Jamie Dimon as the Steven Cohen of Banking
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Could Jamie Dimon possibly find himself joining Steven A. Cohen among the government's favorite Wall Street targets?
Vanity Fair recently wondered whether embattled hedge funder Cohen is the government's White Whale , who eludes U.S. attorney Preet Bharara's monomaniacal pursuit of insider trading on Wall Street. Now, after JPMorgan
On Thursday, the Securities and Exchange Commission got its biggest-ever failure to supervise admission after JPMorgan acknowledged it violated federal securities laws and its senior management failed to ensure that traders in the bank's now-disbanded Chief Investment Office (CIO) properly valued a portfolio of illiquid structured products that swelled to over $150 billion by early 2012.
In spirit, the SEC's action against JPMorgan is similar to a recently delayed administrative action against Cohen, which sought to bar the billionaire hedge fund manager from the securities industry for failing to supervise a handful of traders at his firm, S.A.C Capital Advisors , who have subsequently pleaded guilty to a litany of insider trading violations and face significant prison time.
For now, it appears JPMorgan's management and particularly the outspoken Dimon should be thankful the SEC is pinning blame on the bank and not executives at the firm. In contrast to the SEC's delayed action against Cohen, no top level executive at JPMorgan faces an industry ban.
Like the probe into SAC Capital, it also appears criminal action over JPMorgan's "London Whale" trades could be limited to relatively junior level employees. Two JPMorgan traders were recently indicted for their involvement in the CIO's trading loss and one has turned government informant.
JPMorgan's admission in the SEC settlement is the type of result the public has been asking that the SEC seek out, five years after the banking industry's near-collapse exposed systemic flaws in firms' business models, opaque financial reporting and the prospect of widespread fraud throughout all channels of the subprime mortgage market.
Still, headlines may overstate what the SEC has actually achieved. Meanwhile, the biggest revelation of Thursday's settlement may be that the regulator continues to investigate individuals involved with the trading loss.
"Although today's settlement resolves claims against JPMorgan relating to this matter, our investigation is continuing as to individuals," the SEC said.
In that sense, one wonders how different regulatory actions against JPMorgan are to those brought against SAC Capital.
Could the SEC find reason to recommend criminal charges or administrative against any of the senior managers who the regulator believes caused JPMorgan to violate federal securities laws? Is Jamie Dimon the Steven Cohen of the banking industry?