You’ve probably never heard of Peter Sivere, a former compliance officer at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Yet his distressing story shows — on a personal level — that for all the tough talk about better enforcement of financial wrongdoing, just how tightly government regulators are aligned with the big Wall Street banks they are supposed to keep an eye on.
In January 1998, Sivere joined JPMorgan as a surveillance analyst in the compliance department of the fixed-income group. In December 1999, Sivere was promoted to vice president and then again to be the “team leader” of electronic-communications compliance. On Sept. 26, 2003, Sivere received his annual review and a rating of 9.63, or “great,” according to the bank’s evaluation scale.
“I consider Peter to be a brilliant surveillance analyst,” one of his colleagues wrote. “Peter is highly motivated and diligent individual with an exceptional work ethic.”
Despite that review and the promotions, things had started going off the rails, careerwise, for Sivere earlier that month, when then-New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed a complaint against Canary Capital Partners, a (now defunct) New Jersey hedge fund and a big client of JPMorgan. The suit held that Canary had engaged in “late trading” of mutual funds — that is, it was allowed to buy shares of mutual funds at the day’s final price even though the market had closed. Canary’s late trading was akin to getting tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal today.
The next day, the Securities and Exchange Commission started its own investigation into late trading and asked for documents and emails from JPMorgan. Sivere was put in charge of a group of four internal lawyers searching for documents to provide the SEC. Several weeks later, the bank’s litigation department removed the four lawyers from the project, allegedly because they failed to find all the “responsive emails” called for in the SEC’s subpoena.
Sivere contests that claim. “I observed that the attorneys had discovered a number of emails” that JPMorgan’s litigation department “had not identified,” he wrote in an affidavit. A few weeks later, a new set of four lawyers was hired — also to be supervised by Sivere — to resume the document production for the SEC’s investigation.
According to court documents and an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, on Nov. 18 one of the new lawyers, Sarah Kelleher, found an email that showed that JPMorgan had provided a $105 million line of credit to Canary Capital that Canary used to facilitate its late trading in mutual funds. Sivere forwarded the email to three of the leaders of the compliance department. The next day Sivere and the second set of lawyers were removed from their roles finding documents to send to the SEC.
They were replaced by a team from the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell. This was odd, as Davis, Polk had an apparent conflict related to its providing legal advice in setting up financing vehicles to trade mutual funds for JPMorgan clients.
Sivere’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child on Jan. 21, 2004, and because of complications with her health, Sivere took medical leave between March 2 and April 21. On April 23, Sivere had a conversation with his supervisors who told him they were “not happy” with his performance. Throughout May 2004, as news accounts started appearing about the late-trading scandal involving Canary, Sivere became increasingly concerned that JPMorgan was not cooperating fully with the SEC’s investigation. He told his immediate boss about his growing concerns. Sivere contacted the firm’s compliance department to find out what emails had been turned over to the SEC, but did not receive a reply.