Archive for December, 2011
by Gonzalo Lira
December 27, 2011
Nine weeks after its bankruptcy, the general public still hasn’t quite realized the implications of the MF Global scandal.
My own sense is, this is the first tremor of the earthquake that’s coming to the global financial system. And how the central banks and financial regulators treated the “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” that had exposure to MF Global—to the detriment of the ordinary, blameless customer who got royally ripped off in its bankruptcy—is both the template of how the next financial crisis will be handled, and an accelerator that will make the next crisis happen that much sooner.
So first off, what happened with MF Global?
Simple: It went bankrupt—because it made bad bets on European sovereign debt, by way of leveraging positions 100-to-1. Yeah, I know: Stupid. Anyway, they went bankrupt—which in and of itself is no big deal. It’s not as if it’s the first time in history that a brokerage firm has gone bust. But to me, the big deal in this case was the way the bankruptcy was handled.
Now there are several extremely serious aspects to the MF Global case: Specifically, how their customers were shut out of their brokerage accounts for over a week following the bankruptcy, which made it impossible for those customers to sell out of their positions, and thus caused them to lose serious money; and of course how MF Global was more adept than Mandrake the Magician at making money disappear—about $1 billion, in fact, which still hasn’t turned up. These are quite serious issues which merit prolonged discussion, investigation, prosecution, and ultimately jailtime.
But for now, I want to discuss one narrow aspect of the MF Global bankruptcy: How authorities (mis)handled the bankruptcy—either willfully or out of incompetence—which allowed customer’s money to be stolen so as to make JPMorgan whole.
From this one issue, it seems clear to me that we can infer what will happen when the next financial crisis hits in the nearterm future.
Brokerage firms hold clients’ money in what are known as segregated accounts. This is the money that brokerage firms hold for when a customer makes a trade. If a brokerage firm goes bankrupt, these monies are never touched—because they never belonged to the firm, and thus are not part of its assets.
Think of segregated accounts as if they were the content in a safety deposit box: The bank owns the vault—but it doesn’t own the content of the safety deposit boxes inside the vault. If the bank goes broke, the customers who stored their jewelry and pornographic diaries in the safe deposit boxes don’t lose a thing. The bank is just a steward of those assets—just as a brokerage firm is the steward of those customers’ segregated accounts.
But when MF Global went bankrupt, these segregated accounts—that is, the content of those safe deposit boxes—were taken away from their rightful owners—that is, MF Global’s customers—and then used to pay off other creditors: That is, JPMorgan.
(The mechanics of how this was done are interesting, but insanely complicated, and ultimately not relevant to this discussion. To grossly simplify, MF Global pledged customer assets to JPMorgan, in a process known as rehypothecation—customer assets which MF Global did not have a right to. Needless to say, JPMorgan covered its ass legally. Ethically? Morally? Black as night.)
This was seriously wrong—and this is the source of the scandal: Rather than being treated as a bankruptcy of a commodities brokerage firm under subchapter IV of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy law, MF Global was treated as an equities firm (subchapter III) for the purposes of its bankruptcy.
Why does this difference of a single subchapter matter? Because in a brokerage firm bankruptcy, the customers get their money first—because after all, it’s theirs—while in an equities firm bankruptcy, the customers are at the end of the line.
In the case of MF Global, what should have happened was for all the customers to get their money first. Then everyone else—including JPMorgan—would have picked over the remaining scraps. And the monies MF Global had already pledged to JPMorgan? They call it clawback for a reason.
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which handled the bankruptcy, should have done this—but instead, the Merc was more concerned with making JPMorgan whole than with protecting the money that rightfully belonged to MF Global’s 40,000 customers.
Thus these 40,000 MF Global customers had their money stolen—there’s no polite way to characterize what happened. And this theft was not carried out by MF Global—it was carried out by the authorities who were charged with handling the firm’s bankruptcy.
These 40,000 customers were not Big Money types—they were farmers who had accounts to hedge their crops, individuals owning gold (like Gerald Celente—here’s his account of what happened to him)—
—in short, ordinary investors. Ordinary people—and they got screwed by the regulators, for the sake of protecting JPMorgan and other big fry who had exposure to MF Global.
That, in a nutshell, is what happened.
Now, what does this mean?
It means that nobody’s money is safe. It means that regulators care more about protecting the so-called “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” than about protecting Ordinary Joe investors. It means that, when crunchtime comes, central banks and government regulators will allow SIFI’s to get better, and let the Ordinary Joes get fucked.
So far, so evil—but here comes the really troubling part: It is an open secret that there are more paper-assets than there are actual assets. The markets are essentially playing musical chairs—and praying that the music never stops. Because if it ever does—that is, if there is ever a panic, where everyone decides that they want their actual asset instead of just a slip of paper—the system would crash.
And unlike with fiat currency, where a central bank can print all the liquidity it wants, you can’t print up gold bullion. You can’t print up a silo of grain. You can’t print up a tankerful of oil.
Now, question: When is there ever a panic? When is there ever a run on a financial system?
Answer: When enough participants no longer trust the system. It is the classic definition of a tipping point. It’s not that all of the participants lose faith in the system or institution. It’s not even when most of the participants lose faith: Rather, it’s when a mere some of the participants decide they no longer trust the system that a run is triggered.
And though this is completely subjective on my part—backed by no statistics except scattered anecdotal evidence—but it seems to me that MF Global has shoved us a lot closer to this theoretical run on the system.
As I write this, a lot of investors whom I know personally—who are sophisticated, wealthy, and not at all the paranoid type—are quietly pulling their money out of all brokerage firms, all banks, all equity firms. They are quietly trading out of their paper assets and going into the actual, physical asset.
Note that they’re not trading into the asset—they’re simply exchanging their paper-asset for the real thing.
Why? MF Global.
“The MF Global scandal has made it clear that the integrity of the system has disappeared,” said a good friend of mine, Tuur Demeester, who runs Macrotrends, a Dutch-language newsletter out of Brugge. “The banks are insolvent, the governments are insolvent, and all that’s left is for the people to realize what’s going on—and that will start a panic.”
He hit it on the head: Some of the more sophisticated people—like Tuur, like some of my acquaintances, (like myself, frankly)—have realized that the MF Global scandal means that there is no safety for any paper investment: The integrity of the systems has been completely shattered. If in the face of one medium-sized brokerage firm going under, the regulators will openly allow ordinary people to be ripped off for the sake of protecting the so-called “Systemically Important Financial Institutions”—in this case JPMorgan—what will happen if there is a system-wide run? What if two or three MF Globals happen simultaneously?
Will they protect the citizens’ money? Or will they protect the “Systemically Important Financial Institutions”?
I think we know the answer.
And I think we all know the answer to the question of whether there will be crisis flashpoint in the near-term future: After all, as Demeester pointed out, all the banks and all the governments are broke.
Thus it’s only a matter of time before they come for your money.
At SPG, we’ve been putting together Scenarios for other black swan events which are becoming increasingly likely: What to do if the eurozone breaks up, what to do if you have to leave America, what to do if there is an Israeli-Iranian war, what to do if there is forced dollar devaluation, and so on.
Now, because of this open kleptocracy and cronyism being shown by the financial authorities in the wake of the MF Global bankruptcy, we’ve been obliged to put together a new Scenario, devoted exclusively to preparing for a run on the markets: What to do in order to protect your assets from regulatory malfeasance, if there is a system-wide MF Global-type breakdown and a subsequent run on the entire financial system.
And there will be such a run on the system: It’s only a matter of time. In fact, the handling of the MF Global affair has sped up the timeframe for this run on the system, because the forward-edge players—such as Demeester, myself, and my other acquaintances who understand the implications of the bankruptcy—realize that the regulators will side with the banksters, and not the ordinary investors: So we are preparing accordingly.
Once there is a full-on panic, anyone with money in the system will lose at least a big chunk of it, in one of two ways, or a combination thereof:
• One, the firms—commodities brokerage firms, equity firms, investment banks and commercial banks—will not allow people to withdraw the totality of their money, and/or they will put a withdrawal cap of some sort, enforced by the central banks and other regulatory bodies. (Like they did in Argentina.)
• Two, the central banks will “provide liquidity”—that is, print money—while simultaneously declaring a banking holiday to, quote, “calm the markets”. During that bank holiday, the currency will be devalued by double digits—which will mean that your cash holdings will essentially be taxed to save the banksters—again. (Like they did in Argentina.)
Thus apart from proving that the United States really is Argentina with nukes, the MF Global bankruptcy has proven something crucial: The central banks and government regulators have completely fallen into the trap of confusing the welfare of the “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” with the welfare of the system itself. They don’t seem to realize that the SIFI’s are actors within the system—not the system itself.
We critics of the current, corrupt state of affairs also sometimes confuse the SIFI’s with the system itself, whenever we say, “The whole system is corrupt!”
But the system is not corrupt—it’s the regulators and SIFI’s who are corrupt. If nothing else, the handling of the MF Global bankruptcy has proven that, once and for all. That’s why we’re pulling out our money now—while we still can.
Because once the general public catches on to what we already know . . . oh boy.
Read the entire article HERE.
by Matt Taibbi
December 22, 2011
It seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.
True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.
But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.
Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:
“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”
Former New York gurbernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:
“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.
Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:
Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.
“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”
Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwartzman:
Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.
“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters.
But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.
Why? It’s not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.
It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.
The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).
So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.
But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You’ve got it all riding on how well America works.
You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you’d better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.
And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.
The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.
An ordinary person who has a problem that needs fixing puts a letter in the mail to his congressman and sends it to stand in a line in some DC mailroom with thousands of others, waiting for a response.
But citizens of the stateless archipelago where people like Schwarzman live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line. They don’t need to make sure the government is fulfilling its customer-service obligations, because they buy special access to the government, and get the special service and the metaphorical comped bottle of VIP-room Cristal afforded to select customers.
Want to lower the capital reserve requirements for investment banks? Then-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson takes a meeting with SEC chief Bill Donaldson, and gets it done. Want to kill an attempt to erase the carried interest tax break? Guys like Schwarzman, and Apollo’s Leon Black, and Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, they just show up in Washington at Max Baucus’s doorstep, and they get it killed.
Some of these people take that VIP-room idea a step further. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon – the man the New York Times once called “Obama’s favorite banker” – had an excellent method of guaranteeing that the Federal Reserve system’s doors would always be open to him. What he did was, he served as the Chairman of the Board of the New York Fed.
And in 2008, in that moonlighting capacity, he helped orchestrate a deal in which the Fed provided $29 billion in assistance to help his own bank, Chase, buy up the teetering investment firm Bear Stearns. You read that right: Jamie Dimon helped give himself a bailout. Who needs to worry about good government, when you are the government?
Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.
Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.
That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.
Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.
Do you think Jamie Dimon would have done that deal if he lived in Jefferson County? Put it this way: if he was trying to support two kids on $30,000 a year, and lived in a Birmingham neighborhood full of people in the same boat, would he sign off on a deal that jacked up everyone’s sewer bills 400% for the next thirty years?
Doubtful. But then again, people like Jamie Dimon aren’t really citizens of any country. They live in their own gated archipelago, and the rest of the world is a dumping ground.
Just look at how banks like Chase behaved in Greece, for example.
Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” countries like Greece and Italy mask their debt problems for years by selling a similar series of swaps to those governments. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs (who were also major purveyors of those swap deals) to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.
In other words, banks like Chase and Goldman knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.
Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?
Operations like the Greek swap/short index maneuver were easy money for banks like Goldman and Chase – hell, it’s a no-lose play, like cutting a car’s brake lines and then betting on the driver to crash – but they helped create the monstrous European debt problem that this very minute is threatening to send the entire world economy into collapse, which would result in who knows what horrors. At minimum, millions might lose their jobs and benefits and homes. Millions more will be ruined financially.
But why should Chase and Goldman care what happens to those people? Do they have any skin in that game?
Of course not. We’re talking about banks that not only didn’t warn the citizens of Greece about their future debt disaster, they actively traded on that information, to make money for themselves.
People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.
What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.
Most of us 99-percenters couldn’t even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It’s called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don’t do them, because, well, we live here. Most of us wouldn’t take a million dollars to swindle the local school system, or put our next door neighbors out on the street with a robosigned foreclosure, or steal the life’s savings of some old pensioner down the block by selling him a bunch of worthless securities.
But our Too-Big-To-Fail banks unhesitatingly take billions in bailout money and then turn right around and finance the export of jobs to new locations in China and India. They defraud the pension funds of state workers into buying billions of their crap mortgage assets. They take zero-interest loans from the state and then lend that same money back to us at interest. Or, like Chase, they bribe the politicians serving countries and states and cities and even school boards to take on crippling debt deals.
Nobody with real skin in the game, who had any kind of stake in our collective future, would do any of those things. Or, if a person did do those things, you’d at least expect him to have enough shame not to whine to a Bloomberg reporter when the rest of us complained about it.
But these people don’t have shame. What they have, in the place where most of us have shame, are extra sets of balls. Just listen to Cooperman, the former Goldman exec from that country club in Boca. According to Cooperman, the rich do contribute to society:
Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas…”
Unbelievable. Merry Christmas, bankers. And good luck getting that message out.
Read the entire article HERE.
Morgan Stanley On Why 2012 Will Be The “Payback” For Three Years Of “Miracles” And A US Earnings Recession
by Tyler Durden
Yesterday, we breached the topic of the real decoupling that is going on: that between the macro and the micro (not some ridiculous geographic distribution of the US versus the world), by presenting David Rosenberg‘s thoughts on why Q4 GDP has peaked and why going forward it is energy prices that are likely to be a far greater drag on incremental growth than the preservation (not the addition as it is not incremental) of $10 per week in payroll taxes (which only affects those who are already employed), even as company earnings and profit margins have likely peaked. Today, following up on why the micro is about to return with a bang, and why fundamentals are about to become front and center all over again, albeit not in a good way, is, surprisingly, Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson, who has issued his loudest warning again bleary eyed optimism for the next year: “Think of 2012 as the “payback” year….when many of the extraordinary things that happened over the past 3 years go in reverse. I am talking about incremental fiscal stimulus, a weaker US dollar, positive labor productivity, and accelerated capital spending.” Said otherwise, 2012 is the year when everything that can go wrong in the micro arena, will go wrong. And this is why Morgan Stanley being bullish on the macro picture! As Wilson says, his pessimistic musing “tells the story for what to expect in 2012 assuming the situation in Europe doesn’t implode. In other words, this is not the macro bear case.” If one adds a full blown European collapse to the mix, then the perfect storm of a macro and micro recoupling in a deleveraging vortex will prove everyone who believes that 2012 will be merely a groundhog year (in same including us) fatally wrong.
Lastly, when it comes to predictions Morgan Stanley (which called the EURUSD short the hour Goldman put it on as a long) should be taken far more seriously than Goldman, which merely wants to be on the other side of its clients.
The complete very troubling forecast from Morgan Stanley:
by Mark H. Melin
December 21, 2011
Commodity Customer Coalition founder James Koutoulas is requesting that MF Global bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn investigate three potential legal issues that are said to have occurred in transferring of MF Global assets. The key issues include the fact that JP Morgan was able to purchase MF Global bonds at a discount without any open bidding process and the assets were apparently sold without disclosure to or approval from the U.S. bankruptcy court or trustees. The third issue centers on JP Morgan seeking special favors from the Federal Reserve to receive priority treatment over investor segregated fund accounts.
The first such non-transparent movement of assets occurred when JP Morgan is said to have purchased MF Global’s Sovereign Debt at a significant discount without an open bidding process, paying $0.89 and later selling that debt to investor George Soros for $0.95. No one is going to complain about JP Morgan generating profit. However, purchasing assets of a bankrupt firm without an open bidding process or disclosure to the bankruptcy court and trustees is where JP Morgan may be in trouble, according to Mr. Koutoulas. This sale could be subject to clawback provisions, legal experts speculate. (On December 9, 2011 The Wall Street Journal reported the fact that bonds were moved to KPMG London office, which was the bankruptcy administrator, but at the time the article did not discuss sale details or approval through the bankruptcy process. See “Corzine’s Loss May Be Soros’s Gain” by Gregory Zuckerman and Dana Cimilluca.)
The key issue is that such transfers is the bonds were purchased at a discount without open bidding and the process was not disclosed to or authorized by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to Mr. Koutoulas. “Who gave JP Morgan permission to purchase those bonds at a discount without open bidding?”
The second questionable movement of assets is said to have occurred when JP Morgan purchased MF Global’s stake in the London Metals Exchange (LME) without proper disclosure. The event was widely reported at a basic level on November 28, 2011. The larger issue, however, appears to center on the fact that such a transaction was not approved by the U.S. bankruptcy court and trustee.
“Was this disclosed in court?” Mr. Koutoulas rhetorically asked. “No. Was their trustee approval? No.”
The third issue occurred in congressional testimony Thursday, December 15, 2011 where it was discovered JP Morgan asked the Federal Reserve to write a letter claiming that the segregated funds should not be categorized as client money.
“How many letters like this have they asked for in the past? I want all the statistics regarding the number and content of letters,” Koutoulas questioned. “JP Morgan wanted a ‘get out of jail free card’ from the Fed. Guess what? That doesn’t fly with me.”
“Their hubris is so severe. They think we don’t know the industry, like we are Occupy Wall Street radicals or something and don’t have a clue or message,” Mr. Koutoulas said, noting that the CCC is comprised of experienced industry participants who understand the financial services industry from the inside.
Mr. Koutoulas seeks to solve the problem with JP Morgan without dragging the issue through court. In speaking to JP Morgan, Mr. Koutoulas said “Listen, you are buying vulture MF Global claims at $0.86 ½ on the dollar. Why don’t you pay a fair price of $0.97 ½ take the customers out of the bankruptcy and we will indemnify you from any class actions resulting from this.” A vulture claim occurs when an MF Global claimant such as a farmer or small business person is in desperate need of cash and sells their claim to someone such as JP Morgan, who purchases the claim at a lower rate than the value at maturity. In this example if JP Morgan purchased the claim at $0.87 and all clients were eventually “made good” JP Morgan would receive the par value of $1.00. With the MF Global bankruptcy proceedings apparently moving along much quicker than expected, JP Morgan stands to potentially make a quick 13% return on such vulture claims.
Mr. Koutoulas reports that JP Morgan would not even discuss the issues. “I can see that you disagree with me,” said Mr. Koutoulas, whose organization represents over 7,000 MF Global clients, mostly professional investors. “They won’t even meet with me and talk with me.”
Mr. Koutoulas is currently working Pro Bono and many of the lawyers are working at a highly discounted rates and requested that industry participants donate to help . “I need professional litigators and bankruptcy attorneys backing me up,” said Northwestern Law School grad Koutoulas who also operates Typhon Capital Management, which is an NFA-registered Commodity Trading Advisor and Commodity Pool Operator. “We’ve had an outpouring of lawyers who want to help,” Mr. Koutoulas said, sitting with a young Yale Law School grad as we spoke.
In calling on MF Global presiding bankruptcy Judge Glenn to investigate these issues, Mr. Koutoulas is rallying the futures industry to boycott use of JP Morgan. “Call your FCM and if they are using JP Morgan say ‘We won’t do business with you if you work with JP Morgan,’” he said, requesting that industry participants get on Twitter and follow the #BoycottJPM hash tag.
by Michael Maloney
December 19, 2011
Just last week we wrote about the dangers that MF Global revealed in the global banking system. The basic idea is that MF Global and probably every other Wall Street bank is gambling with their clients’ wealth. What’s clearly a fact is that these firms’ fiduciary responsibility is to themselves and their shareholders—it’s their clients that are the ones being taken out back for slaughter.
A Barron’s article today, published in Yahoo! Finance, proves many of those clients’ worst fears—that lost assets including cash, stocks, commodities, futures, and gold and silver will be commingled by MF Global’s trustee, and losses will be shared amongst all of MF Global’s creditors. But the holders of gold and silver had warehouse receipts identifying individual bars and coins that the clients believed were theirs. These clients, of course, assumed that their metals were safe and sound in the custody of MF Global, but as we have talked about before, when a bank goes under, anyone storing metals becomes an unsecured creditor—and in that case you are at the whim of the bank—or more accurately the bank’s bankruptcy trustee.
When we wrote this in July of 2010, many thought we were crazy. Ownership is ownership, they claimed, and it didn’t matter if you owned gold in ETF format, pooled account, or with a bullion bank.
Just as when you deposit your currency at a bank, the bank doesn’t keep your dollars separate from everyone else’s dollars; the bank simply tells you in your bank statements how much it owes you. But, legally, when you buy into a gold pool or certificate program, the bank becomes the owner of the gold.
If the bank gets into financial trouble (gasp!) it can sell your gold to maintain its assets at a level where it won’t get shut down and where it will avoid a run on the bank. In that instance, you won’t be paid back in gold, but rather in currency—less currency than the value of the gold the bank owed you—because logically a bank in trouble almost certainly would be forced to sell assets at fire-sale prices. If you live in a country with some kind of bank deposit protection (such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in the United States or Financial Services Compensation Scheme in the U.K.), your gold will not be covered. That’s because deposit insurance only applies to currency—meaning that, in the event of a bank crash, currency deposits are safer than unallocated gold.
When we first heard the story of Jason Fane of Ithaca, NY, having his precious metals held from transfer by the bankruptcy trustee, we smelled something fishy, and assumed that something more sinister was going on.
Today’s Barron’s article proves exactly those fears—that precious metals owners who seemingly owned their metals outright will actually lose a portion of the value of their precious metals. Barron’s says this:
That has investors fuming. “Warehouse receipts, like gold bars, are our property, 100%,” contends John Roe, a partner in BTR Trading, a Chicago futures-trading firm. He personally lost several hundred thousand dollars in investments via MF Global; his clients lost even more. “We are a unique class, and instead, the trustee is doing a radical redistribution of property,” he says.
But a redistribution of property is exactly what is planned—with “owners” of precious metals held by the former-MF Global being forced to take a 28% haircut on the value of their metals. But it gets worse:
So the big secret is out in the open now—and maybe, people won’t think we are crazy any more. As Mike Maloney has said for years: “If you can’t hold it, you don’t own it.”
Read the entire article HERE.
by Sol Palha
December 7, 2011
China is getting ready to challenge the hegemony/monopoly of the London Metals exchange and COMEX in New York. The Pan Asia Gold exchange (PAGE) is set to open in June 2012, and after that things might never be the same again. Six major Chinese banks will fix the gold price every morning at 8am their time, which means that the world could now turn to China to get its price for Gold. Each contract will represent 10 ounces of Gold; that is the size of the PAGE contract currently. Individuals who purchase contracts on PAGE will receive a 90-day http://mikepiro.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpInternational Spot Contract and actual title to the gold; it will not be some worthless futures contract or an unsecured note from a bullion bank/international banking institution.
Why is this a big deal?
- PAGE will for the first time allow individuals to trade futures contracts that are fully backed by Gold. These contracts are not going to be the paper type future contracts that trade on the London and New York Gold exchanges. This single development is a huge game changer; for increasingly investors are turning to gold due to the uncertain times they find themselves in. Now they won’t have to worry about taking delivery; delivery will be guaranteed.
- The contracts will trade in Yuan, which means that Yuan and not US dollars will for the first time become the dominant currency used in one of the most speculative commodity markets. In June, the world could be looking at China instead of New York or London. We think it will be a game changer. For example, when COMEX suddenly raises the margin requirement (one could call this almost illegal as it is done with such short notice and usually when the market appears to be soaring to new highs), forcing many traders out of their position, China will not have to follow suit. In fact, they will most likely act independently. Traders are sick of being at the mercy of COMEX and the London metals exchange. Thus, this degree of separation will serve as a magnet to attract all these dissatisfied and disenfranchised traders.
- The biggest game changer is that Citizens of China will now be in a position to purchase Gold via futures contracts with the click of a mouse. Initially, these contracts will only be available to the Agricultural bank of China’s 320 million customers. If just 2% of their customers bought one contract, it would equate to 2,000 tons of physical gold being drawn down (taken out of the markets). This is a massive development on its own, but soon these contracts will be open to the world. Now that the Chinese have such an easy means to speculate, demand for Gold could truly spike. I was recently in Indonesia and could openly see the love Asians have for Gold. In the small towns, you will find that everyone knows what the daily price of Gold is but very few know or care to pay too much attention to the daily exchange rate of the Indonesian Rupiah to the dollar. This exchange is going to allow the Chinese and eventually individuals from all over the world to speculate via the futures markets with contracts that are fully backed by Gold.
Once this exchange is up and running it will provide gold investors with an alternative playing field, who up to now have had to rely on unsecured Gold futures contracts, bullion banks and international banking institutions to set the price of Gold. This monopoly is about to come to a screeching halt.
As the Gold market has been heavily manipulated by the Bankers in the west, PAGE could truly turn out to be a huge game changer and potentially displace London and New York as the premier Gold exchange in the world. Asians love gold and with the opening of this exchange they will soon have the ability to purchase futures contracts that are backed by gold with the click of a mouse. As the contracts will be trading in Yuan, China will be the first country to directly challenge the dollar in one of the most speculative and lucrative markets today. We believe this is another slow and subtle move by China to prepare the world for a new reserve currency.
COMEX reportedly has only enough Gold to cover 10% of the total contracts traded. In other words, for every 100 ounces of paper gold, there is only 10% in real gold backing them. Some other analysts such as Eric Sprott claim that if individuals took delivery of just 5% of the traded contracts it would be enough to deplete COMEX of its entire inventory. Regardless of what the actual figure is, it is highly unlikely that COMEX could come up with enough Gold to cover 20% of the contracts. Now contrast this to PAGE, where every contract is going to be backed by 10oz of Gold, and it wins hands down. The Chinese love to speculate/gamble and with the opening of this exchange not only will be they be able to speculate, but they will also be in a position to buy a commodity that is highly priced in their society.
Even George Soros thinks this is a big event for he has bought back nearly all the Gold he sold when it was trading around $1600 an ounce. The long term picture for Gold has just become even more attractive. How should investors position themselves to take advantage of this development? First of all, let us start of by stating that in the intermediate time frames (6-12 months) we believe that Gold will continue to correct/consolidate before resuming its upward trend. We turned bullish on Gold in late 2002 when it was trading under 300 and bullish on Silver when it was trading roughly at $4 per ounce; this development further cements the view that the long term bull market in precious metals is still not over.
If you believe that the precious metals market still has a lot of upside potential, then you could implement the following strategies:
If you have no position in Bullion, then it would be wise to allocate some of your money to bullion (Gold, Silver and Palladium bullion); use pullbacks to establish a position. Those that already have positions can wait for stronger pullbacks to add to them. In addition, opening up positions in some key Gold and Silver companies could put you in a position to lock in substantially larger gains.
In the Gold sector, investors could deploy some money into the following three companies; on a relative strength basis, they are among the strongest companies in the gold sector.
Royal Gold (RGLD) has quarterly earnings growth (yoy) of 42%, Gross margin (ttm) of 95.49% and an EPS of 1.48. Gross profits have increased significantly for the last three years. In 2009 gross profits were $73 million, in 2010, they were $136 million and in 2001 it jumped to $216 million.
Franco Nevada Corp (FNV) has quarterly earning’s growth (yoy) of 443%, EPS of 1.04 and levered free cash flow rate of 185 million. It also pays a dividend of roughly 1.2%
Rand Gold Resources (GOLD) has quarterly earnings growth (yoy) 149%. Gross profits for the last three years are as follows, $76 million for 2008, $148.8 million for 2009 and $148.9 million for 2010 Net income has increased at a much faster pace; $47 million in 2008, $84 million in 2009 and $120 million in 2010. It also pays a dividend of 0.8%.
In the silver sector, investors might find the following 2 companies interesting. On a relative strength basis they are among the top companies in the silver sector.
Silver Wheaton Corp (SLW) has quarterly earnings growth rate (yoy) of 99.5% and a gross margin rate of 87%. Gross profits have increased nicely for the past three years; in 2008 they came in at $122 million, for 2009, they were $175 million and for 2010 gross profits almost doubled to $340 million. It pays a dividend of 1.1%
First Majestic Silver Corp (AG) has quarterly earnings growth rate (yoy) of 88.3% and a ROE of 34.65%. In 2009, gross profits amounted to $23 million and in 2010; they more than tripled to $71 million.
I am not stating that one needs to get out of companies such as Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) which are great long term plays and still have a lot of upside potential; both are dominant players and both have great forward PEs of 14 and 10 respectively. They are also sitting on boat loads of cash and have great quarterly earnings growth rate (yoy) rates – 53.7% for AAPL and 25.9% for GOOG. However, it would not hurt to put some money into the above-mentioned companies as the long term demand for precious metals is set to increase in the years to come; PAGE has just made it a lot easier for citizens of the most populous country on earth to purchase Gold. There is an old adage which states one should never put all of one’s eggs in one basket.
Read the entire article HERE.
We are at an economic crossroads like we’ve never seen in the history of the world. Oil production and Silver production have both hit their peaks and we are sliding on the down slope. As Oil peaks we will be moving into alternative power sources here in the U.S. and solar remains the preeminent option to take it’s place. Of course, with Solar Power comes the need for physical silver because of it’s superior reflective properties.
Today Silver is more undervalued than any commodity in existence today, yet it remains suppressed by banking and money powers. When speaking of precious metals, all media analysts state that Gold and Silver are in a bubble, but all their analyses are not based on physical supply. As you will see below, Silver is also becoming the most scarce commodity. Here is a clip by Mr. Vision explaining where we stand in the situation with silver and where we will be headed.
Submitted by SRSrocco
The world is about to peak in global silver production. This will not occur due to a lack of silver to mine, but rather as a result of the peaking of world energy resources, declining ore grades, and a falling Energy Returned On Invested – EROI. The information below will describe a future world that very few have forecasted and even less are prepared. This is an update to my previous article Peak Silver and Mining by a Falling EROI. In my first article I stated that global silver production may peak in 2009 if we were to enter a worldwide depression. We did not have the global depression as massive central bank printing and bailouts have thus far postponed the inevitable.
Full report (pdf)
Read the original article HERE.