USA: JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup to Pay in Enron Case

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup agreed Monday to pay a total of nearly $300 million for their roles in Enron's manipulation of its financial statements.

JP Morgan will pay $135 million and Citigroup will pay $101 million as part of the settlement, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. The banks also agreed to pay $50 million total to the state and the city to settle a similar charges.

Citigroup will also pay $19 million to settle SEC charges that it helped Dynegy Inc. manipulate its financial statements. In addition to the federal payments, the two banks agreed to pay $50 million total to the state and the city to settle a similar investigation, the Manhattan district attorney's office announced shortly after.

The SEC said most of the money would go to victims of Enron's massive corporate fraud -- the first in a string of scandals that have tainted corporate America since 2001. JP Morgan and Citigroup did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. The two banks were accused of helping the former energy giant design complex transactions that allowed it to underreport its debt.

"If you know or have reason to know that you are helping a company mislead its investors, you are in violation of federal securities laws," SEC enforcement chief Stephen Cutler said in a statement. In January, a bipartisan investigative panel of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee concluded the following month that the banks helped Enron deceive the investing public in a series of transactions involving Enron's pulp and paper business that disguised loans as revenue-producing sales of assets.

JP Morgan and Citigroup officials told the committee that they believed they were engaging in lawful deals with Enron. The SEC said the settlement brings to $324 million the amount of money it has won from companies for Enron victims. Thousands of Enron employees lost their jobs, and stock that once traded as high as $90 per share shrank to pennies in one of the most expensive bankruptcies in history.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said his office would not bring charges against the two banks, noting that they were committed to reforms that would "ensure transparency." He advised other financial institutions to follow suit.

"There is no place in free and fair markets for players who think they can continue to conduct risky business under a cloud of deception and secrecy," Morgenthau said.

JP Morgan and Citigroup are among 11 banks and brokerages negotiating a possible settlement with Enron shareholders seeking at least $25 billion in a consolidation of lawsuits in Houston.

AMP Section Name:Corruption