Friday, March 19, 2010

JPMorgan also used accounting gimmick

JPMorgan Chase recorded some repurchase trades as sales, the same accounting gimmick that spawned Lehman Brothers’ now-infamous “Repo 105s”, suggesting that the failed bank was not alone in its interpretation of a new accounting rule.

Unlike Lehman, which never disclosed the effects of its repo deals on the firm’s balance sheet, JPMorgan detailed the year-end values of its repo sales and purchases in annual reports beginning in 2001, after a new accounting rule was introduced.

The practice ended in 2005 when the company merged with Bank One. “The transactions were done in very small amounts and were fully disclosed,” a spokesman said

Lehman’s use of repo sales as a means to shrink its balance sheet was revealed last week by Anton Valukas, who was appointed in January 2009 by a US court to determine the causes of what was the largest bankruptcy filing in US history.

Mr Valukas reported that Lehman’s Repo 105 volumes spiked sharply at the end of a quarter as executives tried to shrink the balance sheet to make the bank appear stronger.

Repo trades have long been a vital source of funding for investment banks, and typically remain on the firms’ books. But under certain circumstances banks can account for the trades as a sale and thereby remove them from their books


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