JPMorgan's Masters abruptly quits group advising regulator

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 7, 2014 1:42pm EST

A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Blythe Masters, who heads JPMorgan's (JPM.N) commodities business, has left a group advising the U.S. derivatives regulator only a day after she joined it, the agency said on Friday.

JPMorgan declined to comment on the about-face by Masters, one of the most prominent women on Wall Street.

The workload associated with JPMorgan's sale of its physical commodities division in the first half of this year would make it tough for Masters to participate in the group, a person familiar with the matter said. The bank has offered to make another executive available, the person said.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Thursday voted on the new composition of its Global Markets Advisory Committee, a group of market participants that meets regularly to discuss a broad range of issues.

The committee consists of a large group of senior officials at large investment banks, asset managers, firms running trading platforms and industry bodies.

Masters was a striking choice for the normally low-profile advisory group, having beaten rivals by building up the biggest physical commodities trading operation on Wall Street at JPMorgan over the past five years.

The bank has been plagued by a long series of legal issues, paying $410 million to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last year to settle allegations of power market manipulation in California.

Masters, a key lieutenant to JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, was not cited for any wrongdoing, though her name is referenced in the regulator's order a number of times. The bank neither admitted nor denied any violations in the case.

JPMorgan decided to sell its multi-billion dollar physical commodities division last year as regulators and politicians clamped down on banks active in the markets after complaints of inflated prices.

Trading house Mercuria is the front-runner to buy JPMorgan's physical commodities unit, Reuters reported this week, though a final deal could still take a few months to conclude.

JPMorgan agreed to pay $20 billion in settlements to regulators last year in its drive to clear up legal claims, which included mortgage and derivative issues alongside the settlement with the FERC.

(Reporting by Douwe Miedema; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Andrew Hay)

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