BUSINESS
08/29/2013 12:37 pm ET

Wall Street Continues To Document Really Sketchy Stuff In Spreadsheets

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When will Wall Street ever learn? For years it has left evidence of its lawbreaking in emails and instant messages. Now it can't seem to stop documenting its sketchy activity in Excel spreadsheets.

The latest example, allegedly, is JPMorgan Chase, which kept a spreadsheet of all the elite "princelings" it hired in China, along with the deals those princelings were supposed to help the bank win, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report.

This spreadsheet could be a smoldering gun in the government's probe of whether the biggest U.S. bank violated bribery laws with its hiring practices in Asia. The bank says it is cooperating with the probe, which may not turn up any actual lawbreaking -- as the New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin observed last week, after consulting with his many sources among the privileged elite, banks hire the privileged elite all of the time, as is nature's way. That is not always against the law.

But the spreadsheet adds to the sense that there was some sort of quid pro quo going on, with the hiring targeted at very specific deals, in a bribe-y sort of way, according to the Businessweek story.

This news comes amid the unfolding of another one of JPMorgan's many, many scandals, the $6.2 billion "London Whale" trading goof -- which, guess what, also involved a spreadsheet of alleged wrongdoing. In the London Whale case, one trader allegedly kept a spreadsheet meticulously documenting efforts to hide how much money the bank was losing every day on botched credit-derivatives trades.

One more case involving a spreadsheet, and we'll have ourselves a trend (the Kenneth Rogoff/Carmen Reinhart spreadsheet goof doesn't quite count). Given that Wall Street never seems to learn its lesson about discussing wrongdoing in emails, instant messages and phone calls, the chances of us seeing another smoking spreadsheet seem pretty high.

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