The Toll of Noncompliance

Noncompliance banking

New York, New York, September 13, 2013 – It’s no secret that many large US brokerage houses have come under scrutiny in the aftermath of the great recession, along with many of the practices that are blamed for bringing about the economic decline. As regulators continue to sort through the financial rubble and investigate these firms with a punitive eye, legal related expenses continue to amass at staggering levels.

 

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, in the past five years JP Morgan alone has run up a whopping tab of over $18 billion in legal related expenses. (Note: That’s $ billions – not $ millions). Facing at least seven separate investigations in areas ranging from trading oversight to mortgage bond sales to overseas hiring practices, the company continues to negotiate settlements with several different agencies, which still could lead to another $600 million in penalties. Bank of America and Citigroup, reported in the same article, face the same dilemma. In 2008 – 2012, each incurred legal related expenses  of $16.1 billion and $7.2  billion respectively. (WSJ: “Embattled JP Morgan Bulks Up Oversight,” Sept. 13, 2013).

 

In addition, with the SEC and FINRA now ratcheting up their regulations, it has become painfully clear to the financial industry that regulatory compliance is no longer a peripheral consideration, and measures must be taken to mitigate risk. To that end, according to the Journal, JP Morgan “plans to spend an additional $4 billion and commit 5,000 extra employees this year to clean up its risk and compliance problems, according to people close to the bank.” Without doubt, all financial firms are following suit, and corporate compliance departments are being granted greater autonomy and authority.

 

And contrary to the belief of many, “compliance” usually touches every employee in a company – not just its executives. For that matter, as an example, it may be easier and less conspicuous for a financial executive’s admin assistant to illegally divulge insider information than it is for an executive. For this reason and others, compliance policies need to be ubiquitous across the organization, clearly defined, well communicated, and enforceable, with the necessary resources in place to administer them. To be compliant comes at a cost, but in the final analysis, the investment may save a company from unexpected  fines, law suits and damage of reputation, which significantly out way the investment.

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Will the party ever end?

With the national jobless rates hovering around 9.6% some financial firms continue to throw lavish parties for top traders and sales persons amid layoffs.  Fox Business News reported that Bank of America will be slashing up to 5% of its employees in the capital markets division but will be holding a swanky party at 230 Fifth Avenue, a rooftop bar that was rated among one of the best rooftop bars in New York.[i]

It is amazing how some financial service firms will complain about the cost of regulation and continue to party like the financial crisis did not exist.  The financial services sector as a whole must recognize that it can no longer be “business as usual” and that they have the ethical responsibility to ensure adequate systems are in place to protect the individual investor.  In addition, these firms must take the moral high ground and exercise prudence when trying to reward the hard work of one group of individuals while laying off another group of individuals.


[i] Charlie Gasparino & Sital Patel, FOXBusiness, Published September 23, 2010

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