Last Friday evening, Marcia MacMillan from CTV News Channel (a 24-hour news network in Canada) interviewed me and asked me what it’s like to be a white-collar criminal and what role, if any, did morality play in my decisions to commit crime.
Reflecting on my own white-collar criminal mind leaves no doubt that money is not the only motivating force compelling hardcore criminals to commit crimes. There was also a passion for the act, a sense of accomplishment, that made me enjoy committing my crimes. It is perhaps the same positive feelings of success that law-abiding citizens experience for a legitimate job well-done.
To better understand the behavior of white-collar criminals, take morality out of the equation. During my years at Crazy Eddie, we never had a single conversation about the morality of our actions. We did not give a damn about right and wrong.
Hardcore criminals don’t question their unethical and immoral conduct. Laws, morality, and ethics are weaknesses of other people. They don’t factor in except by limiting society’s behavior. In our society, morality dictates that people are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Ironically, the “benefit of a doubt” limits the behavior of law-abiding citizens while giving criminals greater opportunity to commit their crimes. After all, no one likes to be called "a paranoid" or "impolite."
Our late President Ronald Reagan used to say "trust, but verify." That initial trust gives criminals the freedom to take steps to evade detection. For example, Joseph T. Wells, founder of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, described certain steps I took during Crazy Eddie’s audit to successfully execute my crimes:
Crazy Eddie’s auditors were provided a company office during their examination. They had a key to lock the desk—which they kept in a box of paperclips on top of the desk in full view. After the auditors left for the day, Eddie’s cohorts would unlock the desk, increase the inventory counts on the work-papers and photocopy the altered records. Were the auditors stupid? No, just too trusting. After all, no one wants…
Career criminal, master charmer Sam E. writes about his speaking engagement in Portland, where we met and I gathered material for part II of the No Redemption. The most fascinating aspect of Sam’s story is what his admissions teach us about human nature. But on a more practical level, understanding fraud and the techniques used to commit white collar crimes can give investors insight into the integrity of the companies they invest in. Companies built on fraud tend to implode under the weight of their own lies, eventually – can we find these companies early, before their business comes crashing down? (Stay tuned for part III) – Ilene
Last Friday, I was the key note speaker at the Oregon Health Care Fraud Working Group Training Seminar, sponsored by the United State Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon. I explained to the group that while emphasis on effective oversight and internal controls are important factors in preventing or deterring white-collar crime, not enough emphasis is given to the underlying psychology used by white-collar criminals to prey on their victims and effectively commit their crimes.
I have said many times that, "White-collar criminals consider your humanity as a weakness to be exploited in the execution of their crimes" and as the cold-blooded and ruthless criminal CFO of Crazy Eddie, I learned that you can steal far more with a smile than you can with a gun.
White-collar criminals use a combination of charm and deceit to achieve their objectives. The more likable and charming that I was as a criminal, the easier it was for me to successfully lie to my victims…
Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:
1. We have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.
2. We have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.
3. We have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment.
It’s now broadly acknowledged that the drug war approach has failed.
MP: Note the "War on Drugs" is actually a war against generally peaceful American citizens who decide to buy, sell or ingest drugs that are somewhat arbitrarily considered to be illegal by government officials, e.g. cannabis sativa, an annual, dioecious flowering herb that grows naturally all over the world.
Wow, did the dollar move down this week! It dropped more than it has in quite a while. It fell 1.3mg gold, or 0.1g silver.
Gold and silver bugs of course are excited, as they look at it as the prices of the metals going up $55 and 72 cents respectively. The collapse of what most think of as money—including especially said gold and silver bugs—is great fun and profitable. At least if you’re short the dollar.
By the way, when we say the dollar fell we do not mean in terms of its derivatives such as euro, pound, yuan, and so on. We’re well aware that the dollar index fell from 99.6 to 97. The euro and other currencies are no more suitable for measuring the dollar, than, well the dollar is to me...
A quick post before the Superbowl begins. Friday's action was very disappointing if you were in the bullish camp; poor jobs data contributing to the malaise. However, investors can view this as another buying opportunity, with the Nasdaq clocking the 10% percentile of historic weak prices dating back to 1971, and the Russell 2000 making fast work of a push back to 958. Again, it's not about investing everything at once, but perhaps using the coming year(?) to build long term positions. I would be happier to see a 40-60% trim from highs - keep an eye on my bottom watch table, but this is the kind of action which helps reset the bulls count.
The S&P registered a clear break of rising trend. Volume was lighter, so it wasn't necessarily a panic sell. And while it could be viewed as a breakown, the glass half full crew would see this as a drop back...
Last week, I discussed the boost the market received as the BOJ made an unexpected move into negative interest rate territory combined with end of the month buying by portfolio managers. I wrote:
“However, the announcement by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to implement negative interest rates in a desperate last attempt to boost economic growth in Japan was only the catalyst that ignited the bulls. The “fuel” for the buying came from the end of the month portfolio buying by fund managers.”
But more importantly, was the push higher by stocks that I have been discussing with you over the last couple of weeks. ...
Throughout the past 30 days of wild volatility, here’s what I didn’t do.
Panic. Worry. Sell.
In fact, the best I did was add to a couple of positions yesterday. The world was already in an uncertain state for the past 3+ years. It’s just that with the market rising, we pushed the issue to the back of our mind and ignored it.
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A number of systemic, structural forces are intersecting in 2016. One is the rise of non-state, non-central-bank-issued crypto-currencies.
We all know money is created and distributed by governments and central banks. The reason is simple: control the money and you control everything.
The invention of the blockchain and crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin have opened the door to non-state, non-central-bank currencies--money that is global and independent of any state or central bank, or indeed, any bank, as crypto-currencies are structurally peer-to-peer, meaning they don't require a bank to function: people can exchange crypto-currencies to pay for goods and services without a bank acting as a clearinghouse for all these transactions.
Last year, the S&P 500 large caps closed 2015 essentially flat on a total return basis, while the NASDAQ 100 showed a little better performance at +8.3% and the Russell 2000 small caps fell -5.9%. Overall, stocks disappointed even in the face of modest expectations, especially the small caps as market leadership was mostly limited to a handful of large and mega-cap darlings.
Notably, the full year chart for the S&P 500 looks very much like 2011. It got off to a good start, drifted sideways for...
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Baxter Int. (BAX) is splitting off its BioSciences division into a new company called Baxalta. Shares of Baxalta will be given as a tax-free dividend, in the ratio of one to one, to BAX holders on record on June 17, 2015. That means, if you want to receive the Baxalta dividend, you need to buy the stock this week (on or before June 12).
Back in December, I wrote a post on my blog where I compared the performances of various ETFs related to the oil industry. I was looking for the best possible proxy to match the moves of oil prices if you didn't want to play with futures. At the time, I concluded that for medium term trades, USO and the leveraged ETFs UCO and SCO were the most promising. Longer term, broader ETFs like OIH and XLE might make better investment if oil prices do recover to more profitable prices since ETF linked to futures like USO, UCO and SCO do suffer from decay. It also seemed that DIG and DUG could be promising if OIH could recover as it should with the price of oil, but that they don't make a good proxy for the price of oil itself.
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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