Better Markets Files Lawsuit Challenging the U.S. Department of Justice’s Unlawful, Unprecedented and Unilateral Agreement Granting JP Morgan Chase Blanket Immunity In Exchange for $13 Billion

Feb 10 2014 - 12:00pm
Better Markets Files Lawsuit Challenging the U.S. Department of Justice’s Unlawful, Unprecedented and Unilateral Agreement Granting JP Morgan Chase Blanket Immunity In Exchange for $13 Billion
Executive Branch Acted as Investigator, Prosecutor, Judge, Jury, Sentencer and Collector without Any Court Review or Approval
(Washington, D.C.) Better Markets, Inc. today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Justice Department’s authority to unilaterally enter into the unprecedented and historic $13 billion agreement with JP Morgan Chase, which was the largest settlement with a single entity in the nation’s history by more than 300%. The November 2013 agreement gave JP Morgan Chase – with no judicial review or approval – blanket civil immunity for years of alleged pervasive, egregious and knowing fraudulent and illegal conduct that contributed to the 2008 financial crash and the worst economy since the Great Depression.  
“The Wall Street bailouts were bad enough, but now taxpayers are being forced to accept a secretive backroom deal that may well have been another sweetheart deal. The Justice Department cannot act as prosecutor, jury and judge and extract $13 billion in exchange for blanket civil immunity to the largest, richest, most politically-connected bank on Wall Street. The executive branch does not have this unilateral power because it violates the constitutional requirement of checks and balances,” said Dennis Kelleher, President and CEO of Better Markets, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in the financial markets.
“Adding insult to injury, the Department of Justice did all this in an agreement that appears to have been written more to conceal than reveal. For example, it is using the large dollar amount to blind everyone to the reality that they have disclosed no meaningful facts about what JP Morgan Chase did, who did it, who it hurt, how much they profited and how much their clients, customers and others lost. The American people deserve, and the law requires, an independent judicial review to determine whether the settlement is fair and whether it can withstand scrutiny in the light of day,” Mr. Kelleher said.
To put the $13 billion settlement in perspective, the financial crisis that JP Morgan Chase contributed to  will ultimately cost Americans more than $13 trillion and some estimates are that it could cost every man, woman and child in the U.S. as much as $120,000. A monetary sanction of $13 billion seems small given it contributed to such economic wreckage and given the size of JP Morgan Chase, a bank with $2.4 trillion in assets. The point is, however, that making an informed judgment about the substance of the agreement is simply impossible without judicial review and the disclosure of meaningful information.    
Better Markets is asking the court to declare the agreement unlawful and to issue an injunction that would prevent the DOJ from enforcing the agreement until the agreement has been reviewed and approved by a court. As part of the judicial review, a court would have the opportunity to ask the parties for more details, which would become publicly available, about JP Morgan’s violations and the extent of the damages they caused. 
A fact sheet and other information on the lawsuit are available on Better Markets’ website.
Better Markets is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes the public interest in financial reform in the domestic and global capital and commodity markets. Better Markets advocates for transparency, oversight and accountability with the goal of a stronger, safer financial system that is less prone to crisis and failure, thereby eliminating or minimizing the need for more taxpayer funded bailouts.