I love that line. I first heard it on the trading desk at Bear Stearns in the early ’90s. For the last twenty years, I have used the line often to counter those who would bemoan an outcome with the standard, “If only . . .” My response typically generates a healthy chuckle and we then move on.
At this point, I feel comfortable amending the line from above to “If my aunt had balls, she’d be Mary Schapiro.” Too harsh, you say? I think not. How so?
Financial executives aren’t the only folks lawmakers are pursuing. They also want to see more heads roll at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Nearly 18 months after Bernie Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme was exposed and almost a year after the SEC’s inspector general issued a blistering report, lawmakers are still questioning how the SEC staffers who reviewed the Madoff firm and investigated fraud allegations were being punished.
SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro told Congress during an oversight hearing that 15 of 20 enforcement attorneys and 19 of 36 examination staffers that dealt with the Madoff matter had left the agency. The SEC was still conducting a disciplinary process, she said, but it should be concluded soon.
Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida –- home to many Madoff victims -– said he wants to know if those SEC employees ended up at other regulatory agencies, working for companies they were supposed to regulate, or retired with government pensions.
“There’s a necessity to know where they went,” said Posey. “It’s like letting a pedophile slink out the door or change neighborhoods. We’re dealing with the same type of problem here.”
Wow!! Representative Posey is being aggressive here, but I commend him because the nation still deserves answers to so many Madoff questions that have been swept under the SEC’s and FINRA’s rugs. The WSJ continues:
Schapiro strongly disagreed. “These aren’t bad people. In some cases they were people who were very junior and not adequately trained or supervised.” In other cases, she said, they were pulled from one project to another.
Junior people, my ass!! The people calling the shots on the Madoff investigation were…
Partisan GOP hacks say the financial crisis was caused by too much regulation, and government interference in the markets.
But Glass-Steagall was repealed, derivatives were left unregulated, and the regulators were watching porn instead of preventing fraud. Giant banks, hedge funds and other fat cat private players knowingly gamed the market and committed fraud in more ways than can be listed in a single post.
On the other hand, partisan Democratic party hacks say that bad corporations caused the crisis, and that if more power is given to Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other governmental honchos, they’ll fix everything.
But Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other meatheads largely caused the crisis through their actions. And as Simon Johnson points out, the government created the mega-giants, and they are not the product of free market competition.
As I pointed out in February 2009, government fraud is pervasive:
In case you believe that there are only "a couple of bad apples" in the United States, here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of corruption by leading pillars of American society:
Senior military officials stole approximately $125 billion dollars out of Iraq reconstruction funds, dwarfing Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme (in turn, the looting which is now occurring under the bailout/stimulus programs will far surpass $150 billion)
This is crazy, unless we’re refunding everyone who lost money, jobs, houses, retirement funds, etc, by clawing money back from those who recklessly or negligently contributed to the financial meltdown. Unfortunately, it’s not much crazier than some other government programs over the last year. Any Senator supporting this repulsive plan (Senators Richard Shelby and Bob Corker) should be voted out asap. My yellow highlights. – Ilene
These are, by and large, relatively well-to-do people who were considered ‘qualified investors,’ or ought to have been. They were able to place large sums of money in obviously risky investments seeking abnormally high rates of return, which they did receive for many years.
The notion that the government should retroactively cover their losses, even indirectly, by taxing the public is obviously repugnant.
What about the many who have lost, on a percentage basis, equally if not more devastating amounts of their retirement savings in the tech, housing and credit bubbles? Their only fault is that they lack the political connections and high powered lawyers to make the case for them to the Congress, and the influence to get their way from pliable Congressmen.
I feel mightily sorry for anyone who has lost money in these fraudulent markets. I spend quite a bit of my personal time trying to warn people about the snares and pitfalls that are allowed to continue in the US financial markets even today. And there are many of them. Consumer Protection is not a priority in Washington.
A better case might be made to sue the Wall Street exchanges, the private self-regulators, and the auditors and ratings agencies for gross negligence in allowing these frauds to continue for so many years. Prosecutions for fraud and corruption across a much wider circle of enablers is generally what is done. It was done in the 1930′s and it was done after the Savings and Loan Scandal.
But that will not happen. The financial sector is contributing far too much to the politicians in Washington, and too many powerful politicians are beholden to them, despite what smooth words that might pass their lips in public.
To take the losses of wealthier investors from hedge funds and other high risk investments having no productive benefit or…
$2.5 Trillion – That's the size of of the global oil scam.
It's a number so large that, to put it in perspective, we will now begin measuring the damage done to the global economy in "Madoff Units" ($50Bn rip-offs). That's right – $2.5Tn is 50 TIMES the amount of money that Bernie Madoff scammed from investors in his lifetime, yet it is also LESS than the MONTHLY EXCESS price the global population is being manipulated into paying for a barrel of oil.
Where is the outrage? Where are the investigations?
Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BP, TOT, Shell, DB and Societe General founded the Intercontinental Exchange in 2000. ICE is an online commodities and futures marketplace. It is outside the US and operates free from the constraints of US laws. The exchange was set up to facilitate "dark pool" trading in the commodities markets. Billions of dollars are being placed on oil futures contracts at the ICE and the beauty of this scam is that they NEVER take delivery, per se. They just ratchet up the price with leveraged speculation using your TARP money. This year alone they ratcheted up the global cost of oil from $40 to $80 per barrel.
A Congressional investigation into energy trading in 2003 discovered that ICE was being used to facilitate "round-trip" trades. Round-trip'' trades occur when one firm sells energy to another and then the second firm simultaneously sells the same amount of energy back to the first company at exactly the same price. No commodity ever changes hands. But when done on an exchange, these transactions send a price signal to the market and they artificially boost revenue for the company. This is nothing more than a massive fraud, pure and simple.
"Traders of the the ICE core membership (GS, MS, BP, DB, RDS.A, GLE & TOT) wouldn't really have to put much money at risk by their standards in order to move or support the global market price via the BFOE market. Indeed the evolution of the Brent market has been a response to declining production and the fact that traders could not resist manipulating the market by buying up contracts and “squeezing” those who had sold oil they did not have. The fewer cargoes produced, the easier the underlying market is to manipulate." – Chris Cook,
A successful career on Wall Street is as much about the failures as it is about the wins. Anyone who tells you differently is either hiding their past mistakes or is about to experience their own epic collapse, made even worse by the fact that it will be wholly unexpected to them.
This is good to remember the next time you hear any of the following terms assigned to a Wall Street professional…
Guru – As in “Options Guru” or “Trading Guru”. These days, robes and a beard are optional as investors are more than willing to lavish the appellation Guru on virtually anyone who can get themselves on television. This term typically precedes the name of someone who would like to sell you a set of instructional videos. example: Lenny Dykstra (TheStreet.com’s ex-options expert)
Rock Star – Anytime someone involved in finance is called a Rock Star, you can turn on the bull$#*t meter and pretty much just leave it running. “Rock Star” is what they called Erin Callan, Lehman’s CFO just before the end, whose main role at the company was the application of lipstick to herself when the cameras were rolling and to their pig of a balance sheet when the Korean sovereign wealth funds were in town. example: Erin Callan (former Chief Obfuscation Officer, Lehman Brothers)
Wiz – Similar to Guru, although with the added implication of supernatural talent or skills. Those on The Street who are referred to as “a Wiz” will likely end up in handcuffs before long. example: Bernie Madoff (the most consistent generator of returns in the history of investing…until someone needed money back)
Wunderkind – Typically reserved for someone who runs a hedge fund and puts up incredible numbers within the first year or two out of nowhere. Much like your average American Idol winner, the “Wunderkind” rides this initial wave of success until his many new investors find out how rarely any one strategy works consistently in back-to-back years. example: Thomas Hudson Jr. (Pirate Capital)
Prodigy – Similar to wunderkind, those in finance who are called “prodigy”…
As the New York Times only prints news fit to print, I feel obligated to keep inquiring financial minds informed on all dimensions of the financial crisis.
It’s been documented that subordinates laugh more at their bosses jokes than vice versa. Such is the nature of interaction in a hierarchical society with a strong pretense for egalitarianism. Rich people have more friends, bigger birthday parties, etc. But once you lose everything, you suddenly aren’t as funny, as friendworthy, as desirable.
Bernie Madoff’s ex-mistress, clearly not above seeking financial gains where others don’t, wrote a quickie book Madoff’s Other Secret, in which she informs us about Bernie’s various inadequacies, including one I never really thought about (from Bloomberg):
Bernie had a very small penis. Not only was it on the short side, it was small in circumference. That he was now pointing it out to me was telling. It clearly caused him great angst. I wanted to be careful how I responded. Men and their penises have a strange and unique relationship…[However] I liked this man and didn’t want to emasculate him. His tiny penis hadn’t prevented me from climaxing…On the bright side, oral sex would be a breeze.
In his position this isn’t very damaging to his status. I can’t think it helps her socially, but I imagine without that passage, there would absolutely nothing noteworthy in there.
Mr. Madoff listed family members, boat captains, housekeepers and others as employees of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, even though they never actually worked for the firm, newly released documents show. Mr. Madoff also used his firm’s money to pay for real estate, yachts, private planes and country club memberships, according to court filings by the trustee charged with liquidating the Madoff firm and recovering money for victims of Mr. Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
The documents back up a previous assertion by lawyers for the trustee, Irving H. Picard, that Mr. Madoff used his business as a personal “piggy bank.”
In January, Mr. Madoff, his wife, Ruth, and other family members spent more than $100,000 on his firm’s American Express Corporate Card. Among the charges were $1,564 at Bistro Chez Jean-Pierre in Palm Beach, Fla.; $2,000 at Georgio Armani in Paris; and $2,813 at the Apple computer store in New York.
Mr. Madoff, the mastermind of the world’s biggest Ponzi scheme, doled out more than $7 million to various companies owned by his wife, Ruth, his two sons and his niece Shana. Peter Madoff’s wife, Marion, was paid a salary of $163,500 by the Madoff firm last year, even though investigators found no evidence that she actually worked there.
Mr. Madoff also paid out $471,000 to a marina in Long Island and nearly $1 million to a number of exclusive country clubs including the Breakers, the Atlantic Country Club on Long Island, the Palm Beach Country Club and the Trump International Golf Club.
If the IRS never audited this guy, who were they auditing? Just asking.
Will the Swiss Guarantee CHF 75,000 for Every Family?
In early June the Swiss will be called upon to make a historic decision. Switzerland is the first country worldwide to put the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income (of $2,500 per month for every man, woman, and child for doing absolutely nothing) to a vote and the outcome of this referendum will set a strong precedent and establish a landmark in the evolution of th...
The ECB said in the latest edition of its twice-yearly Financial Stability Review that a rise in political risk “pose[s] a challenge to fiscal and structural reform implementation and, by extension, public debt sustainability”.
Note: In response to an email, I've updated the data in this article through the March month-end numbers and at the launch of the Q1 2016 earnings season.
When I initiated the dshort web page in late 2005, one of my routine topics was equity valuations, initially inspired by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller's book, Irrational Exuberance, the second edition of which was published earlier that year. I gradually expanded my focus from his cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio (CAPE) to include Ed Easterling's Crestmont P/E, Nobel laureate James Tobin's Q Ratio and m...
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Do you remember when you were growing up and all your friends were allowed Atari game consoles but you weren’t?
Well, I do and the things seemed as foreign to me as Venus. Mostly because the little time I managed to spend on the gaming consoles when my friends weren’t hogging them I found it all a bit silly. I never “got” computer games, and to this day still have poor comprehension of things like Angry Birds.
I suspect that many people around the world view Bitcoin in the same way as I view Angry Birds: with mild amusement and a general lack of understanding as to what the hell all the fuss is about.
I was thinking of this since a buddy of mine recently started ...
After a three-year bull run that more than quadrupled its value by its peak last July, IBD’s Medical-Biomed/Biotech Industry Group plunged 50% by early February, hurt by backlashes against high drug prices and mergers that seek to lower corporate taxes.
Although we try to stay focused on finding and managing promising trade ideas, the comments in the comment section sometimes take a political turn (for access, try PSW — click here!). So today, Jean Luc writes,
The GOP debate last night was just unreal – are these people running to be president of the US or to lead a college fraternity! Comparing tool size? The only guy that looks semi-sane is Kasich. The other guys are just like 3 jackals right now.
And something else – if Trump is the candidate, that little Romney speech yesterday is probably already being made into a commercial. And all these little snippets from the debate will also make some nice ads! If you are a conservative, you have to be scared now.
Phil writes back,
I was expecting them to start throwing poop at each other &n...
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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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