Secret recordings dating back to 2011 and 2012 give an indication of how botched the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s investigation of JPMorgan and other banks were, reported ProPublica and This American Life.
The recordings illustrate how special examiners charged with investigating JPMorgan after the financial crisis in 2008 were purposely blocked from doing their jobs. They were secretly recorded by Carmen Segarra, a special bank examiner who was stationed at Goldman Sachs.
These examiners were typically lawyers whose expertise lie in compliance, credit risk, and operations.
While Segarra was investigating Goldman Sachs, she and other colleagues were blocked from doing their jobs as top managers at the bank and some Fed supervisors allowed them very limited access to necessary, important documents. After seven months of work, Segarra was fired “after a dispute with her bosses in which she refused to rescind a detrimental finding about Goldman Sachs.” Segarra found that Goldman Sachs did not have a firm-wide conflict-of-interest policy.
Before being terminated, Segarra recorded several hours of audio of meeting with superiors which attest that similar blockades against examiners were happening at other financial institutions. Segarra met with New York Fed manager Jonathan Kim who said that “bosses in the JPMorgan team had stymied examiners by blocking access to bank information . . . in ways that ‘grinds everything to a halt.’”
“You’re not the only one experiencing difficulties at an institution,” Kim told Segarra. “You’ve heard all about the issues at JPMorgan.”
According to ProPublica, the examiners were required to report to the “managers for their specialty” and the bank’s head New York Fed officer. The system became problematic because the examiners were getting constant pushback from bosses and non-specialist colleagues. Many times examiners had complained about their knowledge getting devalued by management.
One supervisor in particular, Dianne Dobbeck, was a considerable problem for examiners stationed at JPMorgan.
“You look at JPMC, that is an iron hand woman,” said Kim of Dobbeck. “They have already made their determination. They don’t care what risk does.”
The risk referred to was the risk certain banking maneuvers had on consumers and the economy. Kim continued in saying that the compliance specialist at JPMorgan wasn’t allowed “access to anything,” as Dobbeck felt the examiners were to merely follow orders and not think independently.
In the wake of the financial crisis, the New York Fed was criticized by the Federal Reserve Board in Washington D.C. for poorly executed supervision of the banks. Reports made public in recent years blamed the New York Fed’s problems on “leveraging the knowledge and expertise of specialized examiners,” like Segarra.
After being terminated, Segarra filed a lawsuit against the New York Fed claiming that it was a retaliatory tactic for not dropping that detrimental finding against Goldman Sachs. Sadly, a judge threw out the lawsuit on the grounds that Segarra filed under the incorrect statute.
It seems that regulators, people charged with making sure the banks behave properly, are protecting the banks. Managers with the New York Fed, like Dobbeck, made it a priority to stifle the examiners and keep any indiscretions under wraps. These crooked government workers are just as responsible for the financial crisis as the banks.
On Friday, a United States Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing regarding the secret recordings. According to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who chairs the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the reports by ProPublica and This American Life “are troubling because they raise new questions about regulators being captured by the financial institutions they regulate.”