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But Glass-Steagall was repealed, derivatives were left unregulated, and the regulators were watching porn instead of preventing fraud.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, Former Director of the International Petroleum Exchange, which was bought by ICE.
How widespread are “round-trip’‘ trades? The Congressional Research Service looked at trading…
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.
In trying to assess the trajectory of the US economy, one is struck by the recent divergence between the manufacturing and the services sectors. Manufacturing in the United States has picked up steam recently in spite of some weather-related headwinds (see chart). The service sector on the other hand took a turn for the worse, which is negatively impacting the labor markets in this service-oriented economy (see story). A couple of key indicators point to slower non-manufacturing activity:
OvaScienceSM (NASDAQ: OVAS), a life sciences company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of female fertility treatments, today announced the issuance of two United States patents covering its AUGMENTSM fertility treatment. AUGMENT is based on the Company's egg precursor cell (EggPCSM) technology and is being developed to improve egg quality and the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF). AUGMENT will be available in international IVF clinics this year.
“The new patents strengthen and extend the protection for AUGMENT in support of our efforts to offer a potential new fertility treatment option to women and families,” said Michelle Dipp, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of OvaScience. “We continue to aggressively pursue additional pate...
Before the market opened, the weekly unemployment report came in better than expected, although the reporting of new claims has skewed in both directions by weather (e.g., my home state). The S&P 500 rallied at the open and hit its morning high 30 minutes later -- one that it would beat by a tenth of a point during the noon hour, up 0.43%. The index traded lower in the afternoon and closed with a trimmed gain of 0.17%, but that's another record high.
Tomorrow's employment report for February will be closely watched by market participants, but the pattern of late has to write off weak economic news as weather-related and celebrate goo...
The Global X Social Media Index ETF (Ticker: SOCL) touched fresh record highs on Thursday morning, surprising no one given the top three holdings of the Fund are Hong Kong-based Tencent Holdings (12.678%), Facebook Inc. (12.506%) and LinkedIn Corp. (8.166%), which are up 130%, 160% and 22%, respectively, since this time last year. The SOCL reflects the performance of companies involved in the social media industry, including companies that provide social networking, file sharing and other web-based media applications. Shares in the ETF rose 1.3% today to a new high of $23.00, and have soared approximately 65% since this time last year.
Today brought three better than expected economic releases from Construction Spending, ISM Manufacturing, and Personal Income. The ISM figure was quite unexpected and Personal Income was well above expectations. If we ignore for a moment that the Final GDP reading for Q4 was lowered on Friday (which may or may not have been primarily caused by severe weather), we have had a week of better than expected economic numbers. Corporate earnings have also continued to exceed forecasts, albeit with a bit more cautious guidance.
Of course, none of that matters when the “war drums” start beating. Russia and the Ukraine are engaged in a serious game of “chicken” with a bear in the hen house. The Russian ruble has borne the brunt of the damage so far with a double digit drop today again...
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This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).
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Ladies and Gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes, and Bow-legged ants,
I come before you, To stand behind you,
To tell you something, I know nothing about.
And so the circus begins in Union Square, San Francisco for this weeks JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Will the momentum from 2013, which carried the S&P Spider Biotech ETF to all time highs, carry on in 2014? The Biotech ETF beat the S&P by better than 3 points.
As I noted in my previous post, Biotechs Galore - IPOs and More, biotechs were rushing to IPOs so that venture capitalists could unwind their holdings (funds are usually 5-7 years), as well as take advantage of the opportune moment...
Welcome to the fouth update of the IRA Virtual Portfolio. First I am going to summarize the current state of the Portfolio then I will get into all the activity we had during September expiration.
Profit and Loss – Net of closed positions the portfolio is up a total of $769
Market Commentary – Last expiration I said, "I would like to put a total of $20,000 to work by the end of SEP expiration. If the VIX pops up to around 20 I plan to put about $50,000 total to work." The market didn't quite reach the goal but I did manage to deploy $15,000 of buying power. I still feel the market is too high and expect a correction during October. If the vix pops up to around 20 I still plan to put about $50,000 to work. If a correction doesn't happen I still plan to have a total of $25,000 in buying power put to work by October expiration. Now on to the act...
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