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Litigation: From exceptional items to a cost of doing business

The uncertainty for investors over bank litigation extends beyond hits to bank profits and so, potentially, their ability to pay dividends and service coupons on capital instruments and debt.

Morgan Stanley’s analysts have been trying to put some numbers on potential litigation expenses for large-cap US and European banks this year. The large banks it covers have already paid out around $230 billion in litigation since 2009, with Bank of America leading the way at an eye-watering $64.7 billion paid and $3.5 billion still reserved, in front of JPMorgan, which has paid $40 billion with another $6 billion still reserved.

The good news is that the worst might be behind them, particularly for the top five US banks, which have already paid the best part of $130 billion. Morgan Stanley calculates they might just have another $18 billion odd to pay – mere loose change, then.

Further reading

• Regulators still calling the shots

• Banks struggle to find the right model

•  Going digital could be a do-or-die challenge for banks

However, the top 20 European banks, which have already paid or reserved for payment about $105 billion in litigation, could end up paying a further $50 billion by 2016.

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