A rough year for JP Morgan gets rougher with new revelations that the bank's "Sons and Daughters" program — which involved hiring the children of prominent Chinese officials — was directly linked to netting business deals in China's booming market, according to The New York Times.
You all know I have always been a big believer of the Sons and Daughters program — it almost has a linear relationship (with business deals).
- Private e-mail from JP Morgan executive in Hong Kong office
We've known about the program since August, but what was painted as of bad taste and pompous privilege before is now more than that.
The documents and private e-mails, which were recently handed over to federal investigators, appear show an explicit link between hiring for the program and securing new business deals from powerful relatives of bank employees. That evidence could be the other shoe needed to drop before regulators could pin actual violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act on the bank.
One particular case the Times cited is that of Tang Shuangning, chairman of the China Everbright Group. After a Hong Kong JPMorgan exec urged his colleagues to "leverage more on this account going forward" and hired Tang's son, Xiaoning, at Tang's suggestion, there was a noted increase in assignments from China Everbright. When Tang's son's contract came due for renewal, an executive interceded with this e-mail:
Given where we are on China Everbright, I think we may need another contract for Xiaoning.
JPMorgan may not be the only big bank to have allegedly played it fast and loose with the letter of the law, but it has certainly dominated headlines with controversy after controversy over the last two years.
After settling with the Department of Justice to the tune of $13 billion because of charges that it misled investors during the housing crisis, it now faces an investigation by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office over its long relationship with renowned schemer Bernie Madoff, after it failed to provide regulators with a report of Madoff's suspicious behavior, even though it did provide one to a British agency more than a month before he was arrested. It also seems that they'll be fined in that case, too.
There was also that instance where an ill-advised PR ploy to invite the Twitterati to ask whatever questions it liked of JPMorgan's vice chair Jimmy Lee backfired, which most people could have seen coming, because hell hath no fury like the Internet scorned.
But PR gaffes don't compare to allegations that go beyond nepotism to possible bribery of foreign officials:
The bank once proposed another program for “full-time referrals” that would have offered the well-connected hires a one-year contract worth $70,000 to $100,000. The program, internal documents said, might offer “directly attributable linkage to business opportunity.”
JPMorgan also briefly kept “historical deal conversion” spreadsheets, according to interviews with people briefed on the investigation. In one column, JPMorgan listed job candidates; in another, the bank recorded its “track record” for winning business from companies tied to those candidates. Other spreadsheets listed well-connected hires and the revenue JPMorgan earned from deals with private and state-owned Chinese companies linked to those hires, documents show.