Wednesday, April 21. 2010
The political witch-hunt that is now being fomented related to the SEC's charges against Goldman is a minefield that threatens to blow up the GOP for the next 20 years - if not permanently.
The full-court press by right-wing talking heads such as Limbaugh and Hannity, who appear to have not bothered to do a bit of research into the matter before spouting off absolute nonsense, are piling on in a fashion that will just do further damage to the Republican brand.
The premise here is that the SEC action was "concocted" in some fashion. Well, if that's true, how come the key trader involved, Tourre, has been de-registered in London?
That's not what you do if you did nothing wrong - or your employee did nothing wrong, conference call by Goldman with many "ahs" and "uhms" notwithstanding.
It may get much worse. Zerohedge is reporting that the infamous C-BASS, the company formed by MGIC and Radian (and over which their pending merger blew itself to bits a couple of years ago), may be intertwined in the Goldman mess. There may be a story here - or maybe not. We'll see as time passes.
In the meantime there are a few Democrats that are not waiting around. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), among others, sent a letter to Eric Holder, US Attorney General, in which she said:
So precisely what are the Republicans trying to argue for here? That the sort of misconduct that is alleged to have occurred here beyond the boundaries of the law, and that which does not rise to a criminal standard of conduct but which is exploitive of Americans, should be permitted to slide - either "because it's in the past" or for more sinister reasons - like permitting the same looting to continue and be expanded in the future?
Don't feed me this crap about "expanding credit for Americans" - we've done that and it was a freaking DISASTER! Liar loans, 0 down, totally irresponsible HELOC and other lending policies, people tying small businesses to their houses and personal fortunes all so the bankers could skim off a huge piece of everything - and it all blew up.
Now "they're back" and making billions in bonuses - but what are they doing to earn that money? Banking and finance generally is a parasitic function. It's a necessary function, but only to a point. Yes, we need to match those with capital with those who want to borrow capital, and that's what banks do - but we don't need to feed an insatiable monster that "demands" products that are unsound, unsafe, and crooked at their inception, nor do we have to permit these same bankers to continue to lie about their asset valuations.
Yet we are.
Let me be clear: The system will not hold together on the path we are on now. It can't. It is demanding to be fed with ever-greater interest payments and ever-larger slices of the economy siphoned off, and the real economy can't withstand that sort of attack.
Look at consumer confidence - it came in at -50 today, just off record lows, .vs. projections of "improvement." Improvement? Where? The real economy is choking to death under 29.9% interest rates as the bankster monster sits on it and plays vampire, sucking the blood from the economy.
And Mayor Bloomberg has the chutzpa to tell the NYC Congressional delegation that they have to "fight" for NY. Fight? For what? For the ability to steal even more?
Jefferson County Alabama funded NY's fat-cat bankers and taxes - with a bribery scheme that sent several officials to prison. WHERE ARE THE INDICTMENTS OF THE BANKERS INVOLVED? The banks involved included in the swap deals that were both overpriced and may have been entered into in exchange for bribes include JP Morgan, Bear Stearns, Bank of America and Lehman Brothers. Two of the four are now dead, of course, but the other two are not.
Oh, Mr. Langford? He got 15 years. How many years have the bankers gotten?
NOT ONE DAMN DAY.
The bankers - and the banks themselves - that profited from this crooked set of deals? Not one penny has come back to the citizens of Birmingham, Alabama, nor has one bank executive been indicted. Never mind that Matt Taibbi has alleged that Goldman was effectively bribed to the tune of $3 million to stay out of the deals - by JP Morgan!
Oh, and before anyone tries to hide behind a claim that "they didn't know", you might want to read this:
Didn't know eh? That dog won't hunt.
We can't stop it? Like hell. Bill Black did stop it. Listen up:
The banksters threatened to kill him by the way. Literally.
To Congress and President Obama: Stop lying. You can put a stop to the scams - you're refusing. You're not unable, you're unwilling. But this position you've adopted - the making of excuses and continued sponsorship of the scams and frauds of these "bastions of banking" has us moving ever-closer to the cliff, and once we go off it, there is no coming back.
Let me make this clear. I'm a man of peaceful protest and I've called for legal and legislative remedies. 100 years of hard time with Bubba in the slammer for these clowns will do just fine. In fact I prefer it to violence, in that hard felony prison time will both last longer and hurt more.
But I'm not the only one out here, and a lot of the people in this country are tired of the crap and within a hair of deciding that it's time to roll up judge and jury into one, passing sentence personally. Howard Fineman, writing for Newsweek, sees the problem but as with most "pundits" refuse to identify the culprit, as pissing off half your advertisers (every big bank in the land) can impact tenure with the publication you write for.
The people are done with being robbed, looted, bent over the table and violated repeatedly, while our nation's corporations - banks included - are fined with wrist-slaps instead of hard time or worse, their actions are IGNORED and they're even bailed out! Witness Pfizer, who I've written about - in 2009 the firm pled guilty to a criminal felony and paid $2.3 billion as a fine. What did the various agencies say at the time?
What did Pfizer do?
This was a first offense, right? The company did a bad thing, got caught, and had been a good corporate citizen. It was an "isolated incident", yes?
Same offense, five years previous - in 2004.
There wasn't anyone involved in both of these illegal acts, right? Different people that just happened to be in the same company?
Not only was the same guy the general counsel in 2002 when the first offense happened he had been promoted to CEO when the second occurred.
Mr. Kindler's "penalty" for being involved in not only one but two felony criminal violations of the law at Pfizer? He was elected (by the banks, of course) to the board of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Oh, and he's "proud" of Pfizer's record - a record he was responsible for.
Perhaps you can explain why the people should sit still while our government, which is supposed to enforce laws, allows not just one offense but corporate recidivism - with an offense that includes aggresisvely peddling drugs for unapproved uses. Out here in the real world we call that "drug dealing" and when the drug is heroin or PCP, and we catch them, we lock people involved up for life.
But when you run a big pharmaceutical company and in essence commit the same offense you get your hand slapped, get promoted for the first offense and then when you do it again you get elected to the board of the institution that executes monetary policy for the entire United States!
I keep brining up the Pfizer case - and the Jefferson County one - because they are outrageous in their impact on ordinary people and the brazen nature of what occurred. There's also no doubt that criminal acts were involved, since in both cases the parties (or corporations) either were found or pled guilty.
That is, these felony aren't allegations, they're facts.
But in each case the prime actors go free. Nobody does hard time and nobody even loses a business license. Pfizer wasn't shut down nor did it lose the ability to do business with the government. The banks involved in the Jefferson County Alabama swap deals were not prosecuted, they didn't lose their banking licenses, they didn't have to return any of the money they "made", and the people of the county still got screwed. Then those very same banks jacked up half the nation's credit card interest rates to 29.9% - while The Fed lent them our money at zero.
The latter is important, by the way. If I steal a car and then sell it to you, when you're caught with the stolen car you don't get to keep it. It doesn't matter if you're out lots of money as a consequence - you never had a right to the car in the first place, as it was the fruit of a poison tree. Why haven't these banks been forced to disgorge every penny that Jefferson County paid them, since the funds they got were likewise the fruit of a felonious series of events?
Before the election.
WHAT CAME OF IT AND WHY HAVE THERE BEEN ZERO INDICTMENTS?
Nearly two years later, all we know is that there "was" an investigation... but we also know why the banks got involved in these slimy deals. Read it right here:
Hide the cost, hide the fees, don't disclose any of it, and, in the case of Jefferson County, if some of the officials there get involved in a little bribery, well, it's nothing that a higher fee won't take care of covering!
Or shall we talk about book-cooking? Oh hell, why not, let's do Wells Fargo, which has a grand-pappy popping $1.76 trillion freaking dollars in QSPEs off balance sheet! The alleged "maximum exposure to loss" (according to them)? A mere $43.5 billion - that is, the claim is made that a minuscule 2.4% could possibly - in the worst case - be lost, but not one penny more!
Oh, what's in the black box? Well, we can start with a cool $1.1 trillion in "conforming" mortgages, including Ginnie-guaranteed paper. The latter, by the way, has an actual guarantee from the Federal Government - but note that the breakdown between the two is not specified. Why not, given that Fannie and Freddie paper is not legally guaranteed - even though it is currently "backstopped." Given how little Ginnie did in originations prior to the FHA ramping up in the last couple of years why do I suspect that "conforming" might not even actually mean "wrapped by Fannie or Freddie"? After all, the legal term of art "conforming" in this case merely means it qualified to be sold to the GSEs - not that it was, or that it was wrapped by them!
Then there's $251 billion in non-conforming mortgages. How many of those are Wachoiva "Pick-a-Pay" monstrosities that Wells swallowed? Hmmmm... Oh, and let's add in $345 billion in commercial mortgage securitizations (not whole loans - securitizations!) which, if you remember, FITCH said 10% of the total outstanding would be in default by the end of the year.
If that's not enough for you the unconsolidated VIEs are also in the mix off balance sheet, and in there we find $56 billion in CDOs (heh, how are those performing, and what sort of CDOs are these? Are there any synthetics in there?) and, of course, just to round things out, a cool $23.8 billion in CLOs (collateralized loan obligations.)
To put this all in perspective for the company to hold the "standard" 4 and 8% Tier Capital against this the bank would have to have almost $160 billion in Tier Capital (for the 8% standard) in addition to coverage for the formal, on-balance sheet debt that the company has - and this assumes that all those "carrying values" accurately reflect the actual value of these securities. Anyone care to bet on what the market price is on this box-chock-full-of-god-knows-what should they want to - or have to - sell it?
Of course Wells doesn't have the capital behind that nor can we see what's actually in the box, other than their "category list." The "off balance sheet" games permit this sort of thing - a dandy arrangement right up until the belief that the maximum value at risk of $43 billion turns out to be a wild-eyed fantasy.
Then the taxpayer gets tapped on the shoulder and told that tanks will roll unless we fork up $700 billion tomorrow - again.
We learned exactly nothing from ENRON and MCI, or for that matter from Lehman and the 2008 debacle - did we?
Why did I pick on Wells? Besides the fact that they make it reasonably easy to find this crap in their financial statements, for no particular reason. The other banks aren't quite as bad, but when we're in the hundreds of billions off-balance sheet - does it matter?
We desperately need politicians who will cut the crap and put a stop to all of this, right here and now. No more flim-flamming, no more off-balance-sheet crap, no more hidden fees, no more bribery and no more extortion. Do any of the above, go to prison - period.
If you need someone with experience in the matter, call Bill Black.
Will this "constrain credit"? Not among those who are truly qualified to borrow. Note that our local community banks didn't pull any of this garbage - bribing people, holding a trillion in so-called "assets" off balance sheet and running complex derivative books intended to make price discovery and fair dealing impossible.
Force the big banks to stop all of it right here and now. If they can't survive with everything they hold consolidated on their balance sheet, that's too bad. We have thousands of community banks that would be happy to have the business, and that will make sound loans.
Demand that The Fed cut the "below zero" real interest rates. Get rid of the Clinton-era machinations in the CPI, and mandate that the short end of the rate curve be held above the true rate of inflation. Why? Because it must always cost something to borrow in real terms or you get monstrous malinvestment, bubbles and crashes. If Bernanke won't put a stop to this garbage right here and now then The Fed's charter must be revoked.
Why aren't you doing this? Because you're being bribed, that's why:
Maybe Congress can explain why the 535 criminals in the District of Corruption shouldn't all be in prison?
Time to choose 'Dems - and 'Pubs. No more obfuscation and no more lies. You're either going to act on the fraud, or you're not. November is coming and before you think you'll skate on this one, I suggest you harken back to 2008, when everyone thought the same thing after Bear Stearns blew up.
How did that work out, exactly, and why do you think you can stop the next collapse when it comes?
If you don't act, and soon, it most certainly will.
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