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May 20, 2014

New DOJ Filing Doubles Down on Secrecy over JP Morgan Settlement

Washington, D.C., May 20, 2014 – In a new filing yesterday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeks to prevent any transparency, oversight or accountability for its historic and unprecedented agreement to give JP Morgan Chase total civil immunity for years of illegal conduct contributing to the subprime mortgage bubble and the 2008 financial crisis it caused. 

The Department’s filing comes in response to a lawsuit filed in February by Better Markets challenging its authority to enter the settlement.  The Department is reportedly poised to reach a similar settlement with Bank of America.

Dennis Kelleher, President and CEO of Better Markets, made the following statement:

“The American system of government is based on checks and balances as well as on transparency so that the American people can be informed and hold the government accountable.  DOJ’s mostly secret actions in granting the biggest, richest, most politically well-connected bank in the U.S. blanket civil immunity for years of egregious illegal conduct that touched every single American violates all those principals.  The executive branch through DOJ simply cannot, on its own and without any review or approval by anyone, including the courts, cut such an historic deal and leave the American public in the dark.

“Americans have already watched their government bail out Wall Street and save the banks with no strings, while Americans from coast to coast suffered from the economic calamity that Wall Street’s illegal conduct caused.  Given that our government now claims to be bringing accountability to Wall Street, citizens are entitled to know the key facts related to this case to judge for themselves and to have an independent court evaluate the settlement to determine if it is in fact fair and in the public interest.  The trust, confidence and faith of the American people in their institutions of government are at stake in this case.

“The Department of Justice has had every opportunity to be transparent about this process and allow a court to determine whether or not the deal is fair to the American people.  Instead, the Department is continuing to fight to keep the details of JP Morgan’s illegal activities a state secret, and prevent the public from learning the full truth about the damage that JP Morgan Chase and Wall Street did to our economy.  Their filing today simply doubles down on secrecy – hiding JP Morgan’s dirty deeds at the expense of the public’s right to know.

“What was the extent of JP Morgan’s culpability in triggering the financial crisis?  How much potential liability did the company have?  Does $13 billion represent JP Morgan’s fair share of the blame for a crisis whose ongoing economic cost is at least $13 trillion?  There is no way to know – because the Justice Department agreed to keep all of those important details hidden.  Ironically, the only thing we do know about this settlement is that it is almost all tax deductible – yet another windfall for Wall Street while taxpayers again get stuck with the bill.

“As the Financial Times editorial page noted: ‘While the magnitude of the penalty hints at significant wrongdoing, the bank has been able to get away without admitting any significant details about its past misconduct, the identities of those responsible or the magnitude of its violations. This makes it impossible to know whether the penalty levied is appropriate. Justice may or may not have been done; it has certainly not been seen to be done. This is particularly troubling given the immunity JP Morgan bought for $13 billion.’”

For more information, see the Better Markets’ press release and detailed fact sheet on the lawsuit.   

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Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies – including many in finance – to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit www.bettermarkets.com.

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