Wall Street Regulator Coddles Big Banks but Clobbers Small Firms

Lenient treatment from the SEC leaves misconduct unchecked

From Roll Call 6/28/2018

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest financial services firm, has paid $28 billion to settle cases brought by federal agencies in the past 10 years, most of them related to the 2008 financial crisis.

Yet the massive fines extracted from banks like JPMorgan for their role in the Wall Street meltdown have done little to deter other types of misconduct in the decade since, and one reason is lenient treatment from the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to our analysis of SEC enforcement records with a Georgetown University law professor.

Moreover, the analysis shows that the SEC has come down much harder on smaller financial institutions for violations that generally pale in comparison to those of the big firms.

Over the past 10 years, JPMorgan Chase has been named in more than a dozen other cases brought by federal regulators unrelated to the financial crisis, including allegations of rigging bids in the municipal bond market, manipulating rates on foreign currency exchanges and charging excessive fees on credit card accounts.

In seven of those cases, all of which the SEC settled with fines totaling $2.26 billion, the charges were serious enough to trigger added, supposedly mandatory, penalties, including automatic disqualification from certain trading privileges on Wall Street and closer monitoring by the commission. But in every instance the SEC waived those penalties, enabling JPMorgan to continue business as usual.

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