Lawsuit-laden JP Morgan blames $400m quarterly loss on $9.2bn legal bill

US banking giant JP Morgan has reported a $400m quarterly loss after taking a $9.2bn (£5.8bn) hit in legal fees to cover a series of regulatory problems.

Today’s results follow a number of allegations against JP Morgan over the last two years, including a bribery investigation into claims that the bank hired the children of high-level Chinese officials to gain business in China and a trading fine over the reporting of losses from a trader nicknamed the “London Whale.”

Chairman Jamie Dimon blamed the bank’s loss, its first drop in profitability since 2004, on the bank’s legal problems. In a statement to shareholders he said: “While we had strong underlying performance across the businesses, unfortunately, the quarter was marred by large legal expense.

”We continuously evaluate our legal reserves, but in this highly charged and unpredictable environment, with escalating demands and penalties from multiple government agencies, we thought it was prudent to significantly strengthen them. While we expect our litigation costs should abate and normalize over time, they may continue to be volatile over the next several quarters.”

The results state that the $9.2bn legal expense includes reserves for litigation and regulatory proceedings, compared to $684m in additional litigation reserves last year.

Dimon concluded: “We continue our intense focus on our legal, control, and regulatory agenda – we are simplifying our business and making unprecedented investments in controls, which will make our company better and stronger for the long-run.

”We are extremely gratified that, in light of the issues the Company is facing, our people continue to do an unwavering and excellent job in serving their clients and communities, which you see in the underlying performance of our businesses.”

Sources close to the bribery investigation in China told The Lawyer over the summer (22 August 2013) that the bank had appointed King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison to assist it in the government investigation, as well as conducting an internal investigation to come to grips with the depth of the situation.