NEW YORK (Reuters) - An internal JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) memo entitled “Zippy Cheats & Tricks” offers a peek into just the sort of dubious lending tactics that underpinned the U.S. housing market’s deepening downward spiral.
Originally obtained by reporters at The Oregonian newspaper, the memo outlines step-by-step instructions on how to beef up mortgage applicants’ stated incomes in order to help them qualify for home loans.
They read as follows:
“1. Make sure you input all income in base income. DO NOT break it down by overtime, commissions or bonus.
2. If your borrower is getting a gift, add it to a bank account along with the rest of the assets. Be sure to remove any mention of gift funds.
3. If you do not get (the desired results), try resubmitting with slightly higher income. Inch it up $500 to see if you can get the findings you want. Do the same for assets.”
JPMorgan argues these were the wayward actions of a rogue employee who has since been fired, and by no means represent company policy.
“Clearly it’s nothing that we condone,” said Tom Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase. “As soon as we learned about it, we stopped it.”
Still, in the context of a broader housing debacle, the memo does provide some clues into just what lengths bankers went to push loans through the system.
Over the past six months, rising defaults on home loans have not only battered the mortgage sector, threatening recession, but also sent the banking industry into a tailspin.
Many large banks repackaged mortgages and held them on their balance sheets as complex derivatives securities, essentially bonds backed by other types of loans.
These developments have many politicians in Washington, including Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, calling for greater regulatory oversight.
The conclusion of the JPMorgan memo, written in bright purple letters, certainly hints at a credit system gone awry: “It’s super easy! Give it a try!” it reads. “If you get stuck, call me ... I am happy to help!”
Additional reporting by Chris Reiter; Editing by Frank McGurty