c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

A federal investigation into the hiring practices of JPMorgan Chase has expanded beyond the borders of China, where the bank faces questions about whether it hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to win lucrative business there.

The bank disclosed in a securities filing Friday that authorities were looking into “its business relationships with certain related clients in the Asia Pacific region and its engagement of consultants in the Asia Pacific region.”

JPMorgan did not specify where the inquiries were directed. But according to people briefed on the matter, government authorities are examining JPMorgan’s hiring practices throughout Asia, focusing on South Korea, Singapore and India. That scrutiny comes after JPMorgan itself flagged those countries for further review, the people said.

The investigations from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department, the people noted, are still in their fledgling stages. Hong Kong and British authorities are also investigating the bank’s hiring practices, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It is unclear whether authorities suspect improper activity in these regions beyond China or are simply placing a marker for a possible broader investigation.

The focus of the case surfaced in August, when The New York Times reported that federal authorities — led by the SEC’s anti-bribery unit — had begun an investigation into the bank’s hiring of the sons and daughters of China’s elite. They included the daughter of a Chinese railway official and the son of Tang Shuangning, a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of state-controlled financial conglomerate China Everbright Group, according to a confidential government document reviewed by The Times.

At one point, according to interviews with the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the bank created a formal “Sons and Daughters” program. And in some cases, JPMorgan won business from companies with ties to the children.

JPMorgan, which first made an oblique reference to the SEC’s investigation in its quarterly filing in August, said Friday that the bank was “cooperating with these investigations.” The bank declined to comment further and has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The investigations hinge on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 federal law that effectively bars U.S. companies from giving “anything of value” to foreign officials to obtain “an improper advantage” in retaining business.