JPMorgan Investors Get Blindsided Again

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The fun continues at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) for bank executives and bank investors. The New York Times is reporting today that the country's biggest bank is under investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for "manipulative schemes" in the California and Michigan electric markets. 

This is less than a week after JPMorgan lost yet another top executive. The markets have responded to this news with a 1.02% drop in the share price.

Manipulative schemes and more
The Times' source for the breaking news is what was intended to be a confidential document sent by the federal government to the bank this past March. According to the document, the above-mentioned manipulative schemes allegedly "transformed 'money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers.'"

The document also said that "one of [JPMorgan's] most senior executives gave 'false and misleading statements'" under oath. That senior executive is reportedly Blythe Masters, the current head of JPMorgan's commodities business. She is, perhaps, best known as one of the stars of Fool's Gold, the book by Financial Times' columnist Gillian Tett on the creation of the derivatives industry.

Is there ever a good time for bad news?
The bank knew that this was happening, but investors didn't. I don't blame the bank for keeping this under wraps, especially since no official action has been undertaken by the FERC, but it comes at a difficult time for JPMorgan, and maybe CEO Jamie Dimon, in particular.

Less than a week ago, it was announced that Frank Bisignano, one of Dimon's longtime lieutenants, was leaving the bank to become CEO of First Data Corp, a global payments processor. Bisignano had been co-chief operating officer of JPMorgan, with Matt Zames, until this past Monday. Post London Whale, Bisignano had been one of Dimon's key cleanup men, and was rumored to be one of several in line to someday succeed Dimon as CEO.

Speaking of Jamie Dimon, he's facing a proxy vote to split his dual role of CEO and COB. This comes as a result of last year's London Whale trading scandal and attendant $6 billion-plus loss.

Investors are showing their displeasure at this latest bit of bad news by driving the superbank's share price down. They may also decide to show their displeasure on May 21 at the annual shareholder's meeting by voting Jamie Dimon out of his role as chairman.

I personally think that would be a bad move for the bank. For all the problems it's faced in the past two years, it's still been incredibly profitable and, in my opinion, Dimon is still the best risk manager in banking. Unfortunately for him, other investors may not see things that way. 

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9/23/2016 4:00 PM
JPM $67.25 Down -0.14 -0.21%
JPMorgan Chase CAPS Rating: ****