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New York State Has Turned Over a Vast Amount of Its Financial Affairs to 5-Count Felon JPMorgan Chase

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By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli

There’s only one thing more dangerous than the largest bank in the United States, JPMorgan Chase, being charged with (and admitting to) five criminal felony counts by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2014 and a host of other fraud charges by federal regulators. What is more dangerous is having government officials look the other way at this recidivist history of crime at the nation’s largest bank.

In May, federal banking regulators allowed JPMorgan Chase to get even bigger, despite its unprecedented crime wave, by handing it the failed First Republic Bank in a sweetheart deal.

Yesterday, we learned from online documents that the Comptroller of New York State has turned over a vast amount of the financial affairs of the fourth largest state in the country to this banking house of crime. (See related articles below.)

According to a New York State Comptroller website, JPMorgan Chase has 59 contracts with the state with a total current contract amount of $5.2 billion. The contracts include everything from banking services to the purchasing cards for state employees.

The New York State Comptroller is Thomas DiNapoli, who has held this no-term-limit position since February 7, 2007 – a span of 17 years. DiNapoli’s job description reads as follows: “The comptroller is the chief financial officer of the state government and the head of the Department of Audit and Control. The comptroller’s responsibilities include managing the state’s pension fund, auditing the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, reporting on state finances, and serving as the custodian of unclaimed funds.”

As it turns out, JPMorgan Chase has a 7-year contract with the Comptroller’s office to serve as the custodian for the securities held in the New York State Common Retirement Fund for state workers. As of September 30, 2023, the Common Retirement Fund had a value of almost a quarter of a trillion dollars, or $246.3 billion to be exact.

But the Comptroller does not want the public to know all of the granular details in its contract between JPMorgan Chase and itself. Numerous paragraphs are blacked out in the document.

According to the Common Retirement Fund’s Annual Report, JPMorgan Chase – not the Comptroller or the Fund’s auditor – calculates the rate of return for the fund. That return was indicated as “negative 4.14 percent, gross of certain investment fees” for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.

How large is this custodial business at JPMorgan Chase, which holds so many securities for other parties?

On November 24, 2020, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the federal regulator of national banks, fined JPMorgan Chase $250 million for “failure to maintain adequate internal controls and internal audit over its fiduciary business.” That business includes its custodial business. The OCC Consent Order related to that fine revealed the following:

“The Bank maintains one of the world’s largest and most complex fiduciary businesses with total fiduciary and related assets of $29.1 trillion, including $1.3 trillion in fiduciary assets and $27.8 trillion of non-fiduciary custody assets.”

To put that $29.1 trillion into the proper perspective, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reports that as of September 30, 2023 there were 4,049 commercial banks in the U.S. The total assets of those 4,049 banks was $22.2 trillion. But, somehow, just one of those banks has attracted $27.8 trillion of assets for which it serves as custodian.

Is there some secret sauce that JPMorgan Chase has going for it to attract all of that money?

In September 2020, when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released a bombshell investigative report about money laundering for criminals at some of the largest Wall Street banks, it had quite a bit to say about JPMorgan Chase. (The ICIJ investigation was based on secret documents leaked from FinCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit of the U.S. Treasury.)

According to the ICIJ report, JPMorgan Chase was involved in moving illicit funds for the fugitive, Jho Low, involving the notorious looting of public funds in Malaysia. Jho Low has been accused by multiple jurisdictions of playing a key role in the embezzlement of more than $4.5 billion from a Malaysian economic development fund, 1MDB. JPMorgan Chase moved $1.2 billion in money for Jho Low from 2013 to 2016, according to the report.

The ICIJ report also found that JPMorgan “processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade…for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.”

Equally troubling activity at JPMorgan Chase includes the following, according to ICIJ investigators:

“JPMorgan also moved money for companies and people tied to corruption scandals in Venezuela that have helped create one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. One in three Venezuelans is not getting enough to eat, the UN reported this year, and millions have fled the country.

“One of the Venezuelans who got help from JPMorgan was Alejandro ‘Piojo’ Isturiz, a former government official who has been charged by U.S. authorities as a player in an international money laundering scheme. Prosecutors allege that between 2011 and 2013 Isturiz and others solicited bribes to rig government energy contracts. The bank moved more than $63 million for companies linked to Isturiz and the money laundering scheme between 2012 and 2016, the FinCEN Files show…”

Wall Street banks like JPMorgan Chase are legally required to follow the “KYC” rule (Know Your Customer) in order to avoid moving money around for criminals. But the ICIJ investigators reveal that JPMorgan Chase paid little attention to that rule.

Less than six months ago, JPMorgan Chase settled two separate federal lawsuits against it for actively participating in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minors enterprise by turning a blind eye to glaring red flags and failing to file the legally mandated Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) as Epstein took upwards of $40,000 to $80,000 in hard cash monthly from his accounts at the bank over a decade. In return, Epstein referred ultra wealthy clients to the bank according to court documents.

JPMorgan Chase previously admitted in 2014 to two criminal charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice for banking Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme for decades (that devastated the finances of thousands of retirees) and ignoring its legal obligation to file SARs with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The settlement with the Justice Department included a penalty of $1.7 billion in restitution to Madoff victims and a promise to reform its anti-money laundering compliance programs.

The text of JPMorgan’s contract with the New York State Comptroller to custody assets for the Common Retirement Fund indicates that the New York State Comptroller found the bank to be a “responsible” entity.

Yesterday, we emailed the press office for the Comptroller and listed the nature of the five felony counts the bank has admitted to since 2014. We inquired if the Comptroller was aware of these charges. The response was that there would be no comment from the Comptroller’s office to our questions.

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