The first ever GAO (Government Accountability Office) audit of the Federal Reserve was carried out in the past few months due to the Ron Paul, Alan Grayson Amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill, which passed last year. Jim DeMint, a Republican Senator, and Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, led the charge for a Federal Reserve audit in the Senate, but watered down the original language of the house bill(HR1207), so that a complete audit would not be carried out.
Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and various other bankers vehemently opposed the audit and lied to Congress about the effects an audit would have on markets. Nevertheless, the results of the first audit in the Federal Reserve’s nearly 100 year history were posted on Senator Sander’s webpage earlier this morning.
But Weill said 3 other equally important things today.
First, Weill told CNBC that the financial crisis was largely caused by too much leverage, and that we should reduce leverage to between 12-15 times. (Background.)
Secondly, Weill said that we have to restore transparency, so that nothing is hidden off balance sheet. (Leading economist Anna Schwartz told the Wall Street journal in 2008: “The Fed … has gone about as if the problem is a shortage of liquidity. That is not the basic problem. The basic problem for the markets is that [uncertainty] that the balance sheets of financial firms are credible.”)
Third, Weill said that assets must be marked to market every day. (Background here and here.)
Mr. Weill’s suggestions would go a long way toward fixing our broken financial system and giving us a shot at prospering once again.
NEW YORK — The harsh light of the Libor rate-fixing scandal has crossed the Atlantic, with both Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase saying regulators and investigators have requested information from them in a so-far preliminary probe of the case.
Share prices for both — as well as Bank of America, which has not said if it was asked for information — have fallen sharply this week amid worries they could be in line for the type of heavy fines laid on Britain’s Barclays Bank, at the center of the scandal.
MORGAN STANLEY L-T SR DEBT CUT TO Baa1 FROM A2 BY MOODY’S
MOODY’S CUTS MORGAN STANLEY 2 LEVELS, HAD SEEN UP TO 3
MORGAN STANLEY OUTLOOK NEGATIVE BY MOODY’S
MORGAN STANLEY S-T RATING CUT TO P-2 FROM P-1 BY MOODY’S
But the kicker:
ONLY MORGAN STANLEY, HSBC CUT LESS THAN MOODY’S ORGINAL MAXIMUM.
And there you have it – the reason for the delay were last minute negotiations, most certainly involving extensive monetary explanations, by Morgan Stanley’s Gorman (potentially with Moody’s investor Warren Buffett on the call) to get only a two notch downgrade. And Wall Street wins again.
“In connection with certain OTC trading agreements and certain other agreements associated with the Institutional Securities business segment, the Company may be required to provide additional collateral or immediately settle any outstanding liability balances with certain counterparties in the event of a credit rating downgrade. At March 31, 2012, the following are the amounts of additional collateral, termination payments or other contractual amounts (whether in a net asset or liability position) that could be called by counterparties under the terms of such agreements in the event of a downgrade of the Company’s long-term credit rating under various scenarios: $868 million (A3 Moody’s/A- S&P); $5,177 million (Baa1 Moody’s/ BBB+ S&P); and $7,206 million (Baa2 Moody’s/BBB S&P). Also, the Company is required to pledge additional collateral to certain exchanges and clearing organizations in the event of a credit rating downgrade. At March 31, 2012, the increased collateral requirement at certain exchanges and clearing organizations under various scenarios was $160 million (A3 Moody’s/A- S&P); $1,600 million (Baa1 Moody’s/ BBB+ S&P); and $2,400 million (Baa2 Moody’s/BBB S&P).”
So instead of $9.6 billion, MS will face only $6.8 billion in collateral calls.
Even as Moody is now about a week late on its Spanish bank downgrade where the banks are rated higher than the sovereign (which obviously is kept in check to prevent yields on bonds from soaring even more), here comes the next wholesale bank downgrade:
Moody’s expected to announce ratings downgrade for UK banks this evening – Sky Sources
Exclusive: Big news – I’m told Moody’s will announce downgrades of some of world’s biggest banks, incl in UK, after US mkts close tonight. – Sky’s Mark Kleinman
Looks like that fabricated 2 notch Margin Stanley downgrade (because 3 notches just won’t do – those 4 months of Gorman-led “negotiations” made that painfully clear) is about to strike. The real question is: What Would Egan Who Do?
Some of Britain’s biggest banks are poised to have their credit ratings downgraded by Moody’s as soon as tonight as part of a wider reassessment of the health of the global banking industry, I can reveal.
Moody’s is expected to outline its verdicts about the creditworthiness of banks including Barclays, HSBC, JP Morgan and Royal Bank of Scotland.
The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it. The process by which banks create money is so simple the mind is repelled. With something so important, a deeper mystery seems only decent.
– John Kenneth Galbraith
Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.
-Bill Clinton at the signing of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 (which ended Glass-Steagall and gave banks full control of the United States of America)
Obama delivered heated rhetoric, but his actions signaled different priorities. Had Obama wanted to strike real fear in the hearts of bankers, he might have appointed former special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald or some other fire-breather as his attorney general. Instead, he chose Eric Holder, a former Clinton Justice official who, after a career in government, joined the Washington office of Covington & Burling, a top-tier law firm with an elite white-collar defense unit. The move to Covington, and back to Justice, is an example of Washington’s revolving-door ritual, which, for Holder, has been lucrative–he pulled in $2.1 million as a Covington partner in 2008, and $2.5 million (including deferred compensation) when he left the firm in 2009.
Putting a Covington partner–he spent nearly a decade at the firm–in charge of Justice may have sent a signal to the financial community, whose marquee names are Covington clients. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Deutsche Bank are among the institutions that pay for Covington’s legal advice, some of it relating to matters before the Department of Justice. But Holder’s was not the only face at Justice familiar to Covington clients. Lanny Breuer, who had co-chaired the white-collar defense unit at Covington with Holder, was chosen to head the criminal division at Obama’s Justice. Two other Covington lawyers followed Holder into top positions, and Holder’s principal deputy, James Cole, was recruited from Bryan Cave LLP, another white-shoe firm with A-list finance clients.
I have to hand it to the Central Planners. They are good. Really, really good. Of course, they are battling a crippled opponent considering so much of America consists of lobotomized sheeple, but nevertheless to be able to steal so much from many people with such blatant and simplistic methods and not be widely discovered is an act of devious brilliance. The reason I say this now is because ever since last fall TPTB have changed tactics and totally taken over the markets and with it shoved many people into what is best described as a trance. The people know something is very wrong. They know they are getting poorer; that life is getting harder, yet the television and the markets have cloaked a blanket of sedation upon their minds.
What you are about to read should absolutely astound you. During the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve secretly conducted the biggest bailout in the history of the world, and the Fed fought in court for several years to keep it a secret. Do you remember the TARP bailout? The American people were absolutely outraged that the federal government spent 700 billion dollars bailing out the “too big to fail” banks. Well, that bailout was pocket change compared to what the Federal Reserve did. As you will see documented below, the Federal Reserve actually handed more than 16 trillion dollars in nearly interest-free money to the “too big to fail” banks between 2007 and 2010. So have you heard about this on the nightly news? Probably not. Lately Bloomberg has been reporting on some of this, but even they are not giving people the whole picture. The American people need to be told about this 16 trillion dollar bailout, because it is a perfect example of why the Federal Reserve needs to be shut down. The Federal Reserve has been actively picking “winners” and “losers” in the financial system, and it turns out that the “friends” of the Fed always get bailed out and always end up among the “winners”. This is not how a free market system is supposed to work.
According to the limited GAO audit of the Federal Reserve that was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the grand total of all the secret bailouts conducted by the Federal Reserve during the last financial crisis comes to a whopping $16.1 trillion.
Most people have no idea that Wall Street has become a gigantic financial casino. The big Wall Street banks are making tens of billions of dollars a year in the derivatives market, and nobody in the financial community wants the party to end. The word “derivatives” sounds complicated and technical, but understanding them is really not that hard. A derivative is essentially a fancy way of saying that a bet has been made. Originally, these bets were designed to hedge risk, but today the derivatives market has mushroomed into a mountain of speculation unlike anything the world has ever seen before. Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market go from $600 trillion all the way up to $1.5 quadrillion. Keep in mind that the GDP of the entire world is only somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 trillion. The danger to the global financial system posed by derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”. For now, the financial powers that be are trying to keep the casino rolling, but it is inevitable that at some point this entire mess is going to come crashing down. When it does, we are going to be facing a derivatives crisis that really could destroy the entire global financial system.
Most people don’t talk much about derivatives because they simply do not understand them.
Megabanks around the world are reeling from their customers removing their capital and closing their accounts. People are standing up worldwide in a non-participational form of civil disobedience in order to do anything possible to bring down these corrupt megabanks.
There was an Italian bank run scare in at the beginning of August that really started the gears in motion for the possibilities of future bank runs.
Financial blogspredicted a run on the French banks during the economic turmoil in the EU and Eurozone countries.] Many corporations in France have moved their money out of French banks and into safer short term holdings for the time being.
Similar bank runs in August occurred in the United States, and the megabank Bank Of America had to employ the assistance of the St. Louis SWAT Team to prevent customers from closing their accounts and moving their money to smaller banks.
The bank run issue even hit mainstream media in the United States, covered here by NPR.
Since the Occupy protests have started, big banks have been the prime target of disgruntled humans for their corrupt practices of taking peoples homes, robbing the elderly, and funding many illicit activities that normal Americans would face prison time over.
On September 30th, families and individual customers of Bank of America had a sit in protest to show civil disobedience against the megabank. 20+ of the protesters were arrested.
It would seem as if America is done with the megabanks, and for good reason. I came across this blog recently and information that there is a bank run being planned in the United States on December 7th.
The video above shows a well-dressed customer of Citibank outside talking with another customer about having been inside and having tried to close her account. A plain-clothers officer then starts yelling from behind her and drags her and her friend inside the bank to be arrested with the other Citibank customers. This is simply egregious activity by the officers in New York and the megacorporation Citigroup.
The end of the international banking cartel, their fiat currency that is imploding society by design, and the revival of sound money is at hand. But we must first be sure to force these too big to fail banks into oblivion. Let us keep the pressure up on them, and force their monopolies to come down. If the government and our ‘elected representatives’ won’t stand up for the rule of law, then we must come together to enforce it ourselves through direct democracy and non-participation.
More ridiculous arrests coming out of New York today, as Citibank proves it’s just as bad, or even worse than Bank of America in how it treats its customers. Earlier today, about two dozen people formed a queue inside the Citibank building in order to close their accounts as a part of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Instead of allowing them to take their money elsewhere, the genius managers and security people in charge locked them inside and had them arrested.
The Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City more than three weeks ago have now spread across the country. The choice of Wall Street as the focal point for the protests — as even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said — makes sense due to the big bank malfeasance that led to the Great Recession.
While the Dodd-Frank financial reform law did a lot to ensure that a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis won’t occur — through regulation of derivatives, a new consumer protection agency, and new powers for the government to dismantle failing banks — the biggest banks still have a firm grip on the financial system, even more so than before the 2008 financial crisis. Here are eleven facts that you need to know about the nation’s biggest banks:
– Bank profits are highest since before the recession…: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., bank profits in the first quarter of this year were “the best for the industry since the $36.8 billion earned in the second quarter of 2007.” JP Morgan Chase is currently pulling in record profits.
– Banks make nearly one-third of total corporate profits: The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually down from before the financial crisis, when they made closer to 40 percent.
– Since 2008, the biggest banks have gotten bigger: Due to the failure of small competitors and mergers facilitated during the 2008 crisis, the nation’s biggest banks — including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — are now biggerthan they were pre-recession. Pre-crisis, the four biggest banks held 32 percent of total deposits; now they hold nearly 40 percent.
– The four biggest banks issue 50 percent of mortgages and 66 percent of credit cards: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup issue one out of every two mortgages and nearly two out of every three credit cards in America.
– The 10 biggest banks hold 60 percent of bank assets: In the 1980s, the 10 biggest banks controlled 22 percent of total bank assets. Today, they control 60 percent.
– The six biggest banks hold assets equal to 63 percent of the country’s GDP: In 1995, the six biggest banks in the country held assets equal to about 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Now their assets equal 63 percent of GDP.
– The five biggest banks hold 95 percent of derivatives: Nearly the entire market in derivatives — the credit instruments that helped blow up some of the nation’s biggest banks as well as mega-insurer AIG — is dominated by just five firms: JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.
The latest quarterly report from the Office Of the Currency Comptroller is out and as usual it presents in a crisp, clear and very much glaring format the fact that the top 4 banks in the US now account for a massively disproportionate amount of the derivative risk in the financial system. Specifically, of the $250 trillion in gross notional amount of derivative contracts outstanding (consisting of Interest Rate, FX, Equity Contracts, Commodity and CDS) among the Top 25 commercial banks (a number that swells to $333 trillion when looking at the Top 25 Bank Holding Companies), a mere 5 banks (and really 4) account for 95.9% of all derivative exposure (HSBC replaced Wells as the Top 5th bank, which at $3.9 trillion in derivative exposure is a distant place from #4 Goldman with $47.7 trillion). The top 4 banks: JPM with $78.1 trillion in exposure, Citi with $56 trillion, Bank of America with $53 trillion and Goldman with $48 trillion, account for 94.4% of total exposure. As historically has been the case, the bulk of consolidated exposure is in Interest Rate swaps ($204.6 trillion), followed by FX ($26.5TR), CDS ($15.2 trillion), and Equity and Commodity with $1.6 and $1.4 trillion, respectively. And that’s your definition of Too Big To Fail right there: the biggest banks are not only getting bigger, but their risk exposure is now at a new all time high and up $5.3 trillion from Q1 as they have to risk ever more in the derivatives market to generate that incremental penny of return.
Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC) were the reigning champions of finance in 2006 as home prices peaked, leading the 10 biggest U.S. banks and brokerage firms to their best year ever with $104 billion of profits.
By 2008, the housing market’s collapse forced those companies to take more than six times as much, $669 billion, in emergency loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The loans dwarfed the $160 billion in public bailouts the top 10 got from the U.S. Treasury, yet until now the full amounts have remained secret.
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. The largest borrower, Morgan Stanley (MS), got as much as $107.3 billion, while Citigroup took $99.5 billion and Bank of America $91.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress.
WASHINGTON — An enforcement lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission says that the agency illegally destroyed files and documents related to thousands of early-stage investigations over the last 20 years, according to information released Wednesday by Congressional investigators.
The destroyed files comprise records of at least 9,000 preliminary inquiries into matters involving notorious individuals like Bernard L. Madoff, as well as several major Wall Street firms that later were the subject of scrutiny after the 2008 financial crisis, including Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and Bank of America.
The S.E.C. is the very agency that is charged with making sure that Wall Street firms retain records of their own activities, and has brought numerous enforcement cases against firms for failing to do so.
A whistleblower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals.
Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – “Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?” No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.
That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – “18,000 … including Madoff,” as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.
Image: The US-ASEAN Business Council, a who’s-who of corporate fascism in the US, has been approached by Thailand’s “pro-democracy” UDD for support. The UDD never fully explains what corporations like Exxon, BP, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, or other banes to humanity have to do with democracy or what sort of support was asked for or promised. (click image to enlarge)
The council in 2004 included 3M, war profiteering Bechtel, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup, General Electric, IBM, the notorious Monsanto, and currently also includes the criminal banksters of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Chevron, Exxon, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, Merck, Northrop Grumman, Monsanto’s GMO doppelganger Syngenta, and Phillip Morris. Admittedly, these corporations are more synonymous with mass murder, mass corruption, corporate fascism, crony-capitalism, warmongering, lies, deceit and all the other ugly aspects that truly define “globalization,” than they are with any tenant of “liberal democracy.”
I expect to see in the near future a massive expansion of investment in the water sector, including the production of fresh, clean water from other sources (desalination, purification), storage, shipping and transportation of water. I expect to see pipeline networks that will exceed the capacity of those for oil and gas today.
I see fleets of water tankers (single-hulled!) and storage facilities that will dwarf those we currently have for oil, natural gas and LNG. I see new canal systems dug for water transportation, similar in ambition and scale to those currently in progress in China, linking the Yangtze River in the South to the Yellow River in the arid north.
I also hope and expect that these new canal ventures will be designed and implemented with a greater awareness of the environmental and social impact of such mega-projects. India will have to engage in investment on a scale comparable to that seen today in China to produce clean water in the best locations and transport it to where the household, industrial and agricultural users are. Continue reading »
Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out. The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill. Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression. Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system. Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger. Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets. Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets. Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage. They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time. None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed. In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.
Back in March of 2009 Zero Hedge, once again a little conspiratorially ahead of its time, solicited reader feedback on a key topic: CDS pricing manipulation, involving in addition to key cartel banks, such “independent” pricing services as MarkIt. We said: “Zero Hedge has received some troubling info (like there isn’t enough) regarding major pricing discrepancies between certain securities pricing services.
The services include companies such as IDC, Advantage Data, Markit and others. While I will not disclose which one may be a culprit, the allegation is that one (or more) are providing substantially above market pricing levels, specifically as pertains to distressed securities.” Then back in August 2010, we followed up by explaining that it is the ongoing price manipulation scheme, in addition to other factors, that allows Goldman Sachs (and other CDS dealers to a much lesser extent) to constantly generate massive profits from trading an opaque off-exchange product like CDS. It took two years and a month for others to take notice of this inquiry, although naturally not in that slum of corruption and market manipulation, the United States of America, but in Europe. Bloomberg reports: “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and other 14 other investment banks face a European Union antitrust probe into credit-default swaps for companies and sovereign debt, regulators said. …The European Commission said it opened two antitrust probes. It will check whether 16 bank dealers colluded by giving market information to Markit, a financial information provider.” So while some post flow charts explaining the hilarity behind conspiracy theories, others actually expose the facts that today are a conspiracy and tomorrow are a full blown criminal investigation.
“Lack of transparency in markets can lead to abusive behavior and facilitate violations of competition rules,” said the EU’s antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia, in an e-mailed statement. “I hope our investigation will contribute to a better functioning of financial markets.”
Global regulators have sought to toughen regulation of credit-default swaps saying the trades helped fuel the financial crisis. Lawmakers in the EU plan to encourage the use of clearinghouses and transparent trading systems. CDS are derivatives that pay the buyer face value if a borrower defaults.
JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Barclays Plc (BARC), BNP Paribas (BNP) SA, Citigroup Inc. (C), Commerzbank AG (CBK), Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), Goldman Sachs, HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), UBS AG (UBSN), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Credit Agricole SA (ACA) and Societe Generale (GLE) SA will be investigated for possible collusion in giving “most of the pricing, indices and other essential daily data only to Markit.”
On Friday, free and efficient market champion Ted Kaufman, previously known for his stern crusade to rid the world of the HFT scourge, and all other market irregularities which unfortunately will stay with us until the next major market crash (and until the disbanding of the SEC following the terminal realization of its corrupt and utter worthlessness), held a hearing on the impact of the TARP on financial stability, no longer in his former position as a senator, but as Chairman of the Congressional TARP oversight panel. Witness included Simon Johnson, Joseph Stiglitz, Allan Meltzer, William Nelson (Deputy Director of Monetary Affairs, Federal Reserve), Damon Silvers (AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel), and others.
In typical Kaufman fashion, this no-nonsense hearing was one of the most informative and expository of all Wall Street evils to ever take place on the Hill. Which of course is why it received almost no coverage in the media. Below we present a full transcript of the entire hearing, together with select highlights.
The insights proffered by the panelists and the witnesses, while nothing new to those who have carefully followed the generational theft that has been occurring for two and a half years in plain view of everyone and shows no signs of stopping, are truly a MUST READ for virtually every citizen of America and the world: this transcript explains in great detail what absolute crime is, and why it will likely forever go unpunished.
I am sure helicopter Ben can’t wait to nuke the US dollar one last time
There was a time when everyone thought CDOs are perfectly safe. That ended up being a tad incorrect. It resulted in AIG blowing up, recording hundreds of billions in losses and almost taking the rest of the financial world with it, leading ultimately to the first iteration of quantitative easing. A few years thereafter, several blogs and fringe elements suggested that munis are the next major cataclysm and will likely require Fed bail outs (some time before Meredith Whitney came on the public scene with her apocalyptic call). It would be only fitting that the same AIG that blew up the world the first time around, end up being the same company that does so in 2011, and with an instrument that just like back then only an occasional voice warned is a weapon of mass destruction: municipal bonds. AIG dropped over 6% today following some very unpleasasnt disclosures about its muni outlook, and corporate liquidity implications arising therefrom: “American International Group Inc., the bailed-out insurer, said it faces increased risk of losses on its $46.6 billion municipal bond portfolio and that defaults could pressure the company’s liquidity.” So how long before we discover that Goldman has been lifting every AIG CDS for the past quarter? And how much longer after that until someone leaks a document that the company’s muni strategy was orchestrated by one Joe Cassano?
An aerial view of Wall Street, the heart of the global financial meltdown. Photograph: Cameron Davidson
When Michael Moore made his debut feature, Roger and Me, he set about vilifying the boss of General Motors, the now deceased Roger B Smith, for destroying his home town of Flint, Michigan. Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job attempts to blame a wider cast list for the banking crash of 2008 and explains why so little has been done to reform the financial world or bring criminal prosecutions against the main protagonists.
His villainous lineup includes bankers, politicians (many of whom were previously bankers), regulators, the credit ratings agencies and academics. When Glenn Hubbard, George Bush’s chief economic adviser and dean of Columbia Business School, is shown as a partisan advocate of deregulation, we have one of the movie’s punch-the-air moments. During the interview, Hubbard, who denies he was corrupted by his paid-for relationships with government, angrily barks: “You’ve got five minutes, mister. Give it your best shot.”
The spotlight has largely bypassed academics in the UK. There are plenty of economists who believed the banks understood what they were doing and supported deregulation. Whether they took large slugs of cash for writing poorly researched, cheerleading reports on the economic miracle in Iceland (pre-crash), as former US central banker Frederic Mishkin is found doing, is less clear. Over here, the relationship between academia and business appears to be more arm’s length, though London Business School dean Sir Andrew Likierman sits on the Barclays board, while Howard Davies, who argued for light-touch regulation while head of the Financial Services Authority, has become director of the London School of Economics. The UK’s chief villian, however, is probably the disgraced, but largely unpunished, banker Sir Fred Goodwin, the former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland, once the fifth-largest bank in the world.
In Inside Job, the name that keeps cropping up is Larry Summers, a friend of President Bill Clinton and more recently Barack Obama. Summers exemplifies the links between cheerleaders in academia, Wall Street, supine regulators and an ignorant Capitol Hill that Ferguson stresses were at the root of the problem. It helps that Summers looks like a mafia boss, but the difficulties in making the case against him are shown by the need to explain financial products like credit default swaps and how securitisation was used by banks to increase their borrowing.
Top recipients of overnight loans made by the Federal Reserve under special program that ran from March 2008 through May 2009.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The Federal Reserve made $9 trillion in overnight loans to major banks and Wall Street firms during the financial crisis, according to newly revealed data released Wednesday.
The loans were made through a special loan program set up by the Fed in the wake of the Bear Stearns collapse in March 2008 to keep the nation’s bond markets trading normally.
The amount of cash being pumped out to the financial giants was not previously disclosed. All the loans were backed by collateral and all were paid back with a very low interest rate to the Fed — an annual rate of between 0.5% to 3.5%.
Still, the total amount was a surprise, even to some who had followed the Fed’s rescue efforts closely.
“That’s a real number, even for the Fed,” said FusionIQ’s Barry Ritholtz, author of the book “Bailout Nation.” While the fact that the markets were in trouble was already well known, he said the amount of help they needed is still surprising.
“It makes it very clear this was a very serious, very unusual situation,” he said.
UBS was the biggest borrower under the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, with $74.5 billion overall, more than twice as much as Citigroup Inc., the top U.S. bank recipient, according to the data released yesterday.
Federal Reserve data showing UBS AG and Barclays Plc ranked among the top users of $3.3 trillion from emergency programs is stoking debate on whether U.S. regulators bear responsibility for aiding other nations’ banks.
UBS was the biggest borrower under the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, with $74.5 billion overall, more than twice as much as Citigroup Inc., the top U.S. bank recipient, according to the data released yesterday. London-based Barclays Plc took the biggest single amount under another program that made overnight loans, when it got $47.9 billion on Sept. 18, 2008.
“We’re talking about huge sums of money going to bail out large foreign banks,” said Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent who wrote the provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that required the Fed disclosures. “Has the Federal Reserve become the central bank of the world? I think that is a question that needs to be examined.”
The first detailed accounting of U.S. efforts to spare European banks may add to scrutiny of the central bank, already at its most intense in three decades. The Fed, which released data on 21,000 transactions, said in a statement that its 11 emergency programs helped stabilize markets and support economic recovery. The Fed said there have been no credit losses on rescue programs that have been closed.
Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) — The late Bloomberg News reporter Mark Pittman asked the U.S. Treasury in January 2009 to identify $301 billion of securities owned by Citigroup Inc. that the government had agreed to guarantee. He made the request on the grounds that taxpayers ought to know how their money was being used.
More than 20 months later, after saying at least five times that a response was imminent, Treasury officials responded with 560 pages of printed-out e-mails — none of which Pittman requested. They were so heavily redacted that most of what’s left are everyday messages such as “Did you just try to call me?” and “Monday will be a busy day!”
None of the documents answers Pittman’s request for “records sufficient to show the names of the relevant securities” or the dates and terms of the guarantees. Even so, the U.S. government considers the collection of e-mails a partial response to an official request under the federal Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. The Justice Department in July cited an increase in such responses as evidence that “more information is being released” under the law.
President Barack Obama vowed to usher in a new era of open government. On Jan. 21, 2009, the day after his inauguration and a week before Pittman submitted his FOIA request, Obama directed agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA.”
Limits of Transparency
The saga of Pittman’s request shows that the promise of transparency has its limits when it comes to the government’s intervention in the financial industry, which at its peak reached $12.8 trillion in commitments. From the 2008 Bear Stearns Cos. rescue to the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing in 2010, the Obama administration has delayed disclosures and defended its right to secrecy in court, said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch Inc., which describes itself as a conservative foundation.
“This is an unprecedented crisis for open government,” said Fitton, whose Washington-based organization sued the Bush administration more than 200 times over disclosure issues. “When it comes to the bank bailout, the Obama administration has made a decision to err on the side of secrecy.”
The Justice Department, which oversees disclosure for the executive branch, is “working specifically to encourage agencies to be as transparent as possible and release as much as possible,” said Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the department’s Office of Information Policy. “We view our efforts as an ongoing process.”
US Outlook: Even regulators have taken to using the phrase “window dressing” to describe Wall Street banks’ habit of reducing their short-term borrowings for a few days around the end of each quarter, in order to make themselves look less risky than they really are.
Window dressing is too benign a term. What banks, led by Lehman Brothers, but also including Bank of America and Citigroup, have been doing is much worse than simply dressing up their finest wares in the shop-front window. It is more like finding an Oscar de la Renta dress in the window of a Wal-Mart. It is misleading, and often deliberately so.
Thanks to an examiner’s report commissioned by the bankruptcy courts, we know that Lehman even had a name for the accounting trick: Repo 105. At the end of each quarter before its collapse in 2008, Lehman was able to make its balance sheet look $50bn (£32bn) lighter than it really was, deceiving worried investors who were pressing it to reduce its leverage.