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商业 - 金融

摩根大通130亿美元天价罚款是变相贿赂

Stephen Gandel 2013年10月23日

报道称,摩根大通已经跟监管部门达成和解,愿意支付130亿美元了结针对它在按揭债券业务中误导消费者的指控。有人说,这笔天价罚款是勒索。也有人说,这样的惩罚不公平。但吉米?戴蒙身为美国最大银行的掌门人知道自己在做什么。这笔钱与其说是罚款,不如说是给监管部门的甜头。

摩根大通CEO吉米?戴蒙

????很多人都在问,报道所述摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)接受130亿美元罚款就其在按揭债券业务中误导消费者的指控达成和解,这样天价的罚款是不是过头了?毕竟,这个金额将成为所有单一某家银行支付给监管机构的最高和解金。

????但或许,我们更应该问的是:为什么摩根大通CEO吉米?戴蒙会同意支付这130亿美元?

????的确,监管机构有足够的证据证明,摩根大通及其收购的贝尔斯登(Bear Stearns)和华盛顿互惠银行(Washington Mutual)向投资者出售的债券与他们所宣称的不符。但过去每家银行都这么干。而且,也没有证据表明,摩根大通是最严重的违纪者。房利美(Fannie)和房地美(Freddie)在美国银行(Bank of America)及其收购的Countrywide承销的债券上损失的钱更多。

????当然了,这不是有效的辩护,但在考量摩根大通到底应该支付多少钱时应该考虑这个因素。而且,去年,美国司法部(Justice Department)和美国证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC)撤销了一项针对高盛(Goldman Sachs)的类似案件,没有提出任何指控。SEC针对富国银行(Wells Fargo)出售按揭债券的调查已经持续了近一年半,看起来也将无疾而终。

????摩根大通甚至都没有获得刑事指控豁免权。美国政府面临一场艰难的斗争,即便是罚了130亿美元后,这些指控仍然有风险。130亿美元是什么概念,比亿万富翁艾伦?穆斯克建造hyperloop超级高铁的成本还要高约50亿美元。

????有些人称这样的天价罚款就是敲诈。美国政府将摩根大通逼入死角,开出尽可能高的罚款,因为它知道这家银行付得起这笔钱。《华尔街日报》(The Wall Street Journal)干脆以“《被敲诈的摩根大通》(The Morgan Shakedown)”为题发表了一篇评论文章。

????但看起来摩根大通必须付钱,而且必须现在就付。很难知道这家银行的董事会想要什么,但没有什么证据证明,戴蒙是被人用枪指着头被迫签署的这项交易。摩根大通的股价在过去一年涨了28%,尽管同期它的法律诉讼问题已经在恶化。因此,看起来也不像是股东们强烈要求达成一项和解。如果戴蒙认为这样的和解不合理,他原本应该反击这些指控。

????看待摩根大通巨额罚款的另一种方式是:或许,这是贿赂。监管机构一直期望在与银行的斗争中胜一局。他们本可以敦促吉米?戴蒙从CEO职位上离职,或者迫使他放弃董事长兼CEO的双重职位。鉴于这家银行最近面临的监管和法律问题,敦促戴蒙放弃董事长兼CEO的双重职位看起来是合理的惩罚。

????而且,请记住,虽然摩根大通此次计划和解的投资者损失有80%源自贝尔斯登或华盛顿互惠银行发售的债券,但这并不意味着这两家银行要承担80%的过错。美国司法部的那宗民事案件似乎是推动这项巨额和解的动力,而该案件的依据是摩根大通在2005年至2007年发售的按揭债券,远远早于它收购着两家银行。而那段时期的大部分时间里,戴蒙都是公司的CEO。

????A lot of people are questioning whether JPMorgan Chase's reported fine of $13 billion to settle claims that it misled investors in mortgage bonds is excessive. It would, after all, be the largest settlement any single bank has ever paid to regulators.

????But perhaps the better question is this: Why did CEO Jamie Dimon agree, if it has, to $13 billion?

????Yes, regulators have plenty of evidence that JPMorgan (JPM) -- along with Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, both of which JPMorgan bought -- sold bonds to investors that were not what they claimed. But every bank did that. And there is no evidence that JPMorgan was the worst offender. Fannie and Freddie lost more money on bonds underwritten by Bank of America (BAC) and Countrywide, which BofA acquired.

????That, of course, isn't a good defense, but it should play into considerations of just how much money JPMorgan should have to pay. What's more, last year, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission dropped a similar case it had pursued against Goldman Sachs (GS) without bringing charges. An SEC case against Wells Fargo (WFC) for selling mortgage bonds that the regulator has been pursuing for close to a year and a half appears to have gone nowhere.

????JPMorgan isn't even getting immunity from criminal charges. The government faces an uphill battle, but those charges are still a risk even after $13 billion, which, just for comparison, is about $5 billion more than it would cost to build Elon Musk's hyperloop.

????Some have called the fine extortion. The government has JPMorgan in the corner, and it's extracting as big a fine as it possibly can because it knows the bank can pay. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on the fine titled "The Morgan Shakedown."

????But that assumes JPMorgan had to pay, and that it had to pay now. It is hard to know what the bank's board of directors wanted, but there is little evidence there was a gun to Dimon's head to make a deal. JPMorgan's stock is up 28% in the past year, even as the bank's legal problems have intensified. So, it doesn't seem like shareholders were pushing for a settlement. Dimon could have fought the charges if he thought it was a bad deal.

????Here's another way to look at JPMorgan's outsize fine: Perhaps it was a payoff. Regulators were looking for a win against banks. They could have pushed for Jamie Dimon to step down as CEO, or they could have forced him to give up his role as both chairman and CEO. Given the regulatory and legal troubles the bank has faced recently, pushing for Dimon to give up his dual role at the company would seem like justified punishment.

????And remember, while 80% of the investor losses that JPMorgan is settling were on bonds originated by either Bear Stearns or Washington Mutual, that doesn't mean that 80% of the wrongdoing was committed by those two banks. The Justice Department's civil case, which appears to be the impetus for the large settlement, was based on mortgage bonds that JPMorgan sold from 2005 to 2007, well before it bought either of those banks. Dimon was the CEO for much of that time.

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