Deal to buy back bond

Investment bank JP Morgan said yesterday that it has agreed in principle with North Asset Management (NAM) to repurchase a 280-million-euro bond at the center of a months-long trading scandal. «The proposal will see the original pension fund investors which acquired these bonds in the secondary market recover 100 percent of the amount they paid on the bonds,» JP Morgan said. Pension funds wil recover their money less any interest already paid. The structured bond, issued to raise funds for the Defense Ministry, ended up in the possession of pension funds at unfavorable prices after being sold to London-based North Asset Management (NAM), HypoVereinsBank, and the Acropolis brokerage. News of the overpriced bond purchase led to a public outcry and general strikes, while also resulting in the sacking of Labor and Social Security Minister Savvas Tsitouridis. Trade unions are demanding that all structured bonds sold to pension funds in the past three years be bought back. Meanwhile, the government said yesterday it has no intention of buying back the bond issued in February this year. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said the contract with JP Morgan, which underwrote the bond, was profitable for the government. «If I took it back, I would be in danger of being in breach of trust. The return of the bond is an issue for JP Morgan and the boards of pension funds and does not relate to the government,» Alogoskoufis said after addressing a parliamentary economic committee. JP Morgan and NAM officials have been asked to give evidence before a parliamentary committee investigating the financial instruments but both have declined the request. JP Morgan said it was unable to attend today’s scheduled parliamentary committee meeting and asked for another hearing date to be set between June 5 and 15. NAM said it was unable to appear before the economic committee, citing reasons of confidentiality on account of the ongoing investigation into the affair. According to some reports, a senior manager at JP Morgan was placed under suspension late on Wednesday for his handling of the affair.