Former JPMorgan commodities chief under federal probe

Departing JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM) managing director and former head of the global commodities group Blythe Masters, is under probe by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, Bloomberg reports citing people directly involved in the matter.

The investigation began after the company agreed to pay a $410 million settlement with regulators that alleged JPMorgan manipulated power markets in the Midwest and California.

According to the report Masters, 45, said she was leaving the bank last month, after scoring $3.5 billion in the sale of the commodities unit to Geneva-based trading house Mercuria. She believed she would no longer have the same standing in the executive ranks after transaction and had no intention of joining the buying firm.

The US Justice Department has also been investigating JP Morgan activities in China under the foreign corrupt practices act (FCPA), which bars American companies from giving money or other valuable items to foreign officials in order to win business.

The US largest bank is not the only one that has been under scrutiny as of late. Authorities around the globe, already investigating the manipulation of benchmarks from interest rates to foreign exchange, have also been studying the gold market for signs of wrongdoing.

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, said in January it would withdraw from the panels setting the gold and silver fixings. German financial markets regulator Bafin interviewed the bank’s employees as part of a probe into the potential manipulation of gold and silver prices. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority is also scrutinizing how prices are calculated.

JP Morgan reported today an 18.5% drop in first-quarter earnings on Friday. Net earnings of $5.27 billion, or $1.28 a share, came in slightly below Wall Street analysts’ expectations of $1.40 a share on revenue of $24.53 billion. Revenue dropped to $23.86 billion.

(Image from Blythe Masters' blog)