Whenever I hear the phrase "financial crisis" used in the past tense, as in, "Boy, that sure was some financial crisis," I try and remind the speaker, in as gentle a manner as possible, that the financial crisis is far from over: that it is, in fact, alive and well. Case in point: allegations that Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) may have hidden up to $12 billion dollars in paper losses from 2007 to 2009 suddenly exploding into the news on Wednesday.
Mark to whatsit?
Financial Times is reporting that three former Deutsche employees, all from the bank's U.S. operations, filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission at different times and independent of each other, in 2010 and 2011.
These alleged hidden losses would have been the result of traders intentionally misreporting a massive derivatives position the bank had built up. Had the position been recorded in the proper mark-to-market fashion, so the thinking goes, the losses (as little as $4 billion or as much as $12 billion) might have resulted in the bank being bailed out by the government, as so many other banks were in the worst days of the crisis.
Tis the season for suing banks
Deutsche is claiming that the complaints are old, that they were made public in 2011, and that they are "wholly unfounded." Deutsche is the world's biggest bank by assets, is Germany's flagship bank, and -- not having been bailed out by the state -- has retained a certain coolness and cachet through bad times that it doesn't want to lose to what it considers slanderous old news.
One of the three whistleblowers is currently suing Deutsche for wrongful dismissal, and these allegations have resurface as a result of that. But nothing's come out that U.S. regulators are about to file suit against Deutsche. It's not out of the question, however. Tis the season, for certain. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) have both found themselves in regulators' gun sights this fall alone. With $1.93 trillion in cash on its balance sheet, Deutsche would survive all but the most outrageous fine levied in the event of a lawsuit, but could certainly do without it.
But be of good cheer, Fools: The financial crisis is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks for reading and for thinking. Got big, unwieldy banks on the brain? Check out The Motley Fool's brand-new report on Bank of America. In it, our analysts give you a thorough detailing of the superbank's prospects along with three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here for full access.
Fool contributor John Grgurich owns no shares of any of the company's mentioned in this column. Follow John's dispatches from the bleeding edge of capitalism on Twitter @TMFGrgurich. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America Corporation. The Motley Fool has a delightful disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.