JPMorgan Dividend Surprises Investors, Irks Fed

By Dawn Kopecki

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. bank, surprised investors and the Federal Reserve when the firm announced two days early that it received regulatory approval for a 20 percent dividend increase. JPMorgan surged 7 percent on yesterday’s news, which helped drive up the shares of competitors and major stock indexes. The central bank, which tested 19 of the largest U.S. financial firms to gauge their ability to withstand another severe economic downturn, decided to release the results at 4:30 p.m. in Washington, also two days ahead of schedule. The bank’s disclosure prompted other lenders, including Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC), to accelerate the disclosure of their dividend plans. It also irritated some staff at the Fed, which had planned to release the test results ahead of the industry, said one person familiar with the central bank’s operations who declined to be identified because the discussions were private. “It certainly lit a fire under the other bank holding companies, especially the problem institutions which thought they had more time to cushion the blow,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, a co-founder and managing partner at Washington-based Federal Financial Analytics Inc., a regulatory consulting firm.