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J.P. Morgan Chase Will Pay $13 Billion In Record Settlement

In a settlement deal, JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay some $13 billion in fines and other payments related to mortgages and mortgage securities that helped cause the financial crisis that began in 2007.

In an agreement settling many U.S. claims over its sale of troubled mortgages, JP Morgan Chase will pay a record $13 billion, in a deal announced by the Justice Department Tuesday. The plan includes a $4 billion payment for consumer relief, along with a payment to investors of more than $6 billion and a large fine.

"The settlement does not absolve JPMorgan or its employees from facing any possible criminal charges," the Justice Department says.

At $13 billion, the JP Morgan settlement is a record amount paid by one corporation to the federal government. The figure is nearly triple the $4.5 billion in fines and penalties paid by BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill (the BP figure doesn't include restitution and other claims made by individuals and businesses, a process that is ongoing).

The historic deal has been negotiated for months, as J.P. Morgan and government officials looked for a satisfactory end to a string of lawsuits and investigations stemming from the financial crisis that began in 2007. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also took part in the talks, as did several states.

In announcing the deal, officials detailed how the money would be divided. Part of the $4 billion for consumers would go toward helping some homeowners whose mortgages are handled by JP Morgan. In a rare step, another share would be used to reduce blight in neighborhoods peppered by rundown and abandoned homes.

The pact requires JP Morgan to hire an independent auditor to ensure it follows those guidelines.

The settlement stems from "alleged bad behavior relating to mortgages and mortgage-backed bonds," as Marketplace reports. "These were pumped into the financial markets before the housing bubble burst -- both by J.P. Morgan Chase, and by Washington Mutual, the failing savings-and-loan that J.P. Morgan bought with government encouragement in the midst of the financial crisis."

Recalling those events, the Federal Housing Finance Agency's acting inspector general, Michael P. Stephens,, said, "JPMorgan and the banks it bought securitized billions of dollars of defective mortgages. Investors, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, suffered enormous losses by purchasing RMBS from JPMorgan, Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns not knowing about those defects.

JP Morgan remains a potential target of several legal actions. It is still is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento. Private investors and European banks may also file claims against the company.

"Also, U.S. officials can pursue charges against some of the individuals who were involved in mortgage fraud, and they've said they might do that," NPR's Jim Zarroli told Renee Montagne on Tuesday's Morning Edition.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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