JPMorgan Whistle-Blower Trial Closes With Claims of Lies

JPMorgan Whistle-Blower
JPMorgan Whistle-Blower

A trial over whether JPMorgan Chase & Co. fired a wealth manager for raising fraud and money laundering concerns about a client ended with each side accusing the other’s main witness of lying.

Jennifer Sharkey claims the bank ruined her career by illegally firing her in 2009 in retaliation for telling superiors about red flags raised by the client, known in the trial only as “Client A.” Sharkey claims JPMorgan Chase violated whistle-blower protections in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The bank claims it fired Sharkey for lying about an unrelated account.

“Ms. Sharkey came up with this whole idea after she was terminated and started looking for a payday from this court,” Michael Schissel, a lawyer for the bank, told jurors in his closing argument Monday in Manhattan federal court. “Ms. Sharkey was terminated because she lied to her boss multiple times. It’s that simple.”

Schissel argued Sharkey’s claim that Client A refused to turn over documents needed for JPMorgan Chase’s “Know Your Customer” review was “an unmitigated lie.”

Sharkey’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, focused most of his attention on Sharkey’s former boss, Leslie Lassiter, one of three executives Sharkey sued along with the bank. Wigdor told jurors they shouldn’t believe her testimony that Sharkey lied to her about contacts with the representative of a different wealthy customer, who was referred to as “Client H.”

“Ms. Lassiter is a witness who couldn’t be trusted or credited in any way, shape or form,” Wigdor said.

Fake Notes

He accused Lassiter of making at least 15 statements during the trial that conflicted with her earlier deposition. He also suggested that Lassiter fabricated notes of pivotal phone calls. After jurors were excused for lunch, Schissel called the claim “reprehensible” and asked U.S. District Judge Denise Cote to tell the jury there’s no evidence the notes were faked. She declined.

The closing statements come at the end of a contentious week-long trial. Wigdor asked the jury to award Sharkey $660,000 in lost pay and an unspecified, “significant award” for emotional damages. He also plans to ask Cote to reinstate his client to her job if the jury rules in Sharkey’s favor.

Jurors deliberated part of Monday afternoon without reaching a verdict.

Lassiter, a key witness for JPMorgan Chase, testified last week that Sharkey lied numerous times when asked if she’d contacted Client H’s office. The client’s office manager, Manager T, called to complain that Sharkey hadn’t returned her calls and to ask if the wealth manager was just “a phantom,” according to Lassiter.

‘Phantom’ JPMorgan Manager Fired for Lying, Former Boss Says

Sharkey testified that the bank fired her for raising red flags about Client A, a diamond seller and founder of a telephone calling-card business, with business ties in the U.S. and Israel. Sharkey cited Client A’s work in the jewelry business, news articles about his company’s forced bankruptcy in the 1990s, tax liens, Client A’s trading in the escrow account of a law firm and his failure to produce requested documents to the bank among risk factors the bank had identified.

Sharkey told the jury of five women and three men on Tuesday that she was let go after telling superiors she planned to send out letters terminating the bank’s relationship with Client A, who had about $14 million under management.

“I was fired the next day,” Sharkey said.

Ex-JPMorgan Wealth Manager Recounts Life-Altering Firing

Lassiter testified that after Sharkey was fired, Client A remained with JPMorgan Chase and that the bank gave him final approval about five months later. Client A is still a customer of the bank.

In addition to hearing testimony about Client A, Client H and Manager T, jurors have been barraged with an alphabet soup of code names for people and companies in testimony and trial exhibits. Client A’s family members were referred to as Wife, Son, Son2 and Z1.

The case is Sharkey v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., 10-cv-03824, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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