Term Sheet

The latest on private equity, M&A, deals and movements — from Wall Street to Silicon Valley

6 better ways JPMorgan could have spent $9 bln legal fees

October 11, 2013: 11:13 AM ET

Whoever said Wall Street creates economic waste was right.

FORTUNE -- JPMorgan Chase said that it expensed $9.2 billion for legal costs in the third quarter, or over $3 billion a month. Law firms and regulators might delight in that number. The rest of us should despair. Here are six things JPMorgan could have bought with the money it put aside for legal fees and fines in the past three months alone.

1) Pay off the mortgages of 62,528 U.S. borrowers who are still facing foreclosure.

foreclosed-house-620xa

Around 700,000 borrowers in the U.S. are still behind on their mortgages. JPMorgan itself has $7.5 billion in home loans on which borrowers are no longer making payments.

2) Allow 291,980 recent college graduates to enter the workforce debt free.

131011101937-graduation-620xaThe average college graduate owes just over $31,000 when they leave school these days. In all, Americans have $1.2 trillion in student debt. A recent study from the Department of Education found that one in 10 borrowers who began repaying their debt in 2011 have already defaulted. JPMorgan recently said it was planning to exit the student loan business.

3) Start 460 community banks.

community-banks

Since the financial crisis about 1,608 banks have shut down or disappeared -- most of them small or community banks. At the same time, assets at the nation's six largest banks, of which JPMorgan is now the biggest, have grown 37% to $9.6 trillion.

4) Delay the debt ceiling by 3.5 days.

131007100325-john-boehner-620xa

It costs roughly $10 billion a day to run the government, and we bring in about $7.4 billion in tax revenue a day. That means in theory JPMorgan's $9.2 billion could delay the debt ceiling for three and a half days. In reality, the payments we owe are lumpy. For example the government owes $12 billion in interest payments on its debt on October 24 alone, which JPMorgan's legal fees alone wouldn't be able to cover.

5) Pull Detroit out of bankruptcy.

detroit-20130819-620xa

The Motor City recently filed for bankruptcy with about $18.5 billion in debt. JPMorgan's legal bill could pay off half of that.

6) Build the Hyperloop!

131011103222-hyperloop-620xa

Elon Musk estimates that it would cost $7.5 billion to build a high-speed transportation system that would get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes. JPMorgan (JPM) could build that, and still have an additional $2 billion to work on Larry Page's and Sergey Brin's space elevator.

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Stephen Gandel
Stephen Gandel

Stephen Gandel has covered Wall Street and investing for over 15 years. He joins Fortune from sister publication TIME, where he was a senior business writer and lead blogger for The Curious Capitalist. He has also held positions at Money and Crain's New York Business. Stephen is a four-time winner of the Henry R. Luce Award. His work has also been recognized by the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the New York State Society of CPA and the Association of Area Business Publications. He is a graduate of Washington University, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

Email | @stephengandel | RSS
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.