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JPMorgan Mortgage-Securities Deal Challenge Tossed by Judge

bloomberg.com | March 23, 2015

By Andrew Zajac

(Bloomberg) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s $13 billion fraud settlement with the U.S. can’t be blocked by a watchdog group because it couldn’t prove it was harmed by the deal.

Better Markets Inc.’s lawsuit challenging the U.S Justice Department’s agreement with the bank was dismissed by a federal judge. The group, founded by a hedge fund manager, “failed to meet its burden to show it has suffered an injury in fact, and consequently it cannot demonstrate standing,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington ruled.

The government’s agreement with JPMorgan, announced in November 2013, settled allegations that the biggest U.S. lender by assets misled investors and the public when it sold bonds backed by faulty residential mortgages.

U.S. and state officials blamed JPMorgan’s actions for helping to cause the credit crisis and said the agreement didn’t shield the bank or its employees from possible criminal charges.

The agreement was the largest settlement “with a single entity in the 237-year history of the U.S.,” Better Markets said in its February 2014 complaint. “No one has any ability to determine if the $13 billion agreement is fair” or if it is a “sweetheart deal,” the group said in the filing.

Better Markets describes itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes the public interest in financial reform.” It was founded by Michael Masters, a managing member of Atlanta-based Masters Capital Management.

Ruling Criticized

Howell’s decision Wednesday doesn’t address the merits of Better Markets’s complaint, Dennis Kelleher, the group’s president and chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement.

Under the decision, “no one has standing to challenge DOJ’s actions even when senior political appointees secretly negotiate legal immunity in exchange for a $13 billion payment from the country’s largest, most politically connected too-big-to-fail Wall Street bank,” Kelleher said. Better Markets hasn’t decided whether to appeal, he said.

Nicole Navas, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement that the department was pleased with the decision and is “serious about examining the root causes of the financial crisis, and holding the appropriate people and companies accountable.”

The case is Better Markets Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice, 14-cv-00190, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

 

 

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