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JPMorgan banker says he spent a year meeting regulator in Australian cartel case

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By Reuters
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By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A senior JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N> banker spent over a year in meetings with the Australian antitrust regulator before signing a statement that would be used to bring criminal cartel charges against two rival banks and their executives, a court heard on Friday.

The account from Mark Dewar, JPMorgan’s Australian head of trading, gives a sense of the level of cooperation between the bank and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) before the regulator ordered cartel charges over a A$2.5 billion (£1.33 billion) capital raising.

JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc <C.N> and Deutsche Bank AG <DBKGn.DE> all worked on the stock issue for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd <ANZ.AX> in August 2015.

All but JPMorgan were charged last year with withholding details of the sale process to investors with the aim of supporting the stock’s price. JPMorgan was given immunity on condition that it cooperate with the authorities.

In pre-trial hearings in Sydney on Friday, lawyers for the defendants have been questioning the prosecution witnesses to establish how they came to give evidence to the ACCC and who else was involved.

Dewar, who still holds his position at JPMorgan, told the court he first met the ACCC with his lawyers in March 2015, during which they discussed the ANZ capital raising.

“I recall signing a document. It was a confidentiality undertaking. After that, a question and answer session ensued,” Dewar told the court.

In June that year, he said he received a “letter of comfort” from the regulator, assuring him he would be granted immunity from any prosecution.

In September, he returned to the ACCC for another question and answer session about his involvement with the raising, he said.

He said he returned for a three-day session in October during which he was shown his draft statement on a screen “so everybody could see”. He said he gave notes verbally while an ACCC staffer wrote them down.

“It felt like a long time, certainly several days, possibly more,” Dewar told the court.

He returned to the ACCC in February 2017, twice in March, and once more in April to sign the statement, he said.

“I probably needed a holiday after that,” he said.

The ACCC ultimately brought the charges against Citi, Deutsche and ANZ, and their former executives, in June 2018.

All the banks have said they will defend the charges and declined to comment further on the case outside court.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Christopher Cushing)