The bank created the Sons and Daughters program in 2006 to ensure that the hiring would pass legal and regulatory muster.
But then JPMorgan's investment banking business began to lose market share in China, the data from Thomson Reuters shows. By the time JPMorgan lost the 2009 deal to Deutsche Bank, the Hong Kong executives at JPMorgan's investment bank decided that it needed to step up its hiring.
"A missed opportunity for us this year," an executive said in an email upon learning of the loss to Deutsche Bank. "Can you guys craft a program that could work for us?"
The investment banking unit experimented with a program that would have offered well-connected hires a one-year contract worth $70,000 to $100,000. The program, internal documents said, might offer "directly attributable linkage to business opportunity."
Still, some Hong Kong executives pushed for more of what they called "client referral" hiring to keep pace with rivals.
"We do way, way, way too little of this type of hiring and I have been pounding on it with China team for a year," a JPMorgan employee wrote to a colleague in a 2010 email. In that same email, the employee added: "confidential, just added son of #2 at SinoTruk to my team," referring to a company that is part of a state-owned trucking enterprise.
He added: "I got room for a lot more hires like this (Goldman has 25)."
JPMorgan's expanded program had an apparent coup when Tang Xiaoning, whose father is the chairman of the financial conglomerate China Everbright Group, was hired. Until that 2010 hiring, which has been previously reported by The Times, the bank had missed out on deal after deal from China Everbright, including one assignment that went to Morgan Stanley.
But since the younger Mr. Tang was hired, China Everbright and its subsidiaries hired JPMorgan at least three times, according to Standard & Poor's Capital IQ, a research service.
When pursuing an assignment from Taikang, a life insurer that was not owned by the state, JPMorgan executives drew a similar link between hiring and deal-making. Hoping to get the nod to advise Taikang on an initial public offering of stock, emails show, JPMorgan sought to hire the chairman's niece. But it had stiff competition.
"Regarding to the juicy size, every existing active banks are trying to lobby with them," a JPMorgan banker wrote in an email, which is unlikely to become a focus of the federal investigation, because it involves a private company. Goldman, which employed the chairman's son, had a direct investment in the company. And the Royal Bank of Scotland was "trying to approach" the chairman's niece, the banker wrote, "to compete us."