by ilene - January 27th, 2011 1:57 am
Courtesy of Jesse’s Americain Cafe
It amazes me that the discussion on change centers on ‘improving competitiveness’ when the crisis was caused by a massive financial fraud and political and regulatory failure that goes largely unresolved and unrepaired, sucking the life out of the real economy and spreading corruption of thought and action. Slogans and code words are the substance of the public policy discussion in the US and Europe, and I think with the intent to deceive, a propaganda campaign. The mainstream media in the States is owned by a handful of powerful corporations. But fewer and fewer turn to the mainstream media anymore.
"In addition, any economist will tell you that when the free market fails a black market emerges. The blogs are the black market of information."
David B. Collum, Cornell University
As for competitiveness, the current global trade regime is underpinned with and founded on a fraud, a set of managed currencies pinned to the US dollar and under the control of a banking cartel. There is no real free trade, only an illusion of such, promoted by the rapacity of multinational corporations and their partners in authoritarian governments.
The only real competition I can see is the race to destroy the middle class and reduce the public around the world to the least common denominator of slavery, serfdom, and servitude, with the dollar and the jackboot as their weapons.
From Mark Thoma:
"Eliminating regulation: The idea is that removing unnecessary regulation will improve our ability to innovate, and this will help the economy create new, good jobs. However, it wasn’t lack of innovation or lack of competitiveness that got us into this mess, it was an out of control financial sector.
The President talked about eliminating unnecessary regulation, but far too little was said about the need to implement new regulations where they are needed. In addition, by focusing so much on helping business, the president risks sending the message that what is good for business is necessarily good for the nation. (Risk? As the risk of sounding snarky, that is the reason for the season. It was the corporate FIRE sector that caused the financial crisis in the first place. – Jesse)
Businesses need the right environment to thrive, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it’s the skills of the people that work at businesses that matters most. Our ultimate goal is the best possible life for
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 6:00 pm
Courtesy of John Mauldin at Thoughts From The Frontline
Trouble, oh we got trouble, Right here in River City!
With a capital "T" That rhymes with "P"
And that stands for Pool, That stands for pool.
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Right here! Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…
- From The Music Man
(Quick last-minute note: I think this (and next week’s) is/will be one of the more important letters I have written in the last ten years. Take the time to read, and if you agree send it on to friends and responsible parties. And note to new readers: this letter goes to 1.5 million of my closest friends. It is free. Now, let’s jump in!)
There’s trouble, my friends, and it is does indeed involve pool(s), but not in the pool hall. The real monster is hidden in those pools of subprime debt that have not gone away. When I first began writing and speaking about the coming subprime disaster, it was in late 2007 and early 2008. The subject was being dismissed in most polite circles. "The subprime problem," testified Ben Bernanke, "will be contained."
My early take? It would be a disaster for investors. I admit I did not see in January that it would bring down Lehman and trigger the worst banking crisis in 80 years, less than 18 months later. But it was clear that it would not be "contained." We had no idea.
I also said that it was going to create a monster legal battle down the road that would take years to develop. Well, in the fullness of time, those years have come nigh upon us. Today we briefly look at the housing market, then the mortgage foreclosure debacle, and then we go into the real problem lurking in the background. It is The Subprime Debacle, Act 2. It is NOT the mortgage foreclosure issue, as serious as that is. I seriously doubt it will be contained, as well. Could the confluence of a bank credit crisis in the US and a sovereign debt banking crisis in Europe lead to another full-blown world banking crisis? The potential is there. This situation wants some serious attention.
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 2:22 am
With risky behavior by big finance again threatening economic stability, how can we get things right this time?
Courtesy of Ellen Brown
Originally published in YES! Magazine
Looming losses from the mortgage scandal dubbed “foreclosuregate” may qualify as the sort of systemic risk that, under the new financial reform bill, warrants the breakup of the too-big-to-fail banks. The Kanjorski amendment allows federal regulators to pre-emptively break up large financial institutions that—for any reason—pose a threat to U.S. financial or economic stability.
Although downplayed by most media accounts and popular financial analysts, crippling bank losses from foreclosure flaws appear to be imminent and unavoidable. The defects prompting the “RoboSigning Scandal” are not mere technicalities but are inherent to the securitization process. They cannot be cured. This deep-seated fraud is already explicitly outlined in publicly available lawsuits.
There is, however, no need to panic, no need for TARP II, and no need for legislation to further conceal the fraud and push the inevitable failure of the too-big-to-fail banks into the future.
Federal regulators now have the tools to take control and set things right. The Wall Street giants escaped the Volcker Rule, which would have limited their size, and the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have broken up the largest six banks outright; but the financial reform bill has us covered. The Kanjorski amendment—which slipped past lobbyists largely unnoticed—allows federal regulators to preemptively break up large financial institutions that pose a threat to U.S. financial or economic stability.
Rep. Grayson’s Call for a Moratorium
The new Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) probably didn’t expect to have its authority called on quite so soon, but Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has just put the amendment to the test. On October 7, in a letter addressed to Timothy Geithner, Shiela Bair, Ben Bernanke, Mary Schapiro, John Walsh (Acting Comptroller of the Currency), Gary Gensler, Ed DeMarco, and Debbie Matz (National Credit Union Administration), he asked for an emergency task force on foreclosure fraud. He said:
The liability here for the major banks is potentially enormous, and can lead
by ilene - October 14th, 2010 4:02 pm
The foreclosure crisis is heating up. Will it all come crashing down, or can we find a way out of the mess? **This is Part 3 in a series giving a basic explanation of the current foreclosure fraud crisis. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Right now the foreclosure system has shut down as a result of the banks’ own voluntary actions. There is currently a debate over whether or not the current foreclosure fraud crisis could explode into a systemic risk problem that imperils the larger financial sector and economy, and if so what that would look like.
No matter what happens, the uncertainty about notes and what is currently going on with the foreclosure crisis is terrible for the economy. Getting to the heart of this problem so that negotiations can be worked out is important for getting the economy going again. There is little reason to trust whatever the servicers and the banks conclude at the end of the month, and the market will know that. Only the government can credibly clear the air as to what the legal situation is with the notes and the securitizations.
But I want to get some unlikely but dangerous scenarios on the table in which this blows up. Bangs, not whimpers. The kind where Congress is pressured to act over a weekend. I had a discussion with Adam Levitin about how this could explode into a systemic problem.
Title Insurance Market Breaks Down
The first scenario involves title insurance, specifically a situation wherein title insurers decide to take a month off from writing title insurance even on performing and current loans to investigate what is going on with note transfers.
If that happened, there would be no mortgage sales (except for those involving cash) in the country. The system would simply stop. Everyone with an interest, from realtors to Wall Street to construction to huge sections of the economy, would face a major crisis from this short-term pinch. There would be a call for Congress to step in immediately.
by ilene - October 14th, 2010 3:29 pm
Mike Konczal defines the key players in the foreclosure fraud mess. **This is Part 2 in a series giving a basic explanation of the current foreclosure fraud crisis. You can find Part 1 here.
What is the note?
The SEIU has a campaign: Where’s the Note? Demand to see your mortgage note. It’s worth checking out. But first, what is this note? And why would its existence be important to struggling homeowners, homeowners in foreclosure, and investors in mortgage backed securities?
There’s going to be a campaign to convince you that having the note correctly filed and produced isn’t that important (see, to start, this WSJ editorial from the weekend). It will argue that this is some sort of useless cover sheet for a TPS form that someone forgot to fill out. That is profoundly incorrect.
Independent of the fraud that was committed on our courts, the current crisis is important because the note is a crucial document for every party to a mortgage. But first, let’s define what a mortgage is. A mortgage consists of two documents, a note and a lien:
The note is the IOU; it’s the borrower’s promise to pay. The mortgage, or the lien, is just the enforcement right to take the property if the note goes unpaid. The note is crucial.
Why does this matter? Three reasons, reasons that even the Wall Street Journal op-ed page needs to take into account. The first is that the note is the evidence of the debt. If it isn’t properly in the trust, then there isn’t clear evidence of the debt existing.
And it can’t be a matter of “let’s go find it now!” REMIC law, which governs the securitization, is really specific here. The securitization can’t get new assets after 90 days without a tax penalty, and it can’t get defaulted assets at all without a major tax penalty. Most of these notes are way past 90 days and will be in a defaulted state.
This is because these parts of the mortgage-backed security were supposed to be passive entities. They are supposed to take in money through mortgage payments on one end and pay it out to bondholders on the other end — hence their exemption from lots…
by ilene - September 21st, 2010 4:20 pm
Courtesy of Steve Randy Waldman at Interfluidity
Last Monday, I had the privilege to meet up with a bunch of bloggers and Treasury officials for what might be described as a “rap session”. The meeting was less formal than a previous meeting. There were no presentations, and no obvious agenda. Refugees from the blogosphere included Tyler Cowen, Phil Davis, John Lounsbury, Mike Konczal, Yves Smith, Alex Tabarrok, and myself. Our hosts at Treasury were Lewis Alexander, Michael Barr, Timothy Geithner, Matthew Kabaker, Mary John Miller, and Jake Siewart. You will find better write-ups of the affair elsewhere [Konczal, Lounsbury (also here), Smith, Tabarrok]. Treasury held another meeting, with a different set of bloggers, on Wednesday.
It is bizarro world for me to go to these things. First, let me confess right from the start, I had a great time. I pose as an outsider and a crank. But when summoned to the court, this jester puts on his bells. I am very, very angry at Treasury, and the administration it serves. But put me at a table with smart, articulate people who are willing to argue but who are otherwise pleasant towards me, and I will like them. One or two of the “senior Treasury officials” had the grace to be a bit creepy in their demeanor. But, cruelly, the rest were lively, thoughtful, and willing to engage as though we were equals. Occasionally, under attack, they expressed hints of frustration in their body language — the indignation of hardworking people unjustly accused. But they kept on in good spirits until their time was up. I like these people, and that renders me untrustworthy. Abstractly, I think some of them should be replaced and perhaps disgraced. But having chatted so cordially, I’m far less likely to take up pitchforks against them. Drawn to the Secretary’s conference room by curiosity, vanity, ambition, and conceit, I’ve been neutered a bit. There’s an irony to that, because some of the people I met with may have been neutered, in precisely the same way and to disastrous effect, by their own meetings and mentorings with the Robert Rubins and Jamie Dimons of the world.
by ilene - August 15th, 2010 2:12 pm
Courtesy of Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse
Today there is a horrific derivatives bubble that threatens to destroy not only the U.S. economy but the entire world financial system as well, but unfortunately the vast majority of people do not understand it. When you say the word "derivatives" to most Americans, they have no idea what you are talking about. In fact, even most members of the U.S. Congress don’t really seem to understand them. But you don’t have to get into all the technicalities to understand the bigger picture.
Basically, derivatives are financial instruments whose value depends upon or is derived from the price of something else. A derivative has no underlying value of its own. It is essentially a side bet. Originally, derivatives were mostly used to hedge risk and to offset the possibility of taking losses. But today it has gone way, way beyond that. Today the world financial system has become a gigantic casino where insanely large bets are made on anything and everything that you can possibly imagine.
The derivatives market is almost entirely unregulated and in recent years it has ballooned to such enormous proportions that it is almost hard to believe. Today, the worldwide derivatives market is approximately 20 times the size of the entire global economy.
Because derivatives are so unregulated, nobody knows for certain exactly what the total value of all the derivatives worldwide is, but low estimates put it around 600 trillion dollars and high estimates put it at around 1.5 quadrillion dollars.
Do you know how large one quadrillion is?
by ilene - June 23rd, 2010 2:38 am
Take the 5 to 10 minutes necessary to read Barry Ritholtz’s version of how Obama’s Oval Office address should have gone (link below).
I ripped the address to shreds an hour after it aired as I found the President uninspiring, incredibly non-specific and completely unaware of how much power comes to the Chief in times of crisis.
This President has a chance to make sweeping energy, regulatory and campaign finance reforms now. Like, today. His address the other night tells us that he has no such inclinations.
Barry has a list of initiatives that should have been front and center and it’s an instant classic post. Many of them are idealistic, but you gotta aim high if you want to save the democracy.
Me, I’m a bit more cynical. I’d say the downfall of our country can be neatly summed up in the image below and everything it represents…
OK, enough of that. Here’s how The Big Picture would’ve tackled this crisis and moment in time…
by ilene - June 6th, 2010 11:53 pm
Why do I blog so much about financial regulatory reform? Maybe because over a fairly short career of 12 years in the business, about half of those years were spent enduring some of the most destructive calamities in the history of free markets. I’m 33 and have seen enough monetary death and dismemberment to last me 3 lifetimes. Volatility and cycles I can deal with…locusts, pestilence and nuclear detonations are a bit much already.
And I don’t want to hear from any of you Crash of ’87 wusses, we do those types of selloffs like every day.
Anyway, Joe Nocera is back and is dismayed at what he sees as a fairly useless potential bill to be hammered out over the next week or so as the Senate and House versions are melded together…
From the New York Times:
In the first place, there is nothing even remotely radical about anything in these bills. Nobody is suggesting setting up a new Securities and Exchange Commission, which reshaped Wall Street regulation when it was formed in 1934. Nobody is talking about breaking up banks the way they did in the 1930s with the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act. Nobody is even talking about a wholesale revamping of a regulatory system that so clearly failed in this crisis. “They are trying to attack the symptoms, instead of the basic issues,” said Christopher Whalen, managing director of the Institutional Risk Analyst. There is something oh-so-reasonable about these bills, as if Congress was worried that they might do something that would — heaven forbid! — upset the banking industry.
The gist is that the new reforms being proposed are not even sufficient enough to have prevented the last crisis, let alone the next one. Well good, as long as the five largest banks can live with the proposals, I suppose they must be just fine for the rest of us. Rock on.
Photo by Jr. Deputy Accoutant
by ilene - May 24th, 2010 3:17 pm
We have long claimed that any financial reform, determined by the Senator from Countrywide and the Rep from Fannie (thank you Cliff Asness), is worthless, and any debate over it is completely useless as it will achieve absolutely nothing. Sure, it fills blog pages and editorials but at the end of the day, the only thing that can save the financial system is, paradoxically, its destruction. There are just too many vested interests in the status quo, that absent a full blown implosion and subsequent reset of the system, it is all just smoke and mirrors. Luckily D-Day is approaching. We present an opinion by Robert Reich which validates our view that FinReg, and any debate thereof, is a joke. Robert Reich On Why The Finance Bill Won’t Do Anything.
Courtesy of Robert Reich
The most important thing to know about the 1,500 page financial reform bill passed by the Senate last week — now on he way to being reconciled with the House bill — is that it’s regulatory. If does nothing to change the structure of Wall Street.
The bill omits two critical ideas for changing the structure of Wall Street’s biggest banks so they won’t cause more trouble in the future, and leaves a third idea in limbo. The White House doesn’t support any of them.
First, although the Senate bill seeks to avoid the “too big to fail” problem by pushing failing banks into an “orderly” bankruptcy-type process, this regulatory approach isn’t enough. The Senate roundly rejected an amendment that would have broken up the biggest banks by imposing caps on the deposits they could hold and their capital assets.
You do not have to be an algorithm-wielding Wall Street whizz-kid to understand that the best way to prevent a bank from becoming too big to fail is preventing it from becoming too big in the first place. The size of Wall Street’s five giants already equals a large percentage of America’s gross domestic product.
That makes them too big to fail almost by definition, because if one or two get into trouble – as they did in 2008 – their demise would shake the foundations of the financial system, even if there were an “orderly” way to liquidate them. Because traders and investors know they are too big…