NEW YORK US bank JP Morgan Chase reported a 7.3 percent slump in fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, as billions of dollars in legal costs from a series of government settlements continued to weigh on profit at the nation's largest bank. The net earnings of $5.28 billion , or $1.30 a share, fell slightly below Wall Street analysts' expectations of $1.35 a share. The results underscored how expensive it has been for the bank to obtain peace with Washington . All told, JPMorgan has paid roughly $20 billion over the last 12 months to resolve government investigations. Bracing for the large payouts, JPMorgan had already set aside $9.2 billion in the third quarter, a move that led the bank to report its first quarterly loss ever under Jamie Dimon as chief executive. While much of the settlement cost was covered in that quarter, JPMorgan said the bank would set aside an additional $850 million to cushion against expenses that spilled over. The latest steep payout for the bank came last week, when JPMorgan reached a $2 billion settlement with federal authorities who accused the bank of ignoring warning signs of Bernard L. Madoff's huge Ponzi scheme. And in November, the Justice Department and other authorities extracted a record $13 billion settlement from JPMorgan over the bank's sale of questionable mortgage securities in the run-up to the financial crisis, reports New York Times. "We are pleased to have made progress on our control, regulatory and litigation agendas and to have put some significant issues behind us this quarter," Dimon said in a statement on Tuesday. Referring to a number of recent settlements, he added, "It was in the best interests of our company and shareholders for us to accept responsibility, resolve these issues and move forward." It's difficult to predict, but JPMorgan does not currently expect to set aside any additional money for legal costs, according to JPMorgan chief financial officer Marianne Lake . "We do believe we have our reserves aligned to the issues as we know them," she said. Stating that the economy is on the mend, Dimon said during a conference call after announcing the results, "We didn't use the words cautiously optimistic." Dimon also downplayed the impact of the Federal Reserve's plan to gradually reduce, or taper, its economic stimulus measures. "If the U.S. economy is strong and people are adding jobs ... then tapering itself is not the critical thing," he said. The economy can handle higher interest rates and the Fed's decision to reduce its bond buying is "a good thing," he added. While the banking industry is chafing under a new set of rules, Dimon said the global financial system is "dramatically stronger" thanks to regulatory changes put in place since the 2008 financial crisis, reports CNN. Still, net income in the mortgage business was up from a year ago thanks to a $782 million benefit from loan loss provisions. Dimon said the bank has been "forced" to reduce the amount of money it sets aside for mortgage losses, due to the "enormous improvement in credit quality." For the full year, JPMorgan earned $17.9 billion , or $4.35 per share. That's down from $21.3 billion , or $5.20 per share, in all of 2012. Bank stocks are hot. It appears that investors are already forgiving JPMorgan for its sins from the financial crisis. The stock jumped 33% in 2013, said CNN
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