JP Morgan Chase’s Sale of Proprietary Mutual Funds
After the 2008 financial crisis allegations have surfaced that JP Morgan Chase turned to ordinary investors to make up for profits lost by the bank. Over time JP Morgan became one of the nation's largest mutual fund managers, some current and former brokers say it emphasized its sales over clients' needs. Financial advisers say they were encouraged, at times, to favor JPMorgan's own products even when competitors had better-performing or cheaper options.
The benefit to JPMorgan is clear. The more money investors plow into the bank's funds, the more fees it collects for managing them. The aggressive sales push has allowed JPMorgan to buck an industry trend. Amid the market volatility, ordinary investors are leaving stock funds in droves.
JPMorgan is gathering assets in its stock funds at a rapid rate, despite having only a small group of top-performing mutual funds that are run by portfolio managers. Over the last three years, roughly 42 percent of its funds failed to beat the average performance of funds that make similar investments, according to Morningstar, a fund researcher.
“I was selling JPMorgan funds that often had weak performance records, and I was doing it for no other reason than to enrich the firm,” said a former broker of JPMorgan who left the firm. The broker added that “I couldn't call myself objective.”
JPMorgan with its army of financial advisers and nearly $160 billion in fund assets, is not the only bank to build an advisory business that caters to mom and pop investors. But JPMorgan has taken a different tack by focusing on selling funds that it creates. It is a controversial practice, and many companies have backed away from offering their own funds because of the perceived conflicts.
JPMorgan has previously run into trouble for pushing its own funds. In a 2011 arbitration case, it was ordered to pay $373 million for favoring its products, despite an agreement to sell alternatives from American Century.
A supervisor in a New Jersey branch recently sent a congratulatory note with the header “KABOOM” to an adviser who had persuaded a client to put $75,000 into the Chase Strategic Portfolio. “Nice to know someone is taking advantage of the best selling day of the week!” he wrote.
JPMorgan also circulates a list of brokers whose clients collectively have with the largest amounts in the Chase Strategic Portfolio. Top advisers have nearly $200 million of assets in the program.
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