Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine, joins Thom Hartmann. It didn’t take Wall Street’s allies in the financial media long to start whining about JPMorgan’s $13 billion settlement with the federal government. But is that record fine really as bad as the people on CNBC say it is?
1. presstitute A member of the media who will alter their story and reporting based on financial interests or other ties with usually partisan individuals or groups. It has become abundantly clear in recent years that the mainstream media can not be identified as anything other that a collective of mediocre, corporate/government ass-kissing presstitutes. Different media outlets cater to different special interests, but the end result is all the same. MSNBC for example is essentially a straight up PR outlet for the Democratic Party, while Fox News represents the neo-con arm of the Republican Party and the military-industrial complex generally. CNBC has a special position in the presstitute media hierarchy. They basically defend Wall Street at all costs. The station represents the most important media gatekeeper for the financial oligarch, crony class.The following video is an interview on the daily political talk show Majority Report, hosted by Sam Seder. In this episode, he discusses with Matt Taibbi the recent appearance of Salon’s Alex Pareene on CNBC in which Maria Bartiromo unabashedly presstitutes herself out for Jaime Dimon and JP Morgan in an utterly embarrassing manner.The clip is a little over 16 minutes, but well worth your time. Sam Seder is pretty hilarious and his rapport with Taibbi is excellent.
So here’s my question for Maria. If all that matters is the bottom line “ex-legal problems” then why did the Feds raid the Silk Road rather than allow them to “settle without admitting guilt?” After all they were a “cash generating machine” too. Take that one on Money Honey.
All across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers
In the final months of 2011, almost two years before the city of Detroit would shock America by declaring bankruptcy in the face of what it claimed were insurmountable pension costs, the state of Rhode Island took bold action to avert what it called its own looming pension crisis. Led by its newly elected treasurer, Gina Raimondo – an ostentatiously ambitious 42-year-old Rhodes scholar and former venture capitalist – the state declared war on public pensions, ramming through an ingenious new law slashing benefits of state employees with a speed and ferocity seldom before seen by any local government. Continue reading »
Readers may recall an ugly story that broke earlier this summer, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman rebuked the news/business information firm Thomson Reuters for selling access to key economic survey data two seconds early to high-frequency algorithmic traders. The story strongly suggested that some Thomson Reuters customers were using their two-second head start (an eternity in the modern world of computerized trading) to front-run the markets.
“The early release of market-moving survey data undermines fair play in the markets,” Schneiderman said, back in the second week of July. Thomson Reuters suspended the practice of selling two-second head starts after Schneiderman insisted upon a change. Still, the firm defiantly refused to declare the change permanent and insisted that it had the right to “legally distribute non-governmental data” to “fee-paying subscribers.”
U.S. Congressional Record February 9, 1917, page 2947
Congressman Calloway announced that the J.P. Morgan interests bought 25 of America’s leading newspapers, and inserted their own editors, in order to control the media.
Mr. CALLAWAY: Mr. Chairman, under unanimous consent, I insert into the Record at this point a statement showing the newspaper combination, which explains their activity in the war matter, just discussed by the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. MOORE]:
“In March, 1915, the J.P. Morgan interests, the steel, ship building and powder interests and their subsidiary organizations, got together 12 men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press in the United States.
“These 12 men worked the problems out by selecting 179 newspapers, and then began, by an elimination process, to retain only those necessary for the purpose of controlling the general policy of the daily press throughout the country. They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of 25 of the greatest papers. The 25 papers were agreed upon; emissaries were sent to purchase the policy, national and international, of these papers; an agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month; an editor was furnished for each paper to properly supervise and edit information regarding the questions of preparedness, militarism, financial policies and other things of national and international nature considered vital to the interests of the purchasers.
“This contract is in existence at the present time, and it accounts for the news columns of the daily press of the country being filled with all sorts of preparedness arguments and misrepresentations as to the present condition of the United States Army and Navy, and the possibility and probability of the United States being attacked by foreign foes.
“This policy also included the suppression of everything in opposition to the wishes of the interests served. The effectiveness of this scheme has been conclusively demonstrated by the character of the stuff carried in the daily press throughout the country since March, 1915. They have resorted to anything necessary to commercialize public sentiment and sandbag the National Congress into making extravagant and wasteful appropriations for the Army and Navy under false pretense that it was necessary. Their stock argument is that it is ‘patriotism.’ They are playing on every prejudice and passion of the American people.”
So FORGET about the Illuminati (the real elitists) and just blame their bankster elite puppets, their government elite puppets (like Obama, Bush, Clinton etc.) and their corporate media presstitutes for everything instead!!!
Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.
You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”
That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.
Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget. Continue reading »
The legacy of outgoing U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will be simple, said Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi on Friday — and unflattering.
“He’s the architect of “too big to fail,” Taibbi told Democracy Now hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. ” When this all blows up — and it’s going to blow up, for sure, because things can’t continue the way they are right now — people are going to look back in history, and they’re going to say, “Who was to blame for this?” And Timothy Geithner is going to be the guy who designed this entire system.”
Visited with old friends Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now! this morning. The topic was LiBOR, although there is a second segment that will be appearing online that covers the muni bid-rigging case as well.
One editorial note: I said “tens of trillions” of losses at one point when I meant “tens of billions.” Later in the interview, which thankfully didn’t air this morning, I forgot Bill Richardson’s name. I think the heat is melting some data in my brain this week. Apologies all around, and thanks once again to Amy and Juan.
Was on Viewpoint with the inimitable Eliot Spitzer last night and joined Dennis Kelleher from Better Markets in discussing some of the more upsetting recent revelations from the LIBOR banking scandal — including most notably the not-so-surprising revelation that Tim Geithner was apprised of the rate-rigging as far back as 2008.
P.S. I advise everyone to check out the Godzilla-v.-Mothra death-battle between Spitzer and Maria Bartiromo from last Friday on her show on CNBC. Maria’s always been a little nuts, but this latest crusade to rewrite history and cleanse ex-AIG chief Hank Greenberg of culpability in a fraud scandal that at the time led to the biggest financial settlement ever paid is an absolute head-scratcher.
This Libor-manipulation story grows crazier with each passing minute. We have officially disappeared now down the rabbit-hole of the international financial oligarchy.
Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond is testifying before parliament in London today, and that’s sure to bring some shocking moments. But there’s already been one huge stunner. In advance of that testimony, Barclays released an email from October 29, 2008, written by Diamond to then-Chairman John Varley and COO Jerry del Messier (who also stepped down yesterday). The email from the CEO to the other two senior Barclays execs purports to detail the content of the conversation Diamond had with Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker that same day.
In the email, Diamond essentially tells the other two execs that he has been given permission by Tucker – encouraged, actually – to rig Libor rates downward. What’s even worse is that Diamond’s email suggests that Tucker was only following orders, i.e. that Tucker had received phone calls from “a number of senior figures within Whitehall” – that is, the British government – expressing concern about Barclays’ high Libor rates. Tucker in this version of events was acting as a middleman for the British government, telling Diamond to fake his borrowing rates in order to preserve the appearance of financial stability, for the good of Queen and country as it were.
Again: Libor, the London Interbank Exchange Rate, is the rate at which banks borrow from each other. A huge percentage of the world’s variable-rate investments are pegged to Libor. When Libor rates are high, it suggests that the banks’ confidence in each other is low, and high Libor rates are generally an indicator of shaky financial health among the banks. If the banks manipulated Libor, they did it to make themselves look healthier, but this had the consequence of affecting hundreds of trillions of dollars’ worth of financial products worldwide.
How America’s biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy – until they were caught on tape
Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won’t hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you’re probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government’s massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties – not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo.
Early morning in a nearly filled corporate ballroom at the Cobb Energy Centre, a second-tier event stadium on the outskirts of Atlanta. It’s late September, and a local conservative think tank is hosting a get-together with Rick Perry, whose front-runner comet at the time is still just slightly visible in the bottom of the sky. I’ve put away five cups of coffee trying to stay awake through a series of monotonous speeches about Georgia highway and port reform, waiting for my chance to lay eyes on the Next Big Thing in person.
By the time Perry shows up, I’m jazzed and ready for history. You always want to remember the first time you see the possible next president in person. But as every young person knows, the first time is not always a pleasant experience. Perry lumbers onstage looking exceedingly well-groomed, but also ashen and exhausted, like a funeral director with a hangover.
The news that a “rogue trader” (I hate that term – more on that in a moment) has soaked the Swiss banking giant UBS for $2 billion has rocked the international financial community and threatened to drive a stake through any chance Europe had of averting economic disaster. There is much hand-wringing in the financial press today as the UBS incident has reminded the whole world that all of the banks were almost certainly lying their asses off over the last three years, when they all pledged to pull back from risky prop trading. Here’s how the WSJ put it:
The Swiss banking giant has been struggling to rebuild trust after running up vast losses in the original financial crisis. Under Chief Executive Oswald Grubel, the bank claimed to have put in place new risk management practices, pulled back from proprietary trading and focused on a low-risk client-driven model.
All the troubled banks, remember, made similar promises in the wake of the financial crisis. In fact, some of them used the exact same language. Some will recall Goldman’s executive summary from earlier this year in which the bank pledged to respond to a “challenging period” in its history by making changes.
“We reviewed the governance, standards and practices of certain of our firmwide operating committees,” the bank wrote, “to ensure their focus on client service, business standards and practices and reputational risk management.”
But the reality is, the brains of investment bankers by nature are not wired for “client-based” thinking. This is the reason why the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept investment banks and commercial banks separate, was originally passed back in 1933: it just defies common sense to have professional gamblers in charge of stewarding commercial bank accounts.
On the one side is Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, who is conducting his own investigation into the era of securitizations – the practice of chopping up assets like mortgages and converting them into saleable securities – that led up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
On the other side is the Obama administration, the banks, and all the other state attorneys general.
This second camp has cooked up a deal that would allow the banks to walk away with just a seriously discounted fine from a generation of fraud that led to millions of people losing their homes.
The idea behind this federally-guided “settlement” is to concentrate and centralize all the legal exposure accrued by this generation of grotesque banker corruption in one place, put one single price tag on it that everyone can live with, and then stuff the details into a titanium canister before shooting it into deep space.
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.
The fact that those responsible for the recent economic crisis have not been held accountable is setting a very dangerous trend, believes investigative journalist Matt Taibbi, author and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine.
“Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive, for example, has cashed in a total of $93.8 million in shares since 1999, a number that captures both known stock sales since he became an officer at Goldman, and sales not individually reported since before he was required to disclose such transactions.
In the eight years since becoming a senior executive in 2002, Mr. Blankfein has sold $42.5 million, roughly 45 percent of the total over the years.
As of August, Mr. Blankfein and his family owned 2.03 million shares worth about $355 million if they had been cashed out on Jan. 14.”
A Senate committee has laid out the evidence. Now the Justice Department should bring criminal charges
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group, is sworn in while testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Investigations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on April 27, 2010 in Washington, DC.
They weren’t murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.
Thanks to an extraordinary investigative effort by a Senate subcommittee that unilaterally decided to take up the burden the criminal justice system has repeatedly refused to shoulder, we now know exactly what Goldman Sachs executives like Lloyd Blankfein and Daniel Sparks lied about. We know exactly how they and other top Goldman executives, including David Viniar and Thomas Montag, defrauded their clients. America has been waiting for a case to bring against Wall Street. Here it is, and the evidence has been gift-wrapped and left at the doorstep of federal prosecutors, evidence that doesn’t leave much doubt: Goldman Sachs should stand trial.
Barack Obama recently issued an executive order imposing a wave of sanctions against Libya, not only freezing Libyan assets, but barring Americans from having business dealings with Libyan banks.
So raise your hand if you knew that the United States has been extending billions of dollars in aid to Qaddafi and to the Central Bank of Libya, through a Libyan-owned subsidiary bank operating out of Bahrain. And raise your hand if you knew that, just a week or so after Obama’s executive order, the U.S. Treasury Department quietly issued an order exempting this and other Libyan-owned banks to continue operating without sanction.
I came across the curious case of the Arab Banking Corporation, better known as ABC, while researching a story about the results of the audit of the Federal Reserve. That story, which will be coming out in Rolling Stone in two weeks, will examine in detail some of the many lunacies uncovered by Senate investigators amid the recently-released list of bailout and emergency aid recipients – a list that includes many extremely shocking names, from foreign industrial competitors to hedge funds in tax-haven nations to various Wall Street figures of note (and some of their relatives). You will want to see this amazing list when it comes out, so please make sure to check the newsstands in two weeks’ time.
This list became public as a result of an amendment added to the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that was sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The amendment forced the Federal Reserve to open its books for the first time and make public the names of those individuals and corporations who received emergency loans and bailout monies during the roughly two year period between the crash of 2008 and the passage of the Dodd-Frank bill.
As Bernie’s staff was going through this list, it found, among other things, some $26 billion in extremely cheap loans (as low as one quarter of one percent!) extended to this ABC bank over a period of years, beginning in December of 2007 and continuing through as recently as February of 2010. The senator sent a letter to Ben Bernanke over the winter demanding more information about this loan (among others) but the response he got was completely unhelpful.
When I first started working on this story, one of Sanders’s aides was careful to point out the ABC loans. Later, I took a closer look at the company and found that it was 59% owned by the Central Bank of Libya, which I found very odd, even by the generally insane standards of the bailout era. Why, I wondered, would the Federal Reserve be giving Muammar Qaddafi $26 billion in near-zero interest loans? Exactly how does that address America’s financial problems? What bailout plan could that possibly be part of?
It gets weirder from there. Sanders’s office subsequently found out that ABC is not only exempt from Obama’s sanctions, it has two functioning branches here in New York City. In a letter he sent yesterday evening to Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency chief John Walsh (the banking regulator with purview over the New York branches), Sanders put it this way:
Why would the U.S. government allow a bank that is predominantly owned by the Central Bank of Libya – an institution on which the U.S. has imposed strict economic sanctions – to operate two banking branches within our own borders?
Neither the Fed nor Treasury so far has offered explanations for these loans; the Treasury has so far only explained why ABC was not subject to sanctions and pointed to the March 4th order when I contacted them.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
This essay is about three recent books that explain how we lost our economy, the Constitution and our civil liberties, and how peace lost out to war.
Matt Taibbi is the best–certainly the most entertaining–financial/political reporter in the country. There is no better book than Griftopia (2010) to which to turn to understand how stupidity, greed, and criminality, spread evenly among policymakers and Wall Street, created the financial crisis that has left Americans overburdened with both private and public debt. Taibbi walks the reader through the fraudulent financial instruments that littered the American, British, and European financial communities with toxic waste. He has figured it all out, and what in other hands might be an arcane account for MBAs is in Taibbi’s hands a highly readable and entertaining story.
For the first 65 pages Taibbi entertains the reader with the inability of the public and politicians to focus on any reality. The financial story begins on page 65 with Fed chairman Alan Greenspan undermining the Glass-Steagall Act leading to its repeal by three political stooges, Gramm-Leach-Bliley. This set the stage for the banksters to leverage debt upon debt until the house of cards collapsed. When Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, attempted to do her regulatory job and regulate derivatives, the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and Securities and Exchange Commission got her bounced out of office. To make certain that no other regulator could protect the financial system and its participants from what was coming, Congress deregulated the derivatives markets by passing the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.