Jamie Dimon's Got 99 Problems, and Bernie Madoff Is One


The old saying that "when it rains, it pours" has perhaps never been truer for Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase .

Bank of America was once the poster child for legal issues and malfeasance in the years following the financial crisis. Considering it doled out more than $45 billion in settlements in large part related to its acquisition of Countrywide, that title was largely warranted. However, thanks to recent news, the title of most prosecuted bank may now belong to JPMorgan.

At the end of September, JPMorgan announced that it set aside an additional $9 billion in legal reserves in the third quarter, which brought the total value of what it anticipated it may pay out in additional settlements to an astonishing $23 billion. And while the bank has been hit with settlement after settlement in recent months, the one reported this week is perhaps the most disconcerting.

The worst news yet
It has been widely reported that JPMorgan will pay a $2 billion fine related to its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi-scheme. Dealbook has reported that not only will the settlement amount include the civil fines that have come to characterize the biggest banks lately, but JPMorgan will also face criminal charges for its lack of action after its employees became aware of possible improprieties related to Madoff's actions.

This news, of course, follows the record-breaking $13 billion mortgage settlement reached just a few weeks ago for the role that JPMorgan -- and the companies it acquired in Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual -- played in causing the meltdown in the years leading up to the financial crisis.

While $2 billion is certainly smaller than $13 billion, the allegations that the bank's employees turned "a blind eye" to Madoff are disheartening. Madoff is perhaps the most pointed example of greed that Americans have ever known, and you never want to hear about a bank that (through its employees) is unwilling to report such actions to the appropriate authorities.

Continuing to "move on"
After the $13 billion settlement was announced, Dimon was quoted as saying, "We are going to resolve every matter as best as we can, and then we're going to move on and serve our clients."

While the alleged actions of JPMorgan Chase and its employees surrounding the matter are deeply troubling, it also must be noted that the Financial Times reports that Dimon at a recent conference "indicated JPMorgan would pay up to resolve the Madoff matter even though the bank has maintained for five years that the claims are 'meritless.'"

Dimon was quoted as saying:

We have more to go. You read about Madoff in the paper today. We have to get some of these things behind us so we can do our job. Our job is to serve clients around the world. That's our job. So I want to get it behind us.

Perhaps we'll never know the full extent of the role (if any) that JPMorgan and its employees played in the Madoff scheme, but what we do know is that Dimon sounds like a man who has been defeated and frustrated by the weight of the charges levied against his storied institution.

One can only hope that people everywhere learn from these striking examples, as the words of Winston Churchill ring true: "It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required."

We'll find out in the coming weeks whether what is required for JPMorgan is simply settling and moving on, or admitting that it in some way played a part in Madoff's schemes. But the clear toll this has taken on Dimon -- and, indeed, all of JPMorgan -- shows us all that doing what is required is far greater than simply doing only what is best for us.

Beyond the settlements
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The article Jamie Dimon's Got 99 Problems, and Bernie Madoff Is One originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published