While many in the financial industry have claimed that the Justice Department's settlement with JPMorgan is primarily punitive — at $13 billion, it's the largest in history to be paid by a single firm — numbers released today show that at least $10 billion will go towards investors and citizens affected by the bank's mortgage-backed securities business that contributed to the 2008 crisis. Between $2 billion and $3 billion will be collected as a fine.
The New York Times reports that $4 billion will go towards relief for struggling homeowners in "cities like Detroit." Investors (like pension funds) who suffered losses based on the mortgage securities sold by the bank will get $6 billion.
Some in the financial industry think the money should not go to average citizens. "The parties harmed are not consumers," Joshua Rosner, managing director of the research firm Graham Fisher & Co, told The Washington Post. "They're investors in mortgage securities, which includes pension plans and union members. Rather than the government taking the opportunity to provide relief for the actual victims, the focus is to provide relief to consumers? This seems beyond reason and logic." So yes, Wall Street is still quibbling about who the "actual victims" of the housing crisis are.
The Justice Department is playing this case out strategically, because if it goes smoothly, the DOJ will use it as a blueprint to sue other banks who contributed to the 2008 crisis. The Post reports that according to a law enforcement official familiar with the proceedings, the DOJ plans "to expand the use of a 1980s law that carries a relatively low burden of proof and gives prosecutors 10 years to pursue such cases, twice as long as under standard securities law." This law requires some settlement money to be set aside for consumers (like the $4 billion in the JPMorgan case). And it gives the DOJ plenty of time to prosecute banks over the next few years.
Banks may or may not play ball, however. Under the law, they could avoid criminal prosecution by paying higher penalties. If they don't, the possibility of criminal prosecution remains. Currently the DOJ is still investigating whether JPMorgan and its CEO Jamie Dimon knew they were selling faulty mortgage securities before the crisis (i.e. committing a crime). Dimon has pleaded with Attorney General Eric Holder to drop the criminal investigation as part of the bank's settlement, but Holder said no.
In other words, Dimon's ordeal isn't over, and other financial industry CEOs could soon find themselves in similarly unfortunate positions.