Tag Archive: Goldman Sachs


Jon Corzine
Courtesy of usapartisan.com/

March 13, 2014

On March 13, the son of Jon Corzine was found dead in Mexico City of an apparent suicide. Jon Corzine was the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, head of MF Global, and Governor of New Jersey, as well as being a long time campaign financier for President Barack Obama.

The son of former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine killed himself in a Mexico City hotel, sources told The Post on Thursday.

Jeffrey Corzine, 31, was the youngest of Corzine’s three children with ex-wife and childhood sweetheart Joanne Corzine.. – NY Post

While little is known about the circumstances behind Jeffrey Corzine’s alleged suicide, his death comes on the heels of at least eight unusual banker deaths, many of which were also labeled as suicides despite the near impossibility of one of them being attributed to suicide by nail gun.

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‘He made the tragic decision to take his own life’: Youngest son of former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine commits suicide in Mexico City hotel

  • Jeffrey Corzine took his own life ‘several days ago’ in Mexico City hotel
  • His family traced him through his credit card
  • Had battled addiction through his teens and twenties
  • Jeffrey, 31, was thought to be working as a drug counselor in California
  • He was the youngest of Corzine’s three children with his first wife
  • Corzine’s successor Chris Christie issued a statement of his condolences, calling the death ‘unthinkable’

 

By Meghan Keneally

 

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Former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s 31-year-old son, Jeffrey, – who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction – committed suicide at a Mexico City hotel this week, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Jeffrey Corzine had been living in Malibu, California, and was an aspiring photographer, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity and could not name the hotel.

Corzine family spokesman Steven Goldberg confirmed Jeffrey Corzine’s death in a written statement.

 

Jeffrey Corzine is seen at his father's side (right) when he was elected to be the governor of New Jersey in November 2005. His brother, Josh, is also pictured raising his father's hand in victory (left).

Jeffrey Corzine is seen at his father’s side (right) when he was elected to be the governor of New Jersey in November 2005. His brother, Josh, is also pictured raising his father’s hand in victory (left).

 

Young: Jeffrey, who was known to friend as 'Jeff', was the youngest of three siblings

Young: Jeffrey, who was known to friend as ‘Jeff’, was the youngest of three siblings

Discovered: The US Embassy in Mexico City confirmed that Jeffrey Corzine was found dead in a Mexico City hotel 'several days' ago

Discovered: The US Embassy in Mexico City confirmed that Jeffrey Corzine was found dead in a Mexico City hotel ‘several days’ ago

 

‘The sad fact is that Jeffrey Corzine had been suffering from severe depression for several years and recently had been receiving treatment for what is a very painful and debilitating physical and mental ailment,’ Goldberg said.

‘On Tuesday morning, he succumbed to his disease and made the tragic decision to take his own life.’

The family is planning a small, private memorial for Jeffrey, Goldberg said.

 ‘Among many things, the Corzine family hopes Jeffrey will be remembered for his dedication to helping others overcome their struggles with depression and addiction, something to which he had been devoted for the past 10 years,’ he said.

Corzine, who was described by family friends as a ‘lost’ soul, was discovered dead in Mexico City ‘several days’ ago after failing to reply to messages from loved ones.

His friends and family tracked down his whereabouts to his hotel by following his credit card trail.

 

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  — Episode 259

X22Report X22Report

Published on Jan 10, 2014

Get economic collapse news throughout the day visit http://x22report.com
More economic collapse news visit http://thepeoplesnewz.com

The Greek people cannot pay their taxes. In Cyprus housing sales fell 23% in 2013. The central bankers/US government/corporate media have released the propaganda that the economy is recovering. This is false and retail sales tanked this holiday season. The central bankers US government are losing control of the middle east and the US dollar is on the brink of collapsing.

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The Economic Collapse

If You Are Waiting For An “Economic Collapse”, Just Look At What Is Happening To Europe

European UnionIf you are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the “economic collapse”, just open up your eyes and look at what is happening in Europe.  The entire continent is a giant economic mess right now.  Unemployment and poverty levels are setting record highs, car sales are setting record lows, and there is an ocean of bad loans and red ink everywhere you look.  Over the past several years, most of the attention has been on the economic struggles of Greece, Spain and Portugal and without a doubt things continue to get even worse in those nations.  But in 2014 and 2015, Italy and France will start to take center stage.  France has the 5th largest economy on the planet, and Italy has the 9th largest economy on the planet, and at this point both of those economies are rapidly falling to pieces.  Expect both France and Italy to make major headlines throughout the rest of 2014.  I have always maintained that the next major wave of the economic collapse would begin in Europe, and that is exactly what is happening.  The following are just a few of the statistics that show that an “economic collapse” is happening in Europe right now…

-The unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole is still sitting at an all-time record high of 12.1 percent.

-It Italy, the unemployment rate has soared to a brand new all-time record high of 12.7 percent.

-The youth unemployment rate in Italy has jumped up to 41.6 percent.

-The level of poverty in Italy is now the highest that has ever been recorded.

-Many analysts expect major economic trouble in Italy over the next couple of years.  The President of Italy is openly warning of “widespread social tension and unrest” in his nation in 2014.

-Citigroup is projecting that Italy’s debt to GDP ratio will surpass 140 percent by the year 2016.

-Citigroup is projecting that Greece’s debt to GDP ratio will surpass 200 percent by the year 2016.

-Citigroup is projecting that the unemployment rate in Greece will reach 32 percent in 2015.

-The unemployment rate in Spain is still sitting at an all-time record high of 26.7 percent.

-The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now up to 57.7 percent – even higher than in Greece.

-The percentage of bad loans in Spain has risen for eight straight months and recently hit a brand new all-time record high of 13 percent.

-The number of mortgage applications in Spain has fallen by 90 percent since the peak of the housing boom.

-The unemployment rate in France has risen for 9 quarters in a row and recently soared to a new 16 year high.

-For 2013, car sales in Europe were on pace to hit the lowest yearly level ever recorded.

-Deutsche Bank, probably the most important bank in Germany, is the most highly leveraged bank in Europe (60 to 1) and it has approximately 70 trillion dollars worth of exposure to derivatives.

Europe truly is experiencing an economic nightmare, and it is only going to get worse.

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The Economic Collapse

Why Is Goldman Sachs Warning That The Stock Market Could Decline By 10 Percent Or More?

Time Is Running OutWhy has Goldman Sachs chosen this moment to publicly declare that stocks are overpriced?  Why has Goldman Sachs suddenly decided to warn all of us that the stock market could decline by 10 percent or more in the coming months?  Goldman Sachs has to know that when they release a report like this that it will move the market.  And that is precisely what happened on Monday.  U.S. stocks dropped precipitously.  So is Goldman Sachs just honestly trying to warn their clients that stocks may have become overvalued at this point, or is another agenda at work here?  To be fair, the truth is that all of the big banks should be warning their clients about the stock market bubble.  Personally, I have stated that the stock market has officially entered “crazytown territory“.  So it would be hard to blame Goldman Sachs for trying to tell the truth.  But Goldman Sachs also had to know that a warning that the stock market could potentially fall by more than 10 percent would rattle nerves on Wall Street.

This report that has just been released by Goldman Sachs has gotten a lot of attention.  In fact, an article about this report was featured at the top of the CNBC website for quite a while on Monday.  Needless to say, news of this report spread on Wall Street like wildfire.  The following is a short excerpt from the CNBC article

A stock market correction is approaching the level of near certainty as Wall Street faces a major paradigm shift in how to achieve price gains, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis.

In a market outlook that garnered significant attention from traders Monday, the firm’s strategists called the S&P 500 valuation “lofty by almost any measure” and attached a 67 percent probability to the chance that the market would fall by 10 percent or more, which is the technical yardstick for a correction.

Of course Goldman Sachs is quite correct to be warning about an imminent stock market correction.  Right now stocks are overvalued according to just about any measure that you could imagine

The current valuation of the S&P 500 is lofty by almost any measure, both for the aggregate market as well as the median stock: (1) The P/E ratio; (2) the current P/E expansion cycle; (3) EV/Sales; (4) EV/EBITDA; (5) Free Cash Flow yield; (6) Price/Book as well as the ROE and P/B relationship; and compared with the levels of (6) inflation; (7) nominal 10-year Treasury yields; and (8) real interest rates. Furthermore, the cyclically-adjusted P/E ratio suggests the S&P 500 is currently 30% overvalued in terms of (9) Operating EPS and (10) about 45% overvalued using As Reported earnings.

There is a lot of technical jargon in the paragraph above, but essentially what it is saying is that stock prices are unusually high right now according to a whole host of key indicators.

And in case you were wondering, stocks did fall dramatically on Monday.  The Dow fell by 179 points, which was the biggest decline of the year by far.

So is Goldman Sachs correct about what could be coming?

Well, the truth is that there are many other analysts that are far more pessimistic than Goldman Sachs is.  For example, David Stockman, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan, believes that the U.S. stock market is heading for “a pretty rude day of awakening”

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JPMorgan Chase's offices in Hong Kong. The bank and its rivals have hired well-connected employees in China.
Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times JPMorgan Chase’s offices in Hong Kong. The bank and its rivals have hired well-connected employees in China.

In a series of late-night emails, JPMorgan Chase executives in Hong Kong lamented the loss of a lucrative assignment.

“We lost a deal to DB today because they got chairman’s daughter work for them this summer,” one JPMorgan investment banking executive remarked to colleagues, using the initials for Deutsche Bank.

The loss of that business in 2009, coming after rival banks landed a string of other deals, stung the JPMorgan executives. For Wall Street banks enduring slowdowns in the wake of the financial crisis, China was the last great gold rush. As its economy boomed, China’s state-owned enterprises were using banks to raise billions of dollars in stock and debt offerings — yet JPMorgan was falling further behind in capturing that business.

The solution, the executives decided over email, was to embrace the strategy that seemed to work so well for rivals: hire the children of China’s ruling elite.

“I am supportive to have our own” hiring strategy, a JPMorgan executive wrote in the 2009 email exchange.

In the months and years that followed, emails and other confidential documents show, JPMorgan escalated what it called its “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, adding scores of well-connected employees and tracking how those hires translated into business deals with the Chinese government. The previously unreported emails and documents — copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times — offer a view into JPMorgan’s motivations for ramping up the hiring program, suggesting that competitive pressures drove many of the bank’s decisions that are now under federal investigation.

The references to other banks in the emails also paint for the first time a broad picture of questionable hiring practices by other Wall Street banks doing business in China — some of them hiring the same employees with family connections. Since opening a bribery investigation into JPMorgan this spring, the authorities have expanded the inquiry to include hiring at other big banks. Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have previously been identified as coming under scrutiny. A sixth bank, UBS, is also facing scrutiny, according to interviews with current and former Wall Street employees. Neither JPMorgan nor any of the other banks have been accused of wrongdoing.

Still, the investigations have put Wall Street on high alert, said the current and former employees, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Some banks, they said, have adopted an unofficial hiring freeze for well-connected job candidates in China.

The investigation has also had a chilling effect on JPMorgan’s deal-making in China, interviews show. The bank, seeking to build good will with federal authorities, has considered forgoing certain deals in China and abandoned one assignment altogether.

The pullback comes just as JPMorgan had regained a significant share of the Chinese market. Its deal-making revived a few years after it escalated the Sons and Daughters program in 2009, an analysis of data from Thomson Reuters shows. In 2009, JPMorgan was 13th among banks winning business in China and Hong Kong. By 2013, once other banks had scaled back their Chinese business, it had climbed to No. 3. Other data shows that the bank was eighth in 2009 and — after losing market share in 2011 and 2012 — is now No. 4 in deal-making. While the hiring boom coincided with the increased business, the data does not establish a causal link between the two.

Yet the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, which are leading the JPMorgan inquiry, are examining whether the bank improperly won some of those deals by trading job offers for business with state-owned Chinese companies. The S.E.C. and the prosecutors, which might ultimately conclude that none of the hiring crossed a legal line, did not comment.

JPMorgan, which is cooperating with the investigation, also declined to comment. There is no indication that executives at the bank’s headquarters in New York were aware of the hiring practices. The six other banks facing scrutiny from the S.E.C. declined to comment on the investigations, which are at an early stage.

Economic forces fueled the hiring boom by Wall Street banks.

An era of financial deregulation in Washington coincided with a roaring economy in China, enabling questionable hiring practices to escape government scrutiny. The hiring became so widespread over the last two decades that banks competed over the most politically connected recent college graduates, known in China as princelings.

Goldman’s employee roster briefly included the grandson of the former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. And Feng Shaodong, the son-in-law of a high-ranking Communist Party official, worked with Merrill Lynch.

In recent months, though, federal authorities have adopted a tougher stance toward Wall Street firms suspected of trading jobs for government business. The S.E.C. and the Brooklyn prosecutors have bolstered enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which effectively bans United States corporations from giving “anything of value” to foreign officials to gain “any improper advantage” in retaining business. JPMorgan would have violated the 1977 law if it had acted with “corrupt” intent.

 

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 The mortgage crisis, fueled by racially discriminatory lending practices, destroyed 53% of African American wealth and 66% of Hispanic wealth.    Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire on the backs of those who fell victim the first time around.   Where is the justice?

~Desert Rose~
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The Empire Strikes Back: How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme — Again

You can hardly turn on the television or open a newspaper without hearing about the nation’s impressive, much celebrated housing recovery. Home prices are rising! New construction has started! The crisis is over! Yet beneath the fanfare, a whole new get-rich-quick scheme is brewing.(Cover for the book of the same title by Bryan M. Chavis)

Over the last year and a half, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire, snapping up Queen Anne Victorians in Atlanta, brick-faced bungalows in Chicago, Spanish revivals in Phoenix. In total, these deep-pocketed investors have bought more than 200,000 cheap, mostly foreclosed houses in cities hardest hit by the economic meltdown.

Wall Street’s foreclosure crisis, which began in late 2007 and forced more than 10 million people from their homes, has created a paradoxical problem. Millions of evicted Americans need a safe place to live, even as millions of vacant, bank-owned houses are blighting neighborhoods and spurring a rise in crime. Lucky for us, Wall Street has devised a solution: It’s going to rent these foreclosed houses back to us. In the process, it’s devised a new form of securitization that could cause this whole plan to blow up — again.

Since the buying frenzy began, no company has picked up more houses than the Blackstone Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. Using a subsidiary company, Invitation Homes, Blackstone has grabbed houses at foreclosure auctions, through local brokers, and in bulk purchases directly from banks the same way a regular person might stock up on toilet paper from Costco.

In one move, it bought 1,400 houses in Atlanta in a single day. As of November, Blackstone had spent $7.5 billion to buy 40,000 mostly foreclosed houses across the country. That’s a spending rate of $100 million a week since October 2012. It recently announced plans to take the business international, beginning in foreclosure-ravaged Spain.

Few outside the finance industry have heard of Blackstone. Yet today, it’s the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the nation — and of a whole lot of other things, too. It owns part or all of the Hilton Hotel chain, Southern Cross Healthcare, Houghton Mifflin publishing house, the Weather Channel, Sea World, the arts and crafts chain Michael’s, Orangina, and dozens of other companies.

“In other words, if Blackstone makes money by capitalizing on the housing crisis, all these other Wall Street banks — generally regarded as the main culprits in creating the conditions that led to the foreclosure crisis in the first place — make money too.”

Blackstone manages more than $210 billion in assets, according to its 2012 Securities and Exchange Commission annual filing. It’s also a public company with a list of institutional owners that reads like a who’s who of companies recently implicated in lawsuits over the mortgage crisis, including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and of course JP Morgan Chase, which just settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over its risky and often illegal mortgage practices, agreeing to pay an unprecedented $13 billion fine.

In other words, if Blackstone makes money by capitalizing on the housing crisis, all these other Wall Street banks — generally regarded as the main culprits in creating the conditions that led to the foreclosure crisis in the first place — make money too.

An All-Cash Goliath

In neighborhoods across the country, many residents didn’t have to know what Blackstone was to realize that things were going seriously wrong.

Last year, Mark Alston, a real estate broker in Los Angeles, began noticing something strange happening. Home prices were rising. And they were rising fast — up 20% between October 2012 and the same month this year. In a normal market, rising home prices would mean increased demand from homebuyers. But here was the unnerving thing: the homeownership rate was dropping, the first sign for Alston that the market was somehow out of whack.

The second sign was the buyers themselves.

Click here to see a larger version

“I went two years without selling to a black family, and that wasn’t for lack of trying,” says Alston, whose business is concentrated in inner-city neighborhoods where the majority of residents are African American and Hispanic. Instead, all his buyers — every last one of them — were besuited businessmen. And weirder yet, they were all paying in cash.

Between 2005 and 2009, the mortgage crisis, fueled by racially discriminatory lending practices, destroyed 53% of African American wealth and 66% of Hispanic wealth, figures that stagger the imagination. As a result, it’s safe to say that few blacks or Hispanics today are buying homes outright, in cash. Blackstone, on the other hand, doesn’t have a problem fronting the money, given its $3.6 billion credit line arranged by Deutsche Bank. This money has allowed it to outbid families who have to secure traditional financing. It’s also paved the way for the company to purchase a lot of homes very quickly, shocking local markets and driving prices up in a way that pushes even more families out of the game.

“You can’t compete with a company that’s betting on speculative future value when they’re playing with cash,” says Alston. “It’s almost like they planned this.”

In hindsight, it’s clear that the Great Recession fueled a terrific wealth and asset transfer away from ordinary Americans and to financial institutions. During that crisis, Americans lost trillions of dollars of household wealth when housing prices crashed, while banks seized about five million homes. But what’s just beginning to emerge is how, as in the recession years, the recovery itself continues to drive the process of transferring wealth and power from the bottom to the top.

From 2009-2012, the top 1% of Americans captured 95% of income gains. Now, as the housing market rebounds, billions of dollars in recovered housing wealth are flowing straight to Wall Street instead of to families and communities. Since spring 2012, just at the time when Blackstone began buying foreclosed homes in bulk, an estimated $88 billion of housing wealth accumulation has gone straight to banks or institutional investors as a result of their residential property holdings, according to an analysis by TomDispatch. And it’s a number that’s likely to just keep growing.

“Institutional investors are siphoning the wealth and the ability for wealth accumulation out of underserved communities,” says Henry Wade, founder of the Arizona Association of Real Estate Brokers.

But buying homes cheap and then waiting for them to appreciate in value isn’t the only way Blackstone is making money on this deal. It wants your rental payment, too.

Securitizing Rentals

Wall Street’s rental empire is entirely new. The single-family rental industry used to be the bailiwick of small-time mom-and-pop operations. But what makes this moment unprecedented is the financial alchemy that Blackstone added. In November, after many months of hype, Blackstone released history’s first rated bond backed by securitized rental payments. And once investors tripped over themselves in a rush to get it, Blackstone’s competitors announced that they, too, would develop similar securities as soon as possible.

Depending on whom you ask, the idea of bundling rental payments and selling them off to investors is either a natural evolution of the finance industry or a fire-breathing chimera.

“This is a new frontier,” comments Ted Weinstein, a consultant in the real-estate-owned homes industry for 30 years. “It’s something I never really would have dreamt of.”

 

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Late last year the Securities and Exchange Commission approved a plan that will allow JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS) and BlackRock, Inc (NYSE:BLK) to buy as much as 80 percent of the copper available on the market. Many saw this as a dangerous precedent that would artificially inflate copper prices and leave the power of the copper market in the hands of only a few.

It appears that Goldman Sachs is attempting a similar move with aluminum, the price of which has almost doubled since 2010. Goldman owns 27 warehouses in Detroit that store around 1.5 million tons of aluminum that is owned by customers. The problem, those customers say, is the 16-month waiting time to have their aluminum shipped to processing plants that make anything from cans to car parts.

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The People vs. Goldman Sachs

A Senate committee has laid out the evidence. Now the Justice Department should bring criminal charges

May 11, 2011 9:30 AM ET
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tesifies before the Senate in April 2010
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tesifies before the Senate in April 2010
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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.

The great and powerful Oz of Wall Street was not the only target of Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse, the 650-page report just released by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, alongside Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Their unusually scathing bipartisan report also includes case studies of Washington Mutual and Deutsche Bank, providing a panoramic portrait of a bubble era that produced the most destructive crime spree in our history — “a million fraud cases a year” is how one former regulator puts it. But the mountain of evidence collected against Goldman by Levin’s small, 15-desk office of investigators — details of gross, baldfaced fraud delivered up in such quantities as to almost serve as a kind of sarcastic challenge to the curiously impassive Justice Department — stands as the most important symbol of Wall Street’s aristocratic impunity and prosecutorial immunity produced since the crash of 2008.

Photo Gallery: How Goldman top dogs defrauded their clients and lied to Congress

To date, there has been only one successful prosecution of a financial big fish from the mortgage bubble, and that was Lee Farkas, a Florida lender who was just convicted on a smorgasbord of fraud charges and now faces life in prison. But Farkas, sadly, is just an exception proving the rule: Like Bernie Madoff, his comically excessive crime spree (which involved such lunacies as kiting checks to his own bank and selling loans that didn’t exist) was almost completely unconnected to the systematic corruption that led to the crisis. What’s more, many of the earlier criminals in the chain of corruption — from subprime lenders like Countrywide, who herded old ladies and ghetto families into bad loans, to rapacious banks like Washington Mutual, who pawned off fraudulent mortgages on investors — wound up going belly up, sunk by their own greed.

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Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix

 

Illustration by Victor Juhasz
April 25, 2013 1:00 PM ET

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.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.

“It’s a double conspiracy,” says an amazed Michael Greenberger, a former director of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and now a professor at the University of Maryland. “It’s the height of criminality.”

The bad news didn’t stop with swaps and interest rates. In March, it also came out that two regulators – the CFTC here in the U.S. and the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions – were spurred by the Libor revelations to investigate the possibility of collusive manipulation of gold and silver prices. “Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks – many other benchmarks – are legit areas of inquiry,” CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

But the biggest shock came out of a federal courtroom at the end of March – though if you follow these matters closely, it may not have been so shocking at all – when a landmark class-action civil lawsuit against the banks for Libor-related offenses was dismissed. In that case, a federal judge accepted the banker-defendants’ incredible argument: If cities and towns and other investors lost money because of Libor manipulation, that was their own fault for ever thinking the banks were competing in the first place.

“A farce,” was one antitrust lawyer’s response to the eyebrow-raising dismissal.

“Incredible,” says Sylvia Sokol, an attorney for Constantine Cannon, a firm that specializes in antitrust cases.

 

Read Full Article Here

 

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Secrets and Lies of the Bailout

The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come

January 4, 2013 4:25 PM ET
national affairs secrets of the bailout taibbi
Illustration by Victor Juhasz

It has been four long winters since the federal government, in the hulking, shaven-skulled, Alien Nation-esque form of then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you’d think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we’ve been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul – right?

Wrong.

It was all a lie – one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.

How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform

But the most appalling part is the lying. The public has been lied to so shamelessly and so often in the course of the past four years that the failure to tell the truth to the general populace has become a kind of baked-in, official feature of the financial rescue. Money wasn’t the only thing the government gave Wall Street – it also conferred the right to hide the truth from the rest of us. And it was all done in the name of helping regular people and creating jobs. “It is,” says former bailout Inspector General Neil Barofsky, “the ultimate bait-and-switch.”

The bailout deceptions came early, late and in between. There were lies told in the first moments of their inception, and others still being told four years later. The lies, in fact, were the most important mechanisms of the bailout. The only reason investors haven’t run screaming from an obviously corrupt financial marketplace is because the government has gone to such extraordinary lengths to sell the narrative that the problems of 2008 have been fixed. Investors may not actually believe the lie, but they are impressed by how totally committed the government has been, from the very beginning, to selling it.

THEY LIED TO PASS THE BAILOUT

Today what few remember about the bailouts is that we had to approve them. It wasn’t like Paulson could just go out and unilaterally commit trillions of public dollars to rescue Goldman Sachs and Citigroup from their own stupidity and bad management (although the government ended up doing just that, later on). Much as with a declaration of war, a similarly extreme and expensive commitment of public resources, Paulson needed at least a film of congressional approval. And much like the Iraq War resolution, which was only secured after George W. Bush ludicrously warned that Saddam was planning to send drones to spray poison over New York City, the bailouts were pushed through Congress with a series of threats and promises that ranged from the merely ridiculous to the outright deceptive. At one meeting to discuss the original bailout bill – at 11 a.m. on September 18th, 2008 – Paulson actually told members of Congress that $5.5 trillion in wealth would disappear by 2 p.m. that day unless the government took immediate action, and that the world economy would collapse “within 24 hours.”

To be fair, Paulson started out by trying to tell the truth in his own ham-headed, narcissistic way. His first TARP proposal was a three-page absurdity pulled straight from a Beavis and Butt-Head episode – it was basically Paulson saying, “Can you, like, give me some money?” Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, remembers a call with Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. “We need $700 billion,” they told Brown, “and we need it in three days.” What’s more, the plan stipulated, Paulson could spend the money however he pleased, without review “by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

The White House and leaders of both parties actually agreed to this preposterous document, but it died in the House when 95 Democrats lined up against it. For an all-too-rare moment during the Bush administration, something resembling sanity prevailed in Washington.

So Paulson came up with a more convincing lie. On paper, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was simple: Treasury would buy $700 billion of troubled mortgages from the banks and then modify them to help struggling homeowners. Section 109 of the act, in fact, specifically empowered the Treasury secretary to “facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures.” With that promise on the table, wary Democrats finally approved the bailout on October 3rd, 2008. “That provision,” says Barofsky, “is what got the bill passed.”

But within days of passage, the Fed and the Treasury unilaterally decided to abandon the planned purchase of toxic assets in favor of direct injections of billions in cash into companies like Goldman and Citigroup. Overnight, Section 109 was unceremoniously ditched, and what was pitched as a bailout of both banks and homeowners instantly became a bank-only operation – marking the first in a long series of moves in which bailout officials either casually ignored or openly defied their own promises with regard to TARP.

Congress was furious. “We’ve been lied to,” fumed Rep. David Scott, a Democrat from Georgia. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, raged at transparently douchey TARP administrator (and Goldman banker) Neel Kashkari, calling him a “chump” for the banks. And the anger was bipartisan: Republican senators David Vitter of Louisiana and James Inhofe of Oklahoma were so mad about the unilateral changes and lack of oversight that they sponsored a bill in January 2009 to cancel the remaining $350 billion of TARP.

So what did bailout officials do? They put together a proposal full of even bigger deceptions to get it past Congress a second time. That process began almost exactly four years ago – on January 12th and 15th, 2009 – when Larry Summers, the senior economic adviser to President-elect Barack Obama, sent a pair of letters to Congress. The pudgy, stubby­fingered former World Bank economist, who had been forced out as Harvard president for suggesting that women lack a natural aptitude for math and science, begged legislators to reject Vitter’s bill and leave TARP alone.

In the letters, Summers laid out a five-point plan in which the bailout was pitched as a kind of giant populist program to help ordinary Americans. Obama, Summers vowed, would use the money to stimulate bank lending to put people back to work. He even went so far as to say that banks would be denied funding unless they agreed to “increase lending above baseline levels.” He promised that “tough and transparent conditions” would be imposed on bailout recipients, who would not be allowed to use bailout funds toward “enriching shareholders or executives.” As in the original TARP bill, he pledged that bailout money would be used to aid homeowners in foreclosure. And lastly, he promised that the bailouts would be temporary – with a “plan for exit of government intervention” implemented “as quickly as possible.”

 

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Foreclosure compensation checks arrive, but anger some homeowners

Families who endured years of anguish or lost their homes due to banks wrongly reporting they were behind on their mortgage payments are calling the compensation payments resulting from a government settlement, many of which number in the low hundreds, “insulting.” NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

Millions of American homeowners who have struggled with foreclosures are now receiving checks for compensation from the companies that serviced their mortgages — part of the federal government’s efforts to resolve the foreclosure crisis. But some of those receiving checks tell NBC News that the payments are an insult that neither punishes the banks enough for “deficient” practices nor helps harmed homeowners recover.

Karen Pooley, 50, of Seattle, told NBC News that she fell behind on her mortgage after losing her job in the building industry in early 2009, and received a notice of default in February 2010.

Pooley said she’s been fighting to save her home from foreclosure for the past three years.   Believing that her servicer did not follow legal procedures, she said she has contested the foreclosure through her state’s foreclosure process, and managed to stop three foreclosure sales.  She said she also has tried to get authorities to investigate.

Last month, she received her settlement payment, a check for $300.

“It was more than pathetic. It was insulting,” Pooley told NBC News. “I spent more in money on postage providing government agencies with detailed descriptions of what had happened in my case.”

Timothy Platt, 52, a truck driver from Indianapolis, told NBC News he’s also been fighting to save his home from foreclosure the past three years.  He claims his servicer made a mistake, declaring he and his wife behind on their mortgage when they were not.  Platt is suing the servicer, but has found trying to prove his case frustrating.

“They (the banks) have misrepresented the facts,” he wrote to NBC News in an email last month, “they have insisted on pursuing foreclosure.” 

On Thursday morning, Platt emailed NBC News, saying his settlement check had just arrived. It was for $500.

“It’s kind of like a, like a slap in the face,” Platt told NBC News during a stopover in Chicago.  “We’ve been trying to work through this for three years now, and we have no help whatsoever, and we’ve lost lots.”

Both homeowners believe their mortgage servicers are in the wrong.  Each has gone to court to prevent the servicers from taking their homes.  Their respective servicers declined to comment to NBC News.

The compensation payment checks, which range from $300 up to $125,000, are part of the Independent Foreclosure Review Payment Agreement announced in January between federal regulators and 13 mortgage servicing companies, which were subject to enforcement actions for “deficient practices in mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing.”  Deficient practices have included errors and misrepresentations and the “robo-signing” of documents.

The regulators are the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

The recipients of the checks are mortgage loan borrowers whose homes were in any stage of a foreclosure process during 2009 or 2010, and whose mortgage servicers were among the 13 companies, or their subsidiaries or affiliates.  Compensation payment checks, which began going out April 12, have so far been sent to 3.7 million homeowners. In all, 4.2 million eligible mortgage loan borrowers will receive them.

The 13 servicers are: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, Morgan Stanley, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.

According to the OCC’s online FAQ about the agreement, the servicers agreed “to provide more than $9.3 billion in cash payments and other assistance to help borrowers. The sum includes $3.6 billion in direct cash payments to eligible borrowers and $5.7 billion in other foreclosure prevention assistance, such as loan modifications and forgiveness of deficiency judgments.”

By comparison, the five largest banks alone – Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorganChase, Bank of America – earned $60 billion in total profits last year.

Payout guided by ‘the matrix’
What determines how much homeowners receive?

The largest payouts – $125,000 – are going to 1,082 members of the military wrongly foreclosed upon, and to just 53 homeowners across the country foreclosed upon even though they never missed a mortgage payment.  But most of the recipients – almost 2 million homeowners – will get the smallest payments of $300 to $600.

How much each homeowner gets depends on a complicated financial matrix designed by the regulators.

“In determining the payment amounts,” reads a recent OCC press release, “borrowers were categorized according to the stage of their foreclosure process and the type of possible servicer error.  Regulators then determined amounts for each category, using the financial remediation matrix published in June 2012 as a guide, incorporating input from various consumer groups.”)

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Published on Mar 31, 2013

Dimitri Lascaris: New director of SEC was a Wall St. defense attorney who will now regulate former clients

Heinz Insider Trades Claims: FBI Investigates

Sky NewsSky News – 17 hours ago

 

  • Heinz Insider Trades Claims: FBI Investigates

 

A spokeswoman confirmed the move, days after US regulators said they had identified suspicious trades from a Swiss account.

Kelly Langmesser said: “We’re aware of the trading anomalies the day before the announcement … and we’re consulting with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to see if a crime was committed.”

The SEC said last Friday it had identified highly suspicious trades in H.J Heinz before billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital announced they were acquiring the baked bean and ketchup maker.

It also announced it had obtained an emergency order to freeze a Goldman Sachs bank account in Switzerland suspected of use in the trades.

 

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Heinz faces FBI inquiry over ‘insider trading’

The FBI is investigating allegations of insider trading at Heinz prior to the food giant’s salle to billionaire Warren Buffett and 3G Capital.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital to buy Heinz in $28bn deal

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital to buy Heinz in $28bn deal Photo: Rex/Bloomberg

By Telegraph staff

8:49AM GMT 20 Feb 2013

On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained an emergency court order to freeze assets in a Swiss account, which was used to generate more than $1.7m from trades in advance of the sale being announced.

Yesterday, the FBI said it was joining the inquiry. “The FBI is aware of the trading anomalies,” a spokesman said. “The FBI is consulting with the SEC to determine if a crime was committed.”

Unnamed traders took “risky bets” that Heinz’s share price would rise before there was any “public awareness” that Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment group and 3G Capital had agreed a deal for the food manufacturer, the SEC said in a statement.

 

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By : Matt Taibbi

 Rolling Stone
new york stock exchange floor
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

I have a feature in the new issue of Rolling Stone called “Secrets and Lies of the Bailout,” which focuses in large part on the seemingly intentional policy of deception in the government’s rescue of the financial sector. The government didn’t just bail out Wall Street with money: It also lied on Wall Street’s behalf, calling unhealthy banks healthy, and helping banks cover up just how much aid they were getting in secret.

Proponents of the bailouts will say that whatever the government did, it worked. The economy didn’t collapse as it appeared it might in late 2008, and the stock markets are puffed up all over again, as financial companies in particular are back making huge profits.

But in the course of researching the magazine piece, we discovered definite victims of the myriad deceptions that became a baked-in feature of the bailouts. One of those victims was a southern investment broker who lost lots of his own money, lost money for family members who’d invested with him, and (maybe worst of all) lost plenty of his clients’ money, when he made investment decisions based on what turned out to be incomplete information.

If this particular broker had known exactly how far the bailouts reached, neither he nor his clients would ever have lost so much. But during the crisis it was decided, by people deemed more important than small-town investment advisers and their clients, that the full story of the bailouts didn’t need to be told.

As a result, George Hartzman and his clients got creamed. In recent years we’ve heard a lot about how the bailouts saved the world. This is the other side of the story.

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George Hartzman is easy to like. The easygoing North Carolinian has every salesman’s ability to grab you from the first moment with humor and charm, but what makes him a little bit of a different kind of cat – and I suspect some of this change developed after he joined the growing population of financial crisis-era whistleblowers, dismissed from a Wells Fargo brokerage after making complaints about what he felt were bailout-related abuses – is that the humor is often self-directed. He loves to tell stories about all the goofy, sometimes-dicey sales jobs he’s taken over the years, and the hard work he put in to get really good at each and every one of them.

“Hell, I even sold encyclopedias,” he says, laughing. “You just look ’em in the eye and say, ‘Listen, do you want your kids to go to college, or not?'” He laughs again. “What are they going to say?”

Now 45 years old, George as a younger man sold it all – copiers, above-ground aluminum swimming pools, even vinyl siding, a job which he describes as selling “relatively bad things to the relatively elderly.” In down times, he waited tables and tended bar at a restaurant/nightclub in a tough section of Greensboro, where he said the rule was, “you don’t take out the trash through the back door without somebody with a gun.”

But throughout it all, he wanted to be in finance, wanted to buy stocks and bonds and actually make money for people, as opposed to just talking old folks into buying stuff they maybe didn’t need. Eventually he got his chance, working at several national brokerage firms through the 2000s, paying his dues as the guy who sucked it up for the endless cold calls.

“Do you have any money, anywhere, that’s earning less than 7 percent right now?” he says, chuckling as he quotes his old self. “I must have said that line, I shit you not, not less than 100,000 times.”

Eventually, George found himself selling retirement and investment plans as a broker for the granddaddy of Carolinian megabanks, Wachovia. Working out of the Greensboro, North Carolina area, he handled dozens of clients, including himself and several of his family members, and by 2007 had settled in to what he thought was the good life working for Wachovia Advisors, managing tens of millions in assets for the huge national brokerage firm.

In hindsight, it’s ironic – given that the vast federal bailouts were what ultimately sank George’s career as a broker – that when Wachovia went belly-up in 2008, George’s job was initially saved by a bailout. After its collapse (caused in large part by its disastrous 2006 acquisition of subprime-laden Golden West financial), the giant bank was swallowed up in a state-aided merger by Wells Fargo, which received as much as $36 billion in cash and special tax breaks as it was finishing the merger deal.

When the merger was finished, Wells Fargo was the fourth-largest commercial bank holding company in America, and George Hartzman found himself working essentially the same job, only with a new name on his letterhead – Wells Fargo Advisors.

While brokers in most places started taking the big bath in 2007 and 2008 as the subprime market collapsed, George was quietly killing it. In both those years he made very good money for his clients, his family and himself, mainly by shorting the very companies that had inflated the subprime bubble, firms with names like Goldman, Sachs, MBIA and Merrill Lynch.

“I saw it early,” he says, a bit immodestly, but with perspective, too. “I was doing great, right up until the time I wasn’t.”

When I called former clients of George’s to check his story, they confirmed that he took a much different and more aggressive approach than your average broker. George’s clients seemed to like him a lot, and were impressed by how hard he worked at a job that a lot of storefront brokers just mail in.

“A lot of guys will just tell you that you just have to stay in the market, that in the long run, things always go up,” says John Mandrano, a former CPA who trusted a sizable portion of his retirement fund with George. “George was different. He really put a lot of thought into what he was doing. And he invested his own money, and his family’s money, so you know he had a stake in what he was doing.”

Having made money betting against Wall Street in 2007 and 2008, George planned on continuing the same strategy in 2009, even after the bailouts. In early 2009, he placed a series of short bets against the market, among other things betting against an index of real estate trusts and the S&P 500. He explained to his clients that even though the government and the talking heads in the financial press kept insisting the worst was over, he still thought a lot of firms, particularly financial firms, were in deep trouble.

“I thought they were screwed,” he says. “The numbers just didn’t add up.”

What happened instead is that the stock market went into a prolonged and seemingly miraculous rebound, with the NYSE soaring from the mid-6000s in February of 2009 to over 13,000 in recent months. George couldn’t figure out how so many seemingly insolvent companies were doing it – where was the money coming from?

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