It’s Official: JPMorgan Chase Is the Riskiest Big Bank in the U.S.

It’s Official: JPMorgan Chase Is the Riskiest Big Bank in the U.S. By Pam Martens and Russ Martens for Wall Street on Parade

The National Information Center is a little-known repository of bank data collected by the Federal Reserve. It is part of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), which was created by federal legislation to create uniformity in the examination of U.S. financial institutions by the numerous federal regulators of banks.

Quietly, the National Information Center has done something that has likely made Jamie Dimon hopping mad. Dimon is the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase who has bragged perpetually in his annual letter to shareholders about how the bank he leads has a “fortress balance sheet.” But now the National Information Center has created a graphic profile of JPMorgan Chase versus its peer banks. The graphics crunch a series of important financial metrics at JPMorgan Chase, showing it to be the riskiest bank in the United States.

The data used to create these graphics come from what is known as the “Systemic Risk Report” or form FR Y-15 that banks have to file with the Federal Reserve. To measure the systemic risk that a particular bank poses to the stability of the U.S. financial system, the data is broken down into five categories of system risk: size, interconnectedness, substitutability, complexity, and cross-jurisdictional activity. Those measurements consist of 12 pieces of financial information that banks have to provide on their Y-15 forms. That data shows that in 7 out of 12 financial metrics, JPMorgan Chase has the riskiest footprint among its peer banks.

One of the 12 financial metrics measures the Intra-Financial System Liabilities of each bank. This shows how much money a particular bank has at risk at other banks by using inputs such as how much of its funds it has on deposit with, or has lent to, other financial institutions; the unused portion of any credit lines it has committed to other financial institutions; and its holdings of debt, equity, commercial paper, etc. of other financial institutions. The idea, obviously, is to understand if another Citigroup or Lehman Brothers were to occur, could it bring your bank down.

JPMorgan Chase looks particularly dicey in this regard. The Y-15 data shows that it has $377.9 billion in Intra-Financial System Liabilities which is more than $100 billion larger than the next two largest banks in this category, Bank of New York Mellon and Citigroup.

Intra-Financial System Liabilities

Source: National Information Center; Compiled from Federal Reserve Y-15 Financial Data from JPMorgan Chase

Another scary category is OTC Derivatives. OTC (over-the-counter) means derivatives that are not traded on an exchange and are not being cleared by a central clearing house. In effect, it means a private contract between your bank and some potentially non-credit worthy financial institution. (Recall how the giant life insurer, AIG, blew itself up in 2008 because it was holding tens of billions of dollars in derivative contracts for the biggest banks on Wall Street that it could not make good on. The situation was so dire that the Federal Reserve actually allowed AIG to secretly borrow billions of dollars from its Discount Window, even though it was an insurance company, not a bank. AIG had to be eventually nationalized by the U.S. government for a time during the financial crisis – all because it got involved with Wall Street’s derivatives.)

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Mission: Wall Street On Parade hopes to level the playing field between Wall Street and the 99 percent. Wall Street is a jungle of devices to effect an institutionalized wealth transfer system. The goal of this web site is to provide the jungle guide to the 99 percent in the hope of bringing about citizen-inspired change.