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JPMorgan's Dimon, Justice Department discuss huge deal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon held talks with the US attorney general Thursday on a possible deal to settle a slew of alleged banking violations, with fines possibly hitting $11 billion.

US Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed the meeting but gave no details, amid intense negotiations mainly focused on the bank's marketing of dubious mortgage-backed securities (MBS) ahead of the financial crisis.

But Holder told journalists that dealing with banking misbehavior was one of his priorities.

"This is something that is a priority for this Justice Department, to hold accountable people who would manipulate, companies that would manipulate our financial markets for their own customers' benefit or the benefit of the companies."

A source close to the matter told AFP the settlement figure under discussion was $11 billion.

"The majority of the conversation is around mortgage-backed securities," the source said.

The Justice Department has more than a half-dozen investigations open into the bank, and it faces potentially expensive charges -- both civil and criminal -- from other regulatory bodies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at both the federal and state level.

The probes likely to be most costly for JPMorgan involve its sales of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis.

Many investors took huge losses on securities marketed to them as safe bets but which instead held large levels of high-risk sub-prime mortgages. Several other banks have paid large fines and damages for selling dubious mortgage-backed securities.

The bank could also be under investigation for hiring the relatives of top Chinese officials as a way to get business in China, according to reports.

On September 19, JPMorgan agreed to pay $920 million in fines to US and British regulators over the "London whale" trading debacle.

Earlier this week, reports said JPMorgan had offered $3 billion to the Justice Department to settle some or all of the charges it faces.

Since late Tuesday, reports have had the talks focused on a number in the range of $11 billion, but the Justice Department has also reportedly insisted on the company admitting guilt.

Holder suggested that more cases involving financial institution improprieties could be ahead.

"We have I think brought a substantial number of those kinds of cases over the past few years. We have matters that are under investigation, and I expect we will be making further announcements in the coming weeks and months."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130926/jpmorgans-dimon-justice-department-discuss-huge-deal