Following a long weekend of reports about flaws with JPMorgan's risk management committee, Reuters reported Tuesday the bank has sold about $25 billion of securities to offset losses the firm has suffered in its Chief Investment Office via the now infamous 'London Whale' trade. After accounting for taxes and based on the firm's historic gains on securities sales, Reuters estimates selling $25 billion in securities would generate about $1 billion.
Adding insult to injury, Japanese regulators are investigating JP Morgan for alleged violations of insider trading rules by selling short shares of Nippon Sheet Glass ahead of a stock sale JPMorgan was underwriting.
All this, and much more, will be the subject of discussion and questioning when Jamie Dimon appears before the Senate Banking Committee, currently slated for June 7. (Fox Business reports the firm is trying to get the hearing postponed to be closer to a House hearing, tentatively scheduled for June 20.)
Whenever Dimon appears you can almost guarantee he will be asked about JPMorgan's risk controls and whether he now regrets so publicly lobbying against the Volcker Rule, which would severely restrict banks' proprietary trading.
Last week, SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro told the Senate Banking Committee the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the "appropriateness and completeness" of JPMorgan's "financial reporting."
Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said the CFTC is also investigating trades that led to JPMorgan's loss of $2 billion -- and counting.
Michael Pento, President of Pento Portfolio Strategies, has a question for all the regulators now circling around JPMorgan: "Why is it that more regulators are needed...when we had all these regulatory bodies in place" before the credit crisis of 2008?
Pento is particularly critical of the Federal Reserve for policies that led to the housing and credit bubbles earlier this decade. "I'm not absolving the bank" but the Fed is also "in part responsible for what happened at JPMorgan," he declares, citing the Fed's zero interest rate policy as the source of much of the world's ills.
Banks taking in deposits can't leave them at the Fed earning 25 basis points, he says, referring to the interest the Fed pays banks on reserve balances held at the central bank.
"So they go out and gamble...and they have to gamble on dangerous insolvent sovereign debt and then they write CDS against that. They have to do back flips to try to generate yield."
Pento's solution to all this is a return to the gold standard with a 100% fractional reserve banking system, wherein banks only keep a small portion of deposits on reserve and the rest are mostly lent out.
"That is the natural god-given regulation to control the supply of money," he says. "But we don't have that."
Nor are we about to get it...barring a total collapse of the banking system which would make JPMorgan's $2 billion (and counting) loss really look like a 'tempest in a teapot.'