[NEW YORK] The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation of JPMorgan Chase's foreign exchange trading business, the bank disclosed on Monday in a securities filing.
JPMorgan said it is cooperating with the DOJ probe and with other US and foreign investigations related to manipulation in the forex trade, as it raised its estimate of related legal costs by US$1.3 billion to US$5.9 billion.
The foreign exchange probes focus on the bank's "spot FX trading activities as well as controls applicable to those activities," the filing said.
The bank is in talks with regulators to settle the cases, but "there is no assurance that such discussions will result in settlements," it added.
Previous disclosures by JPMorgan and other large banks of regulatory probes into foreign exchange trades have described civil investigations.
The investigation has focused on whether traders from large banks colluded via online chat rooms to set rates in the massive foreign exchange market. Several leading banks have suspended or fired traders amid the investigations.
Britain's Financial Conduct Authority is holding talks with JPMorgan and five other large banks to settle allegations the banks conspired to manipulate currency trades, people familiar with the matter have told AFP.
JPMorgan's disclosure came the same day that British giant HSBC said it was setting aside US$378 million for a potential fine in Britain to settle allegations of foreign exchange market rigging.
British giants Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland last week made huge provisions for possible costs and penalties arising from the forex probes. Barclays set aside £500 million (US$800 million), while RBS reserved £400 million.
Citigroup, another large bank immersed in the foreign exchange probes, last week cut US$600 million from its third-quarter earnings due to higher legal costs, citing "rapidly evolving" regulatory investigations expected to result in more large settlements.
The foreign exchange probe follows a stream of regulatory fines and investigations on JPMorgan on mortgage-backed securities, its handling of the accounts of convicted fraudster Bernard Madoff and its hiring of relatives to powerful Chinese government officials, among other issues.
JPMorgan shares fell 0.5 per cent to US$60.60 in after-hours trade.