Editor's note: Morning Scan will not publish on Monday, Feb. 16 in observance of the Presidents' Day holiday. We'll be back on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
Receiving Wide Coverage ...
JPMorgan's Asian Shake-Up: JPMorgan Chase is forcing two executives out the door amid a federal investigation into the bank's hiring practices in Asia, anonymous sources told the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. The executives are Todd Marin, vice chairman of Asia Pacific investment banking, and Catherine Leung, head of the Hong Kong investment banking unit. The executives are thought to have participated in JPMorgan's "Sons & Daughters" hiring program, in which the offspring of influential people are hired by the bank. The tricky part, however, is making certain the bank doesn't win business as a result of these hirings, and the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission's joint probe is focusing on whether that happened. (The investigation is based on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law that bans U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials. The law does not, however, forbid the hiring of family members of government officials.) Although federal investigators typically do not force companies to make personnel moves based on FCPA investigations, JPMorgan may have pushed the two executives out as a way to be "seen in a better light" by removing employees that prosecutors had targeted. In an unusual twist to the dismissals, both Marin and Leung are thought to be close to having their JPMorgan stock options vesting. JPMorgan wants the employees to leave now, to prevent them from receiving the vested options, the Journal said. However, the executives still may receive the options later, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Wall Street Journal
After American Express made the decision to part ways with Costco, the warehouse-club retailer is now expected to field offers from outside banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, anonymous sources told the Journal. Under the current arrangement the only credit card Costco, accepts is Amex. It isn't clear if Costco, now that the Amex partnership is ending, will accept multiple branded credit cards like Visa and MasterCard. (Costco does accept Visa and MasterCard-branded debit cards.)
Where'd the money go? Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, warned the Obama administration to turn over documents related to multibillion-dollar settlements with big banks, or face a political battle. Goodlatte and other Republican lawmakers want to know where the estimated $36.6 billion has been spent and they suspect the money was funneled to left-leaning political activist groups.
New York Times
Were the mortgage lending actions that helped spur the financial crisis legal or not? President Obama and financial executives say yes, they were legal. A new study by two academics presents an opposing view, and focuses on the practice of overstating a borrower's income to allow the borrower to obtain a larger loan. The academics who authored the study, Atif Mian of Princeton University and Amir Sufi of the University of Chicago, wrote that "buyer income overstatement was higher in low-credit score ZIP codes because of fraudulent misreporting of buyers' true income."