Math, government-style

I picked up the Wall Street Journal today (as I do every day) and was informed that the JPMorgan Chase omnibus settlement with the federal government "wouldn't assess harsh penalties tied to firms bank bought during financial crisis." It referred to the bank's acquisition of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual during the 2008 financial crisis at the urging of, yes, that same federal government.

But wait. According to the article, "only" $2 billion of the $13 billion settlement would be ascribed to JPMorgan's own mortgage sales and "not any for problems it inherited" from the two acquisitions. So, what about the other $11 billion that it will pay?

Read on. It seems that JPMorgan will pay $3 billion to institutional investors who lost money on bad mortgages, including those sold by Bear and WaMu. And another $4 billion to the Federal Housing Finance Agency on the same basis. Yet another $4 billion to aid homeowners who borrowed from all three banks.

Let's set aside (but not forget) that the settlement takes the money from shareholders' pockets, not from the management of any of the banks. The premise of the article — that JP Morgan was able to "limit damage" — is preposterous. And the inference that the federal government somehow showed compassion for the bank because of its complicity in the acquisitions of Bear and WaMu is belied by the fact that 85% of the settlement does indeed include the failings of the acquirees.

No wonder we have a federal debt crisis. With math like this, I cannot wait for the next analysis "proving" that our $17 trillion deficit is actually a surplus.

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