by ilene - July 7th, 2011 1:47 am
By Brett Arends
The last financial crisis isn’t over, but we might as well start getting ready for the next one.
Sorry to be gloomy, but there it is.
Why? Here are 10 reasons.
1. We are learning the wrong lessons from the last one. Was the housing bubble really caused by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Community Reinvestment Act, Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, "liberals" and so on? That’s what a growing army of people now claim. There’s just one problem. If so, then how come there was a gigantic housing bubble in Spain as well? Did Barney Frank cause that, too (and while in the minority in Congress, no less!)? If so, how? And what about the giant housing bubbles in Ireland, the U.K. and Australia? All Barney Frank? And the ones across Eastern Europe, and elsewhere? I’d laugh, but tens of millions are being suckered into this piece of spin, which is being pushed in order to provide cover so the real culprits can get away. And it’s working.
2. No one has been punished. Executives like Dick Fuld at Lehman Brothers and Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide , along with many others, cashed out hundreds of millions of dollars before the ship crashed into the rocks. Predatory lenders and crooked mortgage lenders walked away with millions in ill-gotten gains. But they aren’t in jail. They aren’t even under criminal prosecution. They got away scot-free. As a general rule, the worse you behaved from 2000 to 2008, the better you’ve been treated. And so the next crowd will do it again. Guaranteed.
Read the rest here: The Next Financial Crisis Will Be Even Worse – SmartMoney.com.
by ilene - May 11th, 2011 11:57 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
By Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone Magazine
The People vs. Goldman Sachs
They weren’t murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.
Thanks to an extraordinary investigative effort by a Senate subcommittee that unilaterally decided to take up the burden the criminal justice system has repeatedly refused to shoulder, we now know exactly what Goldman Sachs executives like Lloyd Blankfein and Daniel Sparks lied about. We know exactly how they and other top Goldman executives, including David Viniar and Thomas Montag, defrauded their clients. America has been waiting for a case to bring against Wall Street. Here it is, and the evidence has been gift-wrapped and left at the doorstep of federal prosecutors, evidence that doesn’t leave much doubt: Goldman Sachs should stand trial.
The great and powerful Oz of Wall Street was not the only target of Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse, the 650-page report just released by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, alongside Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Their unusually scathing bipartisan report also includes case studies of Washington Mutual and Deutsche Bank, providing a panoramic portrait of a bubble era that produced the most destructive crime spree in our history — "a million fraud cases a year" is how one former regulator puts it. But the mountain of evidence collected against Goldman by Levin’s small, 15-desk office of investigators — details of gross, baldfaced fraud delivered up in such quantities as to almost serve as a kind of sarcastic challenge to the curiously impassive Justice Department — stands as the most important symbol of Wall Street’s aristocratic impunity and prosecutorial immunity produced since the crash of 2008.
To date, there has been only one successful prosecution of a financial big fish from the mortgage bubble, and that was Lee Farkas, a Florida lender who was just convicted on a smorgasbord of fraud charges and now faces life in prison. But Farkas, sadly, is just an exception proving the rule: Like Bernie Madoff, his comically excessive crime spree (which involved such lunacies as kiting checks to his own bank…
by ilene - March 31st, 2011 11:53 am
Courtesy of Jim Quinn, The Burning Platform
“We now have an economy in which five banks control over 50 percent of the entire banking industry, four or five corporations own most of the mainstream media, and the top one percent of families hold a greater share of the nation’s wealth than any time since 1930. This sort of concentration of wealth and power is a classic setup for the failure of a democratic republic and the stifling of organic economic growth.” - Jesse –http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/
by ilene - February 23rd, 2011 2:34 am
Courtesy of The Daily Bail
Citigroup ignored warning signs of Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and a bank executive knew the con man’s stated trading strategy couldn’t generate the reported returns, the trustee liquidating Madoff’s firm said in a lawsuit.
The unidentified Citibank executive, who was responsible for making recommendations to clients on derivatives, “concluded” by June 2007 that returns reported by a Madoff feeder fund, Fairfield Sentry Ltd., couldn’t have come from the strategy, trustee Irving Picard said in a complaint unsealed yesterday. The executive reached his conclusion after meeting with analyst Harry Markopolos, a whistleblower who also alerted U.S. regulators to the fraud, Picard said.
The Citibank official later communicated with Markopolos orally and in writing, specifically discussing the fraud before the Ponzi scheme was exposed in December 2008, Picard alleged.
“Citi knew, and was on notice of, irregularities and problems concerning the trades reported by BLMIS, and strategically chose to ignore these concerns in order to continue to enrich themselves,” Picard said in the complaint, referring to Madoff’s firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
Picard laid out in the complaint details of a lawsuit he filed under seal in December against New York-based Citigroup and other banks. He is demanding $425 million from Citigroup – money it received “in connection with” a loan to a Madoff feeder fund and a swap transaction with a Swiss hedge fund linked to a second feeder fund, Picard said.
We first got an inkling of Picard’s filing from this Bloomberg story in December.
Citigroup, Bank of America Sued by Madoff Trustee
Citigroup Inc.’s Citibank, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit and five other banks were sued by the trustee liquidating Bernard Madoff’s firm to recover more than $1 billion for the con man’s defrauded customers.
The banks, which include Natixis SA, Fortis Prime Fund Solutions Bank (Ireland) Ltd., ABN Amro Bank NV, Nomura Bank International Plc. and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, received money through Madoff feeder funds when they knew, or should have known, that Madoff’s investments were a fraud, the trustee, Irving Picard, said yesterday in a statement.
Picard, who faces a two-year legal deadline that runs out Dec. 11, has filed hundreds of suits in the past month, seeking more than $34 billion from banks, feeder funds, investors and others alleged to have profited from Madoff’s decades-long Ponzi scheme, the biggest in…
by ilene - February 14th, 2011 11:46 am
Excellent article comparing current situation with lead up to the Great Depression. Well worth reading. – Ilene
Courtesy of Jim Quinn at The Burning Platform
by ilene - January 25th, 2011 4:07 pm
One of the big reasons there have been so few fraud charges leveled against what looks like clear and widespread banking industry is that under the law, “fraud” is pretty difficult to prove. Needless to say, that puts commentators in a bit of a bind, because they can be depicted as being hysterical if they use the “f” words, since behavior that is often fraud by any common sense standard may be hard or impossible to prove in court.
The hurdle in litigation and prosecution is proving intent. Basically, the party who is being accused has to not only have done something bad, he has to have been demonstrably aware that he was up to no good. Thus po-faced claims of “I had no idea this was improper, my accountants/lawyers knew about it and didn’t say anything” or “everyone in the industry was doing it, so I had not reason to think this was irregular” is a “get out of jail free” card. Similarly, even if lower level employees knew that their company was up to stuff that stank, if the decision-makers can plausibly claim ignorance, again they can probably get away with it.
So it is gratifying in a perverse way to see a case in which the perp not only looks to have engaged in chicanery, but the facts make it pretty hard for him to say he didn’t know he was pulling a fast one. And even more fun, it involves JP Morgan, which has somehow managed to create the impression that it was better than all the other TARP banks, when on the mortgage front, there is plenty evidence to suggest that all the major banks have been up to their eyeballs in bad practices.
The case involves the bond insurer Ambac and the mortgage company EMC, which was the Bear Stearns conduit for buying mortgages to securitize and now thus part of JP Morgan. In 2010, reports surfaced that EMC had been falsifying mortgage data to keep its pipeline moving as fast as Bear wanted and contain costs.
But a suit by bond insurer Ambac alleges far more serious misbehavior. The discovery process in outstanding putback litigation has unearthed a scheme to defraud investors and Ambac and led the bond insurer to add fraud charges to its complaint. The Atlantic, which broke the 2010 story, gives a…
by ilene - November 13th, 2010 5:19 am
Fraud and Complicity Are Now the Lifeblood of the Status Quo (Banality of Financial Evil, Part 2)
The status quo would collapse were systemic fraud and complicity banished. Rather than the acts of evil conspirators, they have become the foundation of the U.S. economy and financial system.
Though fraud and complicity are presented in the mainstream media as isolated conspiracies outside the status quo, the truth is that the status quo is now entirely dependent on fraud and complicity for its very survival. Every level of the status quo would immediately implode were fraud and complicity suddenly withdrawn from the system.
How is this true? let me count the ways.
1. The mortgage market. As I reported recently in this Daily Finance story, the private market for mortgage-backed securities is dead. Now that we all understand the entire mortgage is not just riddled with fraud and misrepresentation of risk, but it is entirely dependent on fraud and misrepresentation of risk to function, no one is willing to touch any of this debt--except if it is guaranteed by the Federal government (and thus by its taxpayers).
Now that the systemic fraud and misrepresentation of risk have been exposed, the $10 trillion mortgage market has ceased to function except as a dumping ground where private players can dump 100% of their losses on the taxpayers (profits were privatized, losses are socialized).
2. Foreclosures and our Banana Republic system of "law". There are two sets of laws (and two sets of books) in status quo America: one set of laws for "too big to fail" banks and Wall Street, and one for the rest of us peons.
3. Housing and commercial real estate (CRE). Does anyone seriously think housing is recovering from organic demand? Does anyone seriously think housing wouldn’t fall off a cliff if the Central State withdrew its collusive propping-up of the real estate market?
As I reported in These Numbers Paint a Bleak Picture for Housing, there is essentially no evidence that housing is recovering due to "organic" (that is, non-State-manipulated) supply and demand.
Rather, Home Prices…
by ilene - November 10th, 2010 9:04 am
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
[Artwork: courtesy of William Banzai7]
The Banality Of (Financial) Evil
The financialized American economy and Central State are now totally dependent on a steady flow of lies and propaganda for their very survival. Were the truth told, the status quo would collapse in a foul, rotten heap.
Google’s famous "don’t be evil" is reversed in the American Central State and financial "industry": be evil, because everyone else is evil, too. In other words, lying, fraud, embezzlement, mispresentation of risk, material misrepresentation of facts, the cloaking of truth with half-truths, the replacement of statements of fact with propaganda and spin: these are not the work of a scattered handful of sociopaths: they represent the very essence and heart of the entire status quo.
Hannah Arendt coined the phrase the banality of evil to capture the essence of the Nazi regime in Germany: doing evil wasn’t abnormal, it was normal. Doing evil wasn’t an outlier of sociopaths, it was the everyday "job" of millions of people, Nazi Party members or not.
Not naming evil is the key to normalizing evil. Evil must first and foremost be derealized (a key concept in the Survival+ critique), detached from our realization and awareness by naming it something innocuous.
Normalization of the unthinkable comes easily when money, status, power, and jobs are at stake…. Intellectuals will be dredged up to justify their (actions). The rationalizations are hoary with age: government knows best, ours is a strictly defensive effort, or, if it wasn’t me somebody else would do it. There is also the retreat to ignorance, real, cultivated, or feigned.
Can any of the tens of thousands of people working on Wall Street or in the bowels of the Federal Reserve, Treasury, Pentagon, etc. truthfully claim they "didn’t know it was wrong" to mislead the citizenry, the soldiers, the investors and the buyers of their fraud? On the contrary, every one of those tens of thousands of worker bees and managers knows full well the institution they toil for is doing evil simply by hiding the truth of its operations.
The entire status quo of the American Empire is built on lies. Now the dependence on lies, fraud and misrepresentaion is complete; Wall…
by ilene - November 9th, 2010 8:07 pm
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
In a rather-stunning admission on Jekyll Island last weekend, Alan Greenspan "outed" what really happened.
What I’ve been talking about now for more than three and a half years.
And what many people have said was "an over-reaction" or "a distortion."
The claim has been repeatedly made that people made "mistakes" in our regulatory agencies, and that banks made "mistakes" making loans, packaging up securities and selling them to investors.
I have continually asserted that they were not mistakes.
They were scams and frauds.
This has been an unpopular viewpoint, with only a few – like Bill Black – agreeing with me.
Not any more…..
Is it time yet for America to force these banks into receivership?
To force prosecution for these frauds….. these crimes?
And to hold accountable the regulators…. including The Fed….. who intentionally ignored these frauds and crimes?
How many Americans have to lose their homes?
How many jobs have to go to China?
How much devaluation of our currency – undertaken to prop up these scams – will you tolerate?
How much higher does gasoline and food have to go in price, while your wages remain stagnant or you lose your job – and you’re evicted from your house - before you demand it stop and the scammers go to prison?
by ilene - October 29th, 2010 3:22 pm
Courtesy of Karl Denninger of The Market Ticker
The economy, that is.
This is a must-read from Chris Whalen. He’s spot-on, and I will reprint only the conclusions – read through for the why, what and how.
- The U.S. banking industry entering a new period of crisis where operating costs are rising dramatically due to foreclosures and loan repurchase expenses. We are less than ¼ of the way through foreclosures. The issue is recognizing existing losses ??not if a loss occurred.
- Failure by the Bush/Obama to restructure the largest banks during 2008?2009 period only means that this process is going to occur over next three to five years – whether we like it or not. Lower growth, employment are the cost of this lack of courage and vision.
- The largest U.S. banks remain insolvent and must continue to shrink until they are either restructured or the subsidies flowing from the Fed, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac cover hidden losses. The latter course condemns Americans to years of economic malaise and further job losses.
The bottom line folks is that the fraud – massive and outrageous concealment of losses, intentionally making bad loans in the mid-2000s (now admitted to under oath by Citibank’s chief underwriter, among others) and the selling of that paper everywhere and anywhere that the banks could manage, along with holding much of it themselves, condemns us.
The opportunity to take these banks into receivership in 2007 existed. It existed in 2008 too. I counseled on doing exactly this during those years.
Instead, both Bush and Obama decided to protect those who had committed these offenses. First by attempting to bail them out, and then when it became obvious that $700 billion of taxpayer money was literally trying to **** on a forest fire to put it out they decided instead to paper it over by extorting FASB so the losses could be swept under the carpet instead of recognized.
The problem is that unlike long-run spending problems like Social Security and Medicare, which will detonate in ten year or more, this is a current account cash-flow problem and the deterioration continues month-by-month as the payments are not made. It’s like a barrel of dead fish. The next morning it starts to stink. Every day it stinks worse. Putting a…