Dec 07

“Tens of millions of people unemployed, inflation spiraling out of control, the government instituting price controls that result in shortages and blackouts and long lines for things. I think things are going to get very bad.”

“From an investment point of view, investors need to stay clear, because they need to realize that it’s not just U.S. stocks and real estate that are going to lose value, but U.S. bonds. This is the last bubble yet to burst. I think we’re going to see a collapse of the bond market sometime during Obama’s first term, and interest rates are going to spiral out of control, and the dollar is going to just be destroyed.”
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People aren’t laughing any more at the way-out-there predictions of Peter Schiff, whose long-standing pessimism about the economy and stock market has been largely borne out.

Schiff heads Euro Pacific Capital, a brokerage in Darien, Conn. with more than $1 billion in assets under management. He has silenced critics because he predicted the collapse of the housing market, the subprime crisis and the soaring of oil prices in his market commentaries before they came to pass.

A YouTube video called “Peter Schiff Was Right” shows him being repeatedly mocked when he went on TV stock shows to make those ultimately correct calls in 2006 and 2007, including forecasting a recession 2 1/2 years ago.

Now, in the midst of what’s already the biggest financial crisis in decades, the prominent purveyor of gloom and doom still sees far tougher times ahead – including a depression and a bear market he thinks will last another five years or more.

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Dec 05

With Wall Street hemorrhaging jobs and assets, even many of the wealthiest players are retrenching. Others, like the Lehman Brothers bankers who borrowed against their millions in stock, have lost everything. Hedge-fund managers try to sell their luxury homes, while trophy wives are hocking their jewelry. The pain is being felt on St. Barth’s and at Sotheby’s, on benefit-gala committees and at the East Hampton Airport, as the world of the Big Rich collapses, its culture in shock and its values in question.


Illustrations by Barry Blitt.

A snapshot: East Hampton, late summer, a lawn party at a house on the ocean overlooking the dunes. The host is a prince of private equity known for dressing well. One of his guests is Steven Cohen, the publicity-shy billionaire whose SAC Capital, with $16 billion under management, is perhaps the most revered of the 10,000 or so hedge funds spawned by this giddily rich time. Nearby is Daniel Loeb, of Third Point, one of the better-known “activist” hedge funds, who hopes to move soon into a 10,700-square-foot, $45 million penthouse at l5 Central Park West, a Manhattan monument to the new gilded age. Gliding easily between them is art dealer Larry Gagosian, so successful at selling Bacons and Serras to Wall Street’s new titans-including to Cohen-that he now travels in his own private jet and has his own helicopter to take him to it.

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Nov 25

On Friday November 21, the world came within a hair’s breadth of the most colossal financial collapse in history according to bankers on the inside of events with whom we have contact. The trigger was the bank which only two years ago was America’s largest, Citigroup. The size of the US Government de facto nationalization of the $2 trillion banking institution is an indication of shocks yet to come in other major US and perhaps European banks thought to be ‘too big to fail.’

The clumsy way in which US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, himself not a banker but a Wall Street ‘investment banker’, whose experience has been in the quite different world of buying and selling stocks or bonds or underwriting and selling same, has handled the unfolding crisis has been worse than incompetent. It has made a grave situation into a globally alarming one.

‘Spitting into the wind’

A case in point is the secretive manner in which Paulson has used the $700 billion in taxpayer funds voted him by a labile Congress in September. Early on, Paulson put $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for his old firm, Goldman Sachs. However, if we compare the value of the equity share that $125 billion bought with the market price of those banks’ stock, US taxpayers have paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could have bought for $62.5 billion, according to a detailed analysis from Ron W. Bloom, economist with the US United Steelworkers union, whose members as well as pension fund face devastating losses were GM to fail.

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Nov 21

This Is Not A Normal Recession

Moving on to Plan B

“The Winter of 2008-2009 will prove to be the winter of global economic discontent that marks the rejection of the flawed ideology that unregulated global financial markets promote financial innovation, market efficiency, unhampered growth and endless prosperity while mitigating risk by spreading it system wide.” Economists Paul Davidson and Henry C.K. Liu “Open Letter to World Leaders attending the November 15 White House Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy”

The global economy is being sucked into a black hole and most Americans have no idea why. The whole problem can be narrowed down to two words; “structured finance”.

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Nov 15

The administrators of the UK and European arm of bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers are making better money than the bankers.

Lehman's administrators paid more than the bankers
Lehman’s administrators paid more than the bankers

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has around 300 employees working on the Lehman administration, is being paid £4m a week, the accounting firm revealed yesterday. By contrast, the monthly wage bill for Lehman’s remaining 1,100 bankers is £8m – £2m a week – though that does not include planned “small retention bonuses”.

PwC has been in charge for nine weeks, taking the cost of the administration so far to £45m. Tony Lomas, the PwC partner leading the process, said it was impossible to estimate the final bill but “it’s going to be an expensive process”.

Asked about timing, he drew comparisons with the administration of Enron’s UK operations, on which he also worked. “We’re still doing bits and pieces on Enron. [That's] seven years old. This is 10 times as big and much more complicated,” Mr Lomas said. At the current rate, the final Lehman bill after seven years would be £1.4bn.

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Nov 10

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn’t require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return.

“The collateral is not being adequately disclosed, and that’s a big problem,” said Dan Fuss, vice chairman of Boston- based Loomis Sayles & Co., where he co-manages $17 billion in bonds. “In a liquid market, this wouldn’t matter, but we’re not. The market is very nervous and very thin.”

Bloomberg News has requested details of the Fed lending under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and filed a federal lawsuit Nov. 7 seeking to force disclosure.

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Nov 10

The financial industry is bracing for a fresh round of job cuts as Wall Street banks slash costs to cushion the blow of further market turbulence and deepening economic woes in 2009.

Executives and analysts say the redundancies – to be finalised this month as banks prepare next year’s budgets – could top 70,000 among US groups alone and add to the estimated 150,000 jobs already lost by the financial sector worldwide.

The job losses are expected to be concentrated in the investment banking and trading businesses that have been hit hard by the near-freeze in capital markets and the collapse in takeover and financing activity.

The continued shrinking of the banking industry will deepen the economic plight of financial centres such as New York, London and Hong Kong by reducing tax revenues and putting pressure on the local housing market.

“The fourth quarter is going to be very disruptive,” Meredith Whitney, analyst at Oppenheimer, said in a video interview with the Financial Times. “For many of the capital markets intensive players, you’re going to have resizing of anywhere from 25 to 30 per cent of their workforce. But if you think about it, from the peak, revenues are down more than that.”

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Nov 01

RBS ‘making monkeys’ out of the government, says Vince Cable


Royal Bank of Scotland. Photograph: Newscast

Royal Bank of Scotland, which is being bailed out with £20bn of taxpayers’ money, has signalled it is preparing to pay bonuses to thousands of staff despite government pledges to crack down on City pay.

The bank has set aside £1.79bn to cover “staff costs” – including discretionary bonuses – at its investment banking division for the first six months of the year alone. The same division caused a £5.9bn writedown that wiped out the bank’s profits for the same period.

The government had demanded that boardroom directors at RBS should not receive bonuses this year and the chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, is walking away without a pay-off. But below boardroom level, RBS and other groups are preparing to pay bonuses to investment bankers who continue to generate profits.

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Nov 01

Hong Kong investors protest Lehman Brothers losses

HONG KONG – Angry Hong Kong investors, some banging gongs and others waving banners, scuffled outside a bank on Friday as frustration mounted over losses tied to investments linked to failed U.S. bank Lehman Brothers.

Several hundred investors, many of them elderly retirees, marched to eight banks which had sold Lehman structured products, including ABN Amro, Standard Chartered, Bank of China, Citic Ka Wah and DBS bank, demanding compensation for their losses.

Some investors tried to barge into a DBS bank branch on Hong Kong island, jostling with security staff who linked arms to form a human barricade.


Lehman Brothers mini-bonds holders scuffle with officials during a protest against various banks which sold them the product in Hong Kong Friday.

“The banks are cheating us,” shouted some investors, while others banged gongs and waved protest banners accusing the banks of misleading investors on the risks involved.

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Oct 24

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) — Hundreds of hedge funds will fail and policy makers may need to shut financial markets for a week or more as the crisis forces investors to dump assets, New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini said.

“We’ve reached a situation of sheer panic,” Roubini, who predicted the financial crisis in 2006, told a conference of hedge-fund managers in London today. “There will be massive dumping of assets” and “hundreds of hedge funds are going to go bust,” he said.

Group of Seven policy makers have stopped short of market suspensions to stem the crisis after the U.S. pledged on Oct. 14 to invest about $125 billion in nine banks and the Federal Reserve led a global coordinated move to cut interest rates on Oct. 8. Emmanuel Roman, co-chief executive officer at GLG Partners Inc., said today that as many as 30 percent of hedge funds will close.

“Systemic risk has become bigger and bigger,” Roubini said at the Hedge 2008 conference. “We’re seeing the beginning of a run on a big chunk of the hedge funds,” and “don’t be surprised if policy makers need to close down markets for a week or two in coming days,” he said.

Roubini predicted in July 2006 that the U.S. would enter an economic recession. In February this year, he forecast a “catastrophic” financial meltdown that central bankers would fail to prevent, leading to the bankruptcy of large banks exposed to mortgages and a “sharp drop” in equities.

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Oct 22

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) — Investors are taking losses of up to 90 percent in the $1.2 trillion market for collateralized debt obligations tied to corporate credit as the failures of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Icelandic banks send shockwaves through the global financial system.

The losses among banks, insurers and money managers may spark the next round of writedowns on CDOs after $660 billion in subprime-related losses. They may force lenders to post more reserves against losses after governments worldwide announced $3 trillion in financial-industry rescue packages since last month, according to Barclays Capital.

“We’ll see the same problems we’ve seen in subprime,” said Alistair Milne, a professor in banking and finance at Cass Business School in London and a former U.K. Treasury economist. “Banks will take substantial markdowns.”

The collapse of Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual Inc. and the three banks in Iceland prompted Susquehanna Bancshares Inc., a Lititz, Pennsylvania-based lender, to lower the value of $20 million in so-called synthetic CDOs by almost 88 percent last week.

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Oct 21

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve will provide up to $540 billion in loans to help relieve pressure on money-market mutual funds beset by redemptions.

“Short-term debt markets have been under considerable strain in recent weeks” as it got tougher for funds to meet withdrawal requests, the Fed said today in a statement in Washington. A Fed official said that about $500 billion has flowed since August out of prime money-market funds, which with other money-market mutual funds control $3.45 trillion.

The initiative is the third government effort to aid the funds, which usually provide a key source of financing for banks and companies. The exodus of investors, sparked by losses following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., contributed to the freezing of credit that threatens to tip the economy into a prolonged recession.

“The problem was much worse than we thought,” Jim Bianco, president of Chicago-based Bianco Research LLC, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Policy makers are trying to prevent “Great Depression II” by stemming the financial industry’s contraction, he said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. will run five special units that will buy up to $600 billion of certificates of deposit, bank notes and commercial paper with a remaining maturity of 90 days or less. The Fed will provide up to $540 billion, with the remaining $60 billion coming from commercial paper issued by the five units to the money-market funds selling their assets, central bank officials told reporters on a conference call.

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Oct 21


A woman exits the Morgan Stanley headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2008. Photographer: JB Reed/Bloomberg News

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — Wall Street had it wrong: An investment bank’s most precious asset isn’t the army of employees who head down the elevators each day. It’s the paychecks they take with them out the door.

You can imagine the devilish grins on the faces of Morgan Stanley employees last week, after the Treasury Department said it would pump $10 billion into the bank. Not only did we, the taxpayers, save their company, with the help of a Japanese bank named Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. More importantly, we funded their 2008 bonus pool.

Morgan Stanley has accrued $10.7 billion of employee- compensation expense this year, almost twice as much as its pretax earnings. The vast majority of this remuneration hasn’t been paid yet. Now it probably will be, assuming the firm survives through next month. Meantime, Morgan Stanley’s stock- market value has dropped $34.7 billion, to $21 billion, since the company’s fiscal year began.

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Oct 20

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) — Volkswagen AG fell the most in almost two decades, counter to a rising German market, as investors short-sold the shares on speculation that the price will decline once Porsche SE gains control of Europe’s biggest carmaker.

Volkswagen’s common shares fell 80.91 euros, or 23 percent, to 277.09 euros, the biggest decline since at least January 1989. The preferred shares lost 3.85 euros, or 5 percent, to 73.10 euros. Short-sellers borrow stock on expectations they can repurchase the shares later at a lower price.

“VW is completely caught in a short-selling frenzy,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Bankhaus Metzler who recommends selling the stock. “The share price has been detached from reality for at least six months. These erratic moves lack any fundamental explanation.”

Common shares in Volkswagen have surged 78 percent this year, helped by a 27 percent increase on Sept. 18 when investors bought stock to stem losses on their short-selling strategy. The Sept. 15 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which lent Volkswagen shares to short-sellers, helped trigger the so-called short-squeeze by forcing the original owners of the stock to buy new shares, people familiar with securities lending said earlier this month.

About 15 percent of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen’s common shares as of last month were lent, mostly for short-sales, according to London-based research firm Data Explorers. That was the highest proportion of any company on Germany’s 30-member benchmark DAX Index.

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Oct 19


Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

WASHINGTON – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to find enough agents and resources to investigate criminal wrongdoing tied to the country’s economic crisis, according to current and former bureau officials.

The bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force to expand its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks, shifting more than 1,800 agents, or nearly one-third of all agents in criminal programs, to terrorism and intelligence duties. Current and former officials say the cutbacks have left the bureau seriously exposed in investigating areas like white-collar crime, which has taken on urgent importance in recent weeks because of the nation’s economic woes.

The pressure on the F.B.I. has recently increased with the disclosure of criminal investigations into some of the largest players in the financial collapse, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The F.B.I. is planning to double the number of agents working financial crimes by reassigning several hundred agents amid a mood of national alarm. But some people inside and out of the Justice Department wonder where the agents will come from and whether they will be enough.

So depleted are the ranks of the F.B.I.’s white-collar investigators that executives in the private sector say they have had difficulty attracting the bureau’s attention in cases involving possible frauds of millions of dollars.

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Oct 19

The $54trillion credit derivatives market faces a delicate test as $360bn worth of contracts on now-defaulted derivatives on Lehman Brothers are due to be settled on Tuesday.

Lehman Brothers' complex network of derivatives will be settled on Tuesday October 22
Lehman Brothers’ complex network of derivatives will be settled on Tuesday October 22

Due to the opacity of the market, which is one of the most complex, least regulated and least understood in the global financial system, it is still not clear how many contracts have to be settled or which institutions will take the ultimate hits once the billions of dollars worth of contracts have been unravelled.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers, is expected to trigger credit default swap (CDS) protection pay-outs of about $400bn but because the contracts were sold many times through different counterparties it is not yet known who will be liable.

One commentator said: “This will be the greatest illustration of the follies of Wall Street and how unnecessarily complicated the wild off-track betting became in the past few years.”

Five years ago Warren Buffett, the iconic American investor, warned that the chaotic profusion of derivatives used by companies and hedge funds to fund financial growth were “financial weapons of mass destruction.”

Bankers in the City and on Wall Street are bracing for yet another round of turbulence as the contracts are unwound.

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Oct 18

Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package

 Wall Street demonstrators
Demonstrators protesting in New York before the $700bn Wall Street bail-out earlier this month. Photograph: Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty images

Financial workers at Wall Street’s top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year – despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government’s cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.

Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased yesterday when Germany’s Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join Josef Ackermann, its chief executive, in waiving millions of euros in annual payouts.

The sums that continue to be spent by Wall Street firms on payroll, payoffs and, most controversially, bonuses appear to bear no relation to the losses incurred by investors in the banks. Shares in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have declined by more than 45% since the start of the year. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have fallen by more than 60%. JP MorganChase fell 6.4% and Lehman Brothers has collapsed.

At one point last week the Morgan Stanley $10.7bn pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.

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Oct 18

NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Andrew Lahde, the hedge fund founder who shot to fame with his small fund that soared 870 percent last year on bets against U.S. subprime home loans, has called it quits, thanking “stupid” traders for making him rich.

In a biting, but humorous letter to investors posted on the website of Portfolio magazine on Friday, Lahde told investors last month he will no longer manage money because his bank counterparties had become too risky.

Lahde ripped his profession in the letter. He noted another hedge-fund manager who recently closed shop and was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying: “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” To which Lahde responded, “I could not agree more with that statement.

“The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking,” said Lahde, who according to the website birthdates.com is 37.

“These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.”

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Oct 18

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Prosecutors have stepped up the investigation into the collapse of Lehman Brothers, with at least a dozen subpoenas being issued including one to the investment bank’s chief executive, Richard Fuld, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing people close to the probe who requested anonymity, the Times said federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey were examining events leading to Lehman’s collapse and bankruptcy filing.

One person said New Jersey prosecutors were looking into whether Lehman executives including Fuld misled investors involved in the $6 billion infusion of capital announced by Lehman in June about the bank’s condition, the Times said. That infusion came as Lehman disclosed a $2.8 billion third-quarter loss, which caused its shares to plunge.

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Oct 17

Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, warned her US counterpart Hank Paulson that he had to bail out US investment bank Lehman Brothers or face global financial collapse, but her advice went unheeded.

Financial crisis: France's finance minister Christine Lagarde
Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, warned her US counterpart Hank Paulson that he must bail out US investment bank Lehman Brothers or face global financial collapse, but her advice went unheeded. Photo: Reuters

Sources close to Mrs Lagarde said that she had called the US Treasury Secretary – a close personal friend – well before the ailing bank’s collapse imploring him to act, but he chose not to.

Lehman Brothers’ demise sparked the biggest shake-up on Wall Street in decades and sent shock waves around the world that triggered a massive bailout plan in Britain and Europe.

Mrs Lagarde – attributed with playing a key role in brokering a bailout deal among G7 finance ministers in Washington last weekend – dubbed Mr Paulson’s decision to let the bank go under “horrendous” as it triggered panic in markets and banks to the brink of a 1929-style financial meltdown.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, she warned that the world’s hedge funds could be the next institutions to be hit by the financial turmoil.

Mrs Lagarde, a perfect English speaker, said that governments must be “vigilant” over the health of hedge funds. “Initially everybody thought the hedge fund sector would be the first one to actually cause the collapse. They are vastly unregulated, they have been operating at the fringes, at the margin, and we need to be careful that there is no contamination effect,” she said.

Related articles:
Hedge funds shake in the teeth of financial storm
US hedge funds suffer heavy withdrawals

Her warning will send a shiver through the $2 trillion (£1.15billion) hedge fund industry, which has doubled in size in the last three years and proved to be one of the most powerful forces in the global financial system.

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Oct 13

The plans for a massive bank bailout by European governments differ strikingly from the U.S. approach.

PARIS (Fortune) — First you mess up the world’s financial system. Then you blow the rescue of it. Now let’s show you how to do it properly.

That, in a nutshell, is the less-than-flattering message European governments are sending to the U.S. as they mount their own gigantic bank bailout. The plans, announced Monday after two weeks of dithering, involve Britain, Germany, France and some others recapitalizing national banks that require help, and providing state guarantees and other measures to kick-start the stalled credit market. The details are strikingly different from the U.S. approach adopted by U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and the Federal Reserve Board. And there’s a big reason for that: The Europeans think Paulson got it badly wrong, and have watched aghast as he failed to restore confidence in the world’s financial system.

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Oct 12

Government set to become biggest shareholder in top banks as Japanese weigh bid for Morgan Stanley

THE government will launch the biggest rescue of Britain’s high-street banks tomorrow when the UK’s four biggest institutions ask for a £35 billion financial lifeline.

The unprecedented move will make the government the biggest shareholder in at least two banks.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which has seen its market value fall to below £12 billion, is to ask ministers to underwrite a £15 billion cash call.

Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), Britain’s biggest provider of mortgages, is seeking up to £10 billion.

Lloyds TSB, which is in the process of acquiring HBOS in a rescue merger, wants £7 billion, while Barclays needs £3 billion.

The scale of the fundraising could lead to trading at the London stock market being suspended. This would give time for the market to digest the impact of the moves.

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Oct 11

Lehman Brothers, the bust investment bank, triggered one of the biggest corporate debt defaults in history yesterday as it emerged that the US Federal Reserve is harbouring grave concerns about whether Washington’s $700 billion (£413 billion) bailout fund will avert a financial meltdown.

An auction of Lehman’s bonds yesterday determined that the bank’s borrowings were worth only 8.625 cents on the dollar. The valuation leaves the insurers of the debt a bill of about $365 billion. It is not clear whether the insurers, which are required to settle the bill in the next two weeks, will be able to pay – a development that could further undermine increasingly stressed capital markets.

The $365 billion default came as stock markets around the world suffered one of their worst days since the crash of 11 years ago. Panicking about the prospect of global recession, the FTSE 100 index of leading shares in London crashed within seconds of opening, losing 8.9 per cent of its value, its worse fall since October 1987.

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Oct 10


A woman speaks on a cell phone inside the headquarters of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., in New York, on Sept. 15, 2008. Photographer: Jeremy Bales/Bloomberg News

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) — Sellers of credit-default protection on bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. will have to pay 91.375 cents on the dollar to settle the contracts, setting up the biggest-ever payout in the $55 trillion market.

An auction to determine the size of the settlement on Lehman credit-default swaps set a value of 8.625 cents on the dollar for the debt, according to Creditfixings.com, a Web site run by auction administrators Creditex Group Inc. and Markit Group Ltd. The auction may lead to payments of more than $270 billion, BNP Paribas SA strategist Andrea Cicione in London said.

While the potential payout is higher than 87 cents on the dollar suggested by trading in Lehman’s bonds yesterday, sellers of protection have probably written down their positions and put up most of the collateral required, said Robert Pickel, head of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. More than 350 banks and investors signed up to settle credit-default swaps tied to Lehman. No one knows exactly who has what at stake because there’s no central exchange or system for reporting trades.

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Oct 08


Dick Fuld, former Lehman Brothers’ chief executive Photo: AP

The dismemberment of Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers’ former chief executive, before a Congressional committee on Monday was a compelling, albeit brutal, event.

His televised humiliation was orchestrated by a veteran Democrat, Henry Waxman, whose simple question about Fuld’s alleged $480m of earnings – Is that fair? – hit the banker like a haymaker, rendering him speechless.

As the cameras focused on Fuld’s haunted stare, there was a sense of action replay. Hadn’t we seen this freak show, or at least something remarkably like it, long before Lehman went under – a display of furious inquisitors wiping the floor with Wall Street’s loftiest reputations?

Yes, history was repeating itself: “As the ghosts of numerous tyrants, from Julius Caesar to Benito Mussolini will testify, people are very hard on those who, having had power, lose it or are destroyed. Then anger at past arrogance is joined with contempt for present weakness.

“The victim or his corpse is made to suffer all available indignities. Such was the fate of the bankers. They were fair game for Congressional committees, courts, the press and comedians.”

These are the observations of economist J K Galbraith in The Great Crash, 1929. First published in 1954, his analysis of the greed and self-delusion that led to the unravelling of America’s stock market and the subsequent Depression is undimmed by time.

Replace 1929 with 2008 and the story, I’m afraid, is eerily familiar: a speculative orgy, crescendo, climax and crash. As this plays out, important people – business and political leaders – rely on “the power of incantation” to keep the rest of us calm. Their efforts are doomed to fail.

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Oct 08


A security officer stands outside of the Federal Reserve building in Washington on Sept. 16, 2008. Photographer: Jay Mallin/Bloomberg News

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and four other central banks lowered interest rates in an unprecedented coordinated effort to ease the economic effects of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The Fed, ECB, Bank of England, Bank of Canada and Sweden’s Riksbank each cut their benchmark rates by half a percentage point. The Bank of Japan, which didn’t participate in the move, said it supported the action. Switzerland also took part. Separately, China’s central bank lowered its key one-year lending rate by 0.27 percentage point.

Today’s decision follows a global meltdown that sent U.S. stock indexes heading for their biggest annual decline since 1937; Japan’s benchmark today had the worst drop in two decades. Policy makers are also aiming to unfreeze credit markets after the premium on the three-month London interbank offered rate over the Fed’s main rate doubled in two weeks to a record. Continue reading »

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Oct 07

Forget the stock market gyrations. Forget Bernanke and Paulson’s ineffective, unconstitutional schemes.

Thursday’s auction for Lehman’s credit default swaps (CDS) is much more important.

Why?

Well, if banks are reassured by the CDS auction, it could do more to free up frozen capital than all of the Fed and Treasury’s ill-conceived plans put together.

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Oct 07

Savers have been queuing in the street to buy gold bars and coins, as they search for a safe place to invest their money.


Traditionally, gold has been one of the safest investments during times of financial turmoil Photo: AP

London’s two leading bullion dealers, ATS Bullion and Baird & Co, have reported a rush of interest from savers, many of whom have hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of savings they want to convert into the precious metal.

Related article: US Mint halts some American Eagle coin production

At least two customers have invested the entire proceeds from selling their houses into gold, each buying up more than £500,000-worth of gold bars, according to one dealer.

Savers have been queuing in the street at ATS Bullion, whose offices are just off the Strand in London’s west end.

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Oct 06

When the precious metals were smashed out of nowhere and the dollar started climbing this summer I became very worried. I didn’t question my conviction that commodities are in a bull market, or that precious metals in particular are undervalued. I felt something sinister was at work. Neither move was justified on a fundamental level. I assumed that something very bad was about to happen and the metals needed to be brought lower in advance of the bad news.

Now we have a glimpse at the ugly consequences foreseen by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. In early September, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nationalized with a financial commitment of USD$200 billion from the taxpayers. Incredibly, the loan limits at the former GSEs were raised from $417,000 to $729,750 in March when it was more than obvious these institutions needed to be reined in. Like most bailouts and bank failures, this one was announced on a weekend to limit the impact on the stock markets.

As I mentioned in last month’s issue, Treasury Secretary Paulson was under severe pressure to act, as the Chinese started selling Fannie and Freddie bonds while threatening further retribution. Common shareholders were left with nothing, while bondholders like Pimco and Asian central banks benefited. The small investor was stung again, as taxpayer dollars were used to bail out foreigners and wealthy Americans in a policy that Jim Rogers terms “socialism for the rich.”

Unfortunately, $200 billion is just the tip of the iceberg. As the government has assumed responsibility for Fannie and Freddie’s $5.4 trillion in liabilities, the Congressional Budget Office correctly states that these institutions “should be directly incorporated into the federal budget.” The Bush Administration has strongly opposed this move. Continue reading »

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Oct 06

Rep. Henry Waxman asks Lehman chief whether his hefty salary from the failed company is fair.


Added: Oct. 06, 2008

Source: YouTube

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