.

"The fundamentals of the debt collection business have been moving towards lower levels of recoveries for awhole slate of reasons," says Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading

He points to the increased attention that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators are paying to debt collection. Earlier this year, the OCC began issuing its bank examiners a four-page set of "best practices" to be used in evaluating banks' sales of delinquent consumer debts to third parties.

"We have seen the CFPB prioritize its focus on industries by the total number of consumers those industries touch. Debt collection is primed to be one of the next areas of focus for that exact reason," Boltansky says. "It cuts throughout almost all consumer financial products and it's an area that's ripe for new rules."

Credit card recoveries tend to lag the business cycle, with banks stockpiling charged-off accounts during bad times and collecting on them as time and economic circumstance allow. Lenders keep the written-off accounts for months or even years, hiring outside collections firms and attorneys to pursue recoveries. Those efforts generally recoup most of the value from the bad debt, leaving remnants that banks typically sell for a few pennies on the dollar.

Much of banks' current collection activity focuses on the backlog of bad debt from the recession. Even as charge-off rates fell sharply over the last three years, banks' recoveries from debt collection and sales stayed fairly stable.

JPMorgan could eventually rebound from its recovery slump, if it reaches a point where it returns to selling off or filing lawsuits on the bad debts it currently holds. But delays often worsen collectors' chances to recover money from delinquent consumers, meaning that banks will have an uphill battle to improve their recovery rates in the immediate future.


(2) Comments



Comments (2)
I am the whistleblower talked about in American Banker and other media so much about charse illegal credit card collections and lawsuits as well as instrey wide and debt sales. The received and OCC Consent Order with a cooperation agreement that since they agreed they stopped all litigation and the debt sales of bogus data and amounts refunded and dismissed the previous ones dating back to 1/1/2009 and still aren't litigating. My self, media and several certified fraud examiners have scoured courts in states all over the coutry I can't find one not filled with lawsuits all in violations and all the same people. Just whle the OCC was on site in the audits they moved the process to another site. I was also the whilstleblower on the other major credit card companies and banks as well an nearly all collection agencies and debt buyers to the SEX, OCC, CFPB, FTC, DOJ multiple attorney genreals ans have worked closely with the NY Times, WSJ, CBS, Washington Post, American Banker, CBS, USA Today and Rolling Stone plus I am featured in Matt Taibbis new Book the divide chapter 8 has a lot more details that other media stories. I am collecting the lawsuits whether the people owed the money or not if they were sue by chace someone they bought or sold it to a collection agency or attorney network. I am proving to the OCC and CFPB they were made fools and the only difference was they increased the volume and dollar amounts. Like a couple of years ago when I grabbed Matt Taibii and stomed the SEC and order they take all evidence and acknoldege it then went on a year long media series. I have a coupld of more days to collect these accoutns sued from 1/1/09 to now and am personally taking them all to DC, several AG's and going to catch up with the writers I have made friends with thank god my writing sucks. Tomorrow I leave on a five thousand mole road trip searchinf courthouses, finding the victims and making their day helping them no matter what bank or debt buyer but only consumer accounts not mortgage me, friends that are top fraud examiners DOJ, attorneys wtc are going to attack those cases like nuclear bombs and be pulishing youjtube videos like a websiers every day to tach people how to help them selves all kinds of loopholes (the banks teach all the loopholes well and we are going after them for you with a team that normally would be tens of thousands up front for nothing. Peoples names, faces and voices can be sidsguides. We are calling it who wants to rob a bank. I am seeing case law some of these cases getting 50-100k in damages for violations and emotional distress plus I developed models for past present and future damages. In reality they can do all the fines and orders in the world the only way to stop it and fix it hit them where it hurts the accountability model. Becuase these violations are intentional we may get our first criminal charges. Get this out to everyone you know and have them email almontex6.la@gmail.com We have one shot to finally get this done, help millions and put billions back into the economy actually better than any stimuours in history and doesn't cost tax payers a thing. Look around by mine and others calculations 8 of 10 people you know are victims and don't know it till it is too late. So even if you already paid. settled so on please contact me. I had and have nothing to gain but lost everything to do the right thing at the expense of me and my family along with countless other employees that tried to back me up and were put through hell. Linda Almonte
Posted by My4thijngs | Friday, January 23 2015 at 3:56AM ET
How long can the OCC go on pretending to be surprised by JPMChase's anti-consumer unfair, deceptive & abusive acts & practices? Could the agency be incapable of spotting a pattern in foreclosing on members of the armed forces, using fraudulent 'robo-signed' documents to sue delinquent homeowners and credit card holders, overcharging distressed homeowners for force-placed insurance, inflating fees for inspections, brokers' estimates and other 'property preservation services', and wrongfully steering retirement plan customers into in-house investments?
Posted by jim_wells | Tuesday, July 09 2013 at 10:13AM ET
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