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Background to London Whale at JPMorgan
The London Whale was a term developed to refer to Bruno Iksil who worked for JPMorgan. Bruno Iksil headed the credit department in in the United Kingdom by 2012. Under his leadership, JPMorgan lost over $5.8 billion in July 2012. Though the company leadership initially dismissed the claim as alarmist, it later emerged that the company had lost a significant amount of money. The Credit Default Swap (CDS) in the United Kingdom witnessed significant manipulation by aggressive traders. This abnormality was noticed by Boaz Weinstein who believed that the behavior of the financial market was over exaggerated. This unusual market behavior was traced to the investment behaviors of Iksil who was heading the credit department at the JPMorgan Company (Cecchetti and Kermit, 213).
Most traders made opposing bets against JPMorgan and affiliated banks in the United Kingdom. These bets and other derivatives were priced highly and this increased the risks that the company was facing. Instead of addressing this irregularity, the management of the bank rubbished the allegations. As a result, the company reported a loss of $2 billion in May of 2012, a value that rose to $5.8 billion by July of the same year. According to unconfirmed sources from the company, JPMorgan lost over $7 billion from the London Whale scandal. This disclosure failed to provide the exact dealings that the bank was engaged in during this period. As a result, the company faced significant disruption beyond May of 2012.
Trading strategy adopted by London Whale
During the London Whale, Bruno accumulated giant bets on the United States corporate bonds. Different derivatives were used to accumulate these bets and this contributed to the major losses that JPMorgan registered. Bruno was managing the credit unit of JPMorgan and enjoyed significant support and influence within the credit industry. This allowed him to accumulate giant bets and invite other companies to counter bet as a way of increasing its value. The giant bets placed by Bruno were not illegal as the company had full knowledge and supported them.
Damien Demon, the chief executive officer of JPMorgan was aware of the giant derivative-based bets placed on corporate bonds. Corporate bond bets has been part of the company’s hedging policy and has enabled the company to operate as an insurance agency. Under this operation, the company places bet of different values and develop various approaches of protecting it from an imminent loss. The company accumulated large bets known as the credit default swap, a tool that was previously blamed for the financial fiasco of 2008. In the case of Bruno, the company experienced massive defaults and this caused a number of movements within the financial markets (Kregel, 16).
As a result, other hedge funds made counter bets in anticipation of JPMorgan’s loss. Bets placed by Bruno were in the public domain following a publication that was carried by the Bloomberg in April of the same year. According to Merrill Lynch of the Bank of America, Bruno’s bets attracted significant attention within the financial market. As a result, a number of companies placed counter bets, believing that his optimism faced an imminent crash. JPMorgan stopped the bet when it was obvious that the company was facing significant losses. The company filed the losses in its report submitted to the Security Exchange Commission in 2012 (Cecchetti and Kermit, 213).
Why the London Whale strategy fail
In April 2012, JPMorgan made a speculative investment at the CDS in which it bought a high yield bond. This step was made in anticipation of a fall in the value of the high yield bonds in the financial markets. Credit default swaps are risky financial tools that can lead to either high returns or massive losses. Due to the impressive performance of the economy at this time, trades counter betted JPMorgan, further increasing the risks faced by the CDS. Bruno realized that the first option was facing an imminent failure and therefore opted for a second option. The second alternative was used to hedge the first CDS investment (Cecchetti and Kermit, 213).
According to Bruno, the economy was performing positively and this warranted the provision of investment grade bonds. However, Bruno’s estimation of the market’s performance was miscalculated and this contributed to the loss that JPMorgan experienced. When Bruno realized that the second option was facing a rough market terrain, he adopted a third option. However, the risk basis for option three has remained unknown though it failed the company from the spiraling losses (Kregel, 16).
According to the financial report released by the company, the actions of Bruno were ineffective and his recklessness investment patterns exposed the company to losses. The behavior of Bruno affected the image of the company and lead to fine imposition. For example, the United States and United Kingdom regulatory authorities have issued a fine notice to the company. The United States has also launched criminal investigation against the company and placed it under the discipleship of the United States Commodity Future Trading Commissions.
Cecchetti, Giovanni, and Kermit, Schoenholtz. Money, Banking, and Financial Markets. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2006. Print.
Kregel, Jan. More Swimming Lessons from the London Whale. New York: Levy Economics Institute, 2013. Print.