Rockford School District victim in JPMorgan Chase bid-rigging scheme
Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — Rockford Public School District 205 and Rochelle Community Hospital Association are among the victims of a bid-rigging and anticompetitive practice scheme conducted by JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPMC).
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) announced July 7 a $92 million multistate settlement with JPMC over a scheme to rig bids and engage in anticompetitive practices that defrauded local municipalities, schools, hospitals and prominent nonprofits that purchased municipal bond derivatives from the bank.
“JPMorgan Chase concocted a scheme to enrich themselves by cheating hospitals and schools out of much-needed resources,” Madigan said. “Today’s settlement will restore funding to agencies throughout Illinois for use as they originally intended — to improve services in their communities.”
Madigan joined 23 states and the District of Columbia in the settlement, which will result in more than $2.2 million in restitution for Illinois municipalities, school districts, hospitals and nonprofits harmed by the bank’s efforts to orchestrate illegal bids for municipal derivatives.
JPMC is the third financial institution to settle with the multistate working group in the ongoing municipal bond derivatives investigation. Bank of America and UBS previously settled with the states for $67 million and $90.8 million, respectively.
The July 7 agreement centered on allegations that from 2001 to 2005, JPMC conspired with financial institutions and brokers to rig bid prices for municipal derivatives, circumventing the competitive bidding process. In some instances, JPMC and other financial institutions communicated directly with each other, and not through brokers, to fix prices or to fix rates or key terms of these transactions.
Brokers also frequently offered JPMC and other financial entities the unfair advantage of reviewing other bids, thus rigging who would win the deal.
Municipalities, schools and other organizations typically issue municipal bonds to fund capital projects. Once bonds are issued, the money is typically placed into accounts to spend as the local entity incurs expenses for the project. Because the money from the bonds does not need to be spent immediately, the entity that issued the bonds typically seeks to invest the money and may also use strategies to manage or transfer the bond’s interest rate risk. These investment accounts and risk management products — which are collectively called “municipal bond derivatives” — are offered by large financial institutions.
Other entities affected by the bank’s scheme and the settlement include the following:
Chicago area — Chicago Midway Airport, Chicago O’Hare Airport, Chicago Park District, Chicago Transit Authority, City of Chicago, City of Elmhurst, City of Evanston, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, Evanston Northwestern Hospital, Field Museum of Natural History, Glenbard Schools, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Village of Schaumburg and YMCA of Chicago.
Greater Illinois — City of Bloomington, Kishwaukee Health System and Metro East Transit District of St. Clair County.
Madigan said JPMC’s practices illegally and unreasonably restrained competition in the sale of these municipal derivatives in violation of Illinois’ antitrust laws. This conduct brought on financial harm to municipalities, local agencies such as hospitals and schools, and nonprofits that relied on JPMC’s services. Entities that purchased a municipal derivative from JPMC will be eligible to receive restitution as part of this settlement.
Other states joining in the JPMC settlement include Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The states’ investigation into financial institutions involved in this scheme remains ongoing in conjunction with a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.
Bureau Chief Robert W. Pratt and Assistant Attorney General Jamie Manning are handling this case for Madigan’s Antitrust Bureau.
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