JPMorgan Chase was ordered to pay over $4 billion in damages to the widow and family of a deceased American Airlines executive.
The six person Dallas jury, which deliberated for over four hours on Monday night, found that the bank committed fraud, breached its fiduciary duty and broke a fee agreement with widow Jo Hopper and her two stepchildren after their father, Max Hopper, died with an estate worth $19 million but no will. Hopper was described as an “airline technology innovator” by the family’s law firm, pioneering such inventions as the SABRE reservation system.
The bank was hired in 2010 to administer Hopper’s estate, failing miserably… “Instead of independently and impartially collecting and dividing the estate’s assets, the bank took years to release basic interests in art, home furnishings, jewelry, and notably, Mr. Hopper’s collection of 6,700 golf putters and 900 bottles of wine,” the family’s lawyers said in the statement. “Some of the interests in the assets were not released for more than five years.”
Hopper’s widow, Jo Hopper, issued a statement:
“The nation’s largest bank horribly mistreated me and this verdict provides protection to others from being mistreated by banks that think they’re too powerful to be held accountable,” said Hopper in a statement. “The country’s largest bank, people we are supposed to trust with our livelihood, abused my family and me out of sheer ineptitude and greed. I’m blessed that I have the resources to hold JP Morgan accountable so other widows who don’t have the same resources will be better protected in the future.”
The court’s verdict form revealed that jurors originally awarded $8 billion in punitive damages against JPMorgan Chase, however widow Jo Hopper’s attorney Alan Loewinshon said in an interview that some of that may be duplication of some of the damage findings. The family was originally seeking $2 billion in punitive damages.
As a result, he said, the punitive damage award could end up being “somewhere between $4 billion and $8 billion.” The verdict form also shows jurors were advised to consider factors including “the net worth of JPMorgan.” JPM has a market cap of about $330 billion.
At the lower end of that range, the jury’s award would erase almost two-thirds of the $6.6 billion profit that JPMorgan generated globally during the second quarter. According to Bloomberg, it would rank high among the largest sanctions ever levied against the bank – somewhere between the $2.6 billion it agreed to pay in 2014 for allegedly failing to stop Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and a $13 billion settlement it reached with government authorities in 2013 for its handling of mortgage bonds that fueled the financial crisis.
“Mrs. Hopper asked the jury to send a message loud enough for JP Morgan to hear it all the way to Park Avenue in Manhattan,” said Loewinsohn, “Hopefully, that message has been received.”
Unfortunately for Mrs. Hopper, the Jury’s massive award is unlikely to hold up on appeal. Punitive damage verdicts such as Hopper’s are often reduced substantially thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that court awards can’t be disproportionate to the actual damages incurred. In Hopper’s case, the actual damage award was less than $5 million.
“Clearly the award far exceeds any possible interpretation of Texas tort reform statutes,” said JPMorgan Chase spokesman Andrew Gray, adding “There has been no judgment entered by the court based on this verdict.”If you enjoy the content at iBankCoin, please follow us on Twitter