Posts Tagged ‘Bank of America’
HOLY BAILOUT – Federal Reserve Now Backstopping $75 Trillion Of Bank Of America’s Derivatives Trades
OCTOBER 18, 2011
The Daily Bail
This story from Bloomberg just hit the wires this morning. Bank of America is shifting derivatives in its Merrill investment banking unit to its depository arm, which has access to the Fed discount window and is protected by the FDIC.
This means that the investment bank’s European derivatives exposure is now backstopped by U.S. taxpayers. Bank of America didn’t get regulatory approval to do this, they just did it at the request of frightened counterparties. Now the Fed and the FDIC are fighting as to whether this was sound. The Fed wants to “give relief” to the bank holding company, which is under heavy pressure.
This is a direct transfer of risk to the taxpayer done by the bank without approval by regulators and without public input. You will also read below that JP Morgan is apparently doing the same thing with $79 trillion of notional derivatives guaranteed by the FDIC and Federal Reserve.
What this means for you is that when Europe finally implodes and banks fail, U.S. taxpayers will hold the bag for trillions in CDS insurance contracts sold by Bank of America and JP Morgan. Even worse, The Total Exposure Is Unknownbecause Wall Street successfully lobbied during Dodd-Frank passage so that no central exchange would exist keeping track of net derivative exposure.
This is a recipe for Armageddon. Bernanke is absolutely insane. No wonder Geithner has been hopping all over Europe begging and cajoling leaders to put together a massive bailout of troubled banks. His worst nightmare is Eurozone bank defaults leading to the collapse of the large U.S. banks who have been happily selling default insurance on European banks since the crisis began.
Original Article HERE.
*****Bloomberg By Bob Ivry, Hugh Son and Christine Harper – Oct 18, 2011*****
Bank of America Corp. (BAC), hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.
The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people. The bank doesn’t believe regulatory approval is needed, said people with knowledge of its position.
Three years after taxpayers rescued some of the biggest U.S. lenders, regulators are grappling with how to protect FDIC- insured bank accounts from risks generated by investment-banking operations. Bank of America, which got a $45 billion bailout during the financial crisis, had $1.04 trillion in deposits as of midyear, ranking it second among U.S. firms.
“The concern is that there is always an enormous temptation to dump the losers on the insured institution,” said William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a former bank regulator. “We should have fairly tight restrictions on that.”
Jerry Dubrowski, a spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina- based Bank of America, declined to comment on the transfers or the firm’s discussions with regulators. The company “continues to accommodate the needs of our clients through each of our multiple trading entities, including Bank of America NA,” he said in an e-mailed statement, referring to the company’s deposit-taking unit.
Barbara Hagenbaugh, a Fed spokeswoman, said she couldn’t discuss supervision of specific institutions. Greg Hernandez, an FDIC spokesman, declined to comment.
Bank of America posted a $6.2 billion third-quarter profit today, compared with a loss of $7.3 billion a year earlier, as credit quality improved and the firm booked one-time accounting gains. The lender rose 7.3 percent to $6.47 at 1:54 p.m. in New York trading, making it the day’s best performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Credit-default swaps on Bank of America eased 10 basis points to a mid-price of 380 as of 11:49 a.m. in New York, according to broker Phoenix Partners Group.
Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Bank of America’s long-term credit ratings Sept. 21, cutting both the holding company and the retail bank two notches apiece. The holding company fell to Baa1, the third-lowest investment-grade rank, from A2, while the retail bank declined to A2 from Aa3.
The Moody’s downgrade spurred some of Merrill’s partners to ask that contracts be moved to the retail unit, which has a higher credit rating, according to people familiar with the transactions. Transferring derivatives also can help the parent company minimize the collateral it must post on contracts and the potential costs to terminate trades after Moody’s decision, said a person familiar with the matter.
Bank of America estimated in an August regulatory filing that a two-level downgrade by all ratings companies would have required that it post $3.3 billion in additional collateral and termination payments, based on over-the-counter derivatives and other trading agreements as of June 30. The figure doesn’t include possible collateral payments due to “variable interest entities,” which the firm is evaluating, it said in the filing.
Dubrowski declined to comment on collateral or termination payments after the downgrade.
Bank of America’s rating is now four grades below the one Moody’s assigned to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. bank by deposits at midyear, and a level below the rating given to Citigroup Inc. (C), the third-biggest. Bank of America is the only U.S. lender that lacks a rating of A3 or higher among the five firms listed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as having the biggest derivatives books.
“We had worked very hard over the course of the last nine months to be prepared to the extent that we did receive a downgrade, and feel very good about the way that we’ve minimized the potential impact” Bank of America Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said in a conference call today with analysts. “Since the downgrade, we have not seen any change in our global excess liquidity sources.”
Derivatives are financial instruments used to hedge risks or for speculation. They’re derived from stocks, bonds, loans, currencies and commodities, or linked to specific events such as changes in the weather or interest rates.
Keeping such deals separate from FDIC-insured savings has been a cornerstone of U.S. regulation for decades, including last year’s Dodd-Frank overhaul of Wall Street regulation.
The legislation gave the FDIC, which liquidates failing banks, expanded powers to dismantle large financial institutions in danger of failing. The agency can borrow from the Treasury Department to finance the biggest lenders’ operations to stem bank runs. It’s required to recoup taxpayer money used during the resolution process through fees on the largest firms.
Bank of America benefited from two injections of U.S. bailout funds during the financial crisis. The first, in 2008, included $15 billion for the bank and $10 billion for Merrill, which the bank had agreed to buy. The second round of $20 billion came in January 2009 after Merrill’s losses in its final quarter as an independent firm surpassed $15 billion, raising doubts about the bank’s stability if the takeover proceeded. The U.S. also offered to guarantee $118 billion of assets held by the combined company, mostly at Merrill. The company repaid federal bailout funds in 2009 with interest.
‘The Normal Course’
Bank of America’s holding company — the parent of both the retail bank and the Merrill Lynch securities unit — held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June, according to data compiled by the OCC. About $53 trillion, or 71 percent, were within Bank of America NA, according to the data, which represent the notional values of the trades.
That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show.
The moves by Bank of America are part of “the normal course of dealings that we’ve had with counterparties since Merrill Lynch and BofA came together,” Thompson said today.
‘Created a Firewall’
Moving derivatives contracts between units of a bank holding company is limited under Section 23A of the Federal Reserve Act, which is designed to prevent a lender’s affiliates from benefiting from its federal subsidy and to protect the bank from excessive risk originating at the non-bank affiliate, said Saule T. Omarova, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.
“Congress doesn’t want a bank’s FDIC insurance and access to the Fed discount window to somehow benefit an affiliate, so they created a firewall,” Omarova said. The discount window has been open to banks as the lender of last resort since 1914.
As a general rule, as long as transactions involve high- quality assets and don’t exceed certain quantitative limitations, they should be allowed under the Federal Reserve Act, Omarova said.
In 2009, the Fed granted Section 23A exemptions to the banking arms of Ally Financial Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, Fifth Third Bancorp, ING Groep NV, General Electric Co., Northern Trust Corp., CIT Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., among others, according to letters posted on the Fed’s website.
The central bank terminated exemptions last year for retail-banking units of JPMorgan, Citigroup, Barclays Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Deutsche Bank AG. The Fed also ended an exemption for Bank of America in March 2010 and in September of that year approved a new one.
Section 23A “is among the most important tools that U.S. bank regulators have to protect the safety and soundness of U.S. banks,” Scott Alvarez, the Fed’s general counsel, told Congress in March 2008.
Read the entire article HERE.
BY KEITH FITZ-GERALD
Chief Investment Strategist
October 12, 2011
Do you want to know the real reason banks aren’t lending and the PIIGS have control of the barnyard in Europe?
It’s because risk in the $600 trillion derivatives market isn’t evening out. To the contrary, it’s growing increasingly concentrated among a select few banks, especially here in the United States.
In 2009, five banks held 80% of derivatives in America. Now, just four banks hold a staggering 95.9% of U.S. derivatives, according to a recent report from the Office of the Currency Comptroller.
The four banks in question: JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS).
Derivatives played a crucial role in bringing down the global economy, so you would think that the world’s top policymakers would have reined these things in by now – but they haven’t.
Instead of attacking the problem, regulators have let it spiral out of control, and the result is a $600 trillion time bomb called the derivatives market.
Think I’m exaggerating?
The notional value of the world’s derivatives actually is estimated at more than $600 trillion. Notional value, of course, is the total value of a leveraged position’s assets. This distinction is necessary because when you’re talking about leveraged assets like options and derivatives, a little bit of money can control a disproportionately large position that may be as much as 5, 10, 30, or, in extreme cases, 100 times greater than investments that could be funded only in cash instruments.
The world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is only about $65 trillion, or roughly 10.83% of the worldwide value of the global derivatives market, according to The Economist. So there is literally not enough money on the planet to backstop the banks trading these things if they run into trouble.
Compounding the problem is the fact that nobody even knows if the $600 trillion figure is accurate, because specialized derivatives vehicles like the credit default swaps that are now roiling Europe remain largely unregulated and unaccounted for.
To be fair, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) estimated the net notional value of uncollateralized derivatives risks is between $2 trillion and $8 trillion, which is still a staggering amount of money and well beyond the billions being talked about in Europe.
Imagine the fallout from a $600 trillion explosion if several banks went down at once. It would eclipse the collapse of Lehman Brothers in no uncertain terms.
A governmental default would panic already anxious investors, causing a run on several major European banks in an effort to recover their deposits. That would, in turn, cause several banks to literally run out of money and declare bankruptcy.
Short-term borrowing costs would skyrocket and liquidity would evaporate. That would cause a ricochet across the Atlantic as the institutions themselves then panic and try to recover their own capital by withdrawing liquidity by any means possible.
And that’s why banks are hoarding cash instead of lending it.
The major banks know there is no way they can collateralize the potential daisy chain failure that Greece represents. So they’re doing everything they can to stockpile cash and keep their trading under wraps and away from public scrutiny.
What really scares me, though, is that the banks
think this is an acceptable risk because the odds of a default are allegedly smaller than one in 10,000.
But haven’t we heard that before?
Although American banks have limited their exposure to Greece, they have loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to European banks and European governments that may not be capable of paying them back.
According to the Bank of International Settlements, U.S. banks have loaned only $60.5 billion to banks in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy – the countries most at risk of default. But they’ve lent $275.8 billion to French and German banks.
And undoubtedly bet trillions on the same debt.
There are three key takeaways here:
There is not enough capital on hand to cover the possible losses associated with the default of a single counterparty – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), BNP Paribas SA (PINK: BNPQY) or the National Bank of Greece (NYSE ADR: NBG) for example – let alone multiple failures.
That means banks with large derivatives exposure have to risk even more money to generate the incremental returns needed to cover the bets they’ve already made.
And the fact that Wall Street believes it has the risks under control practically guarantees that it doesn’t.
Seems to me that the world’s central bankers and politicians should be less concerned about stimulating “demand” and more concerned about fixing derivatives before this $600 trillion time bomb goes off.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Greg Robb
August 25, 2011
Bernanke will open the Fed conference with a speech on Friday morning at 10 a.m. Eastern. Stocks have moved higher this week after being pummeled in mid-August, and many analysts attribute the move to investor hopes that Bernanke will use his speech to promise another round of asset purchases, or QE3.
Economists said that the recent weakness in the economy stems from structural issues like foreclosed properties and an unskilled pool of unemployed labor that are immune from monetary policy stimulus.
“I hope he talks about the limitations of monetary policy,” said Mickey Levy, chief economist at Bank of America.
Fed policy is very effective at preventing a downturn but once weak demand is in place, monetary policy cannot lift it, Levy said.
“All the targeted counter-cyclical stimulus is not going to address the huge pocket of distressed properties,” Levy said.
John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, agreed that the woes facing the economy are structural in nature and described the Fed policy options as modest.
“The Fed has shot the big cannons. They are now playing the game with smaller ammunition,” Silvia said.
At its interest rate meeting earlier this month, the central bank surprised the markets by promising to keep its benchmark Federal funds rate near zero until mid-2013.
Former Fed governor Randall Krozner said that is all the Fed is prepared to do at the moment, and speculation of an announcement of QE3 in markets was misplaced.
Such a big policy shift would only come at a formal Federal Open Market Committee meeting and not in a speech, he said.
Many Fed watchers, including former vice chairman Alan Blinder, believe the central bank is likely to engineer another round of asset purchases, or quantitative easing. Bernanke ready for action but when is in doubt.
In the first round of bond purchases between Dec. 2008 and March 2010, the Fed bought $1.7 trillion of mostly mortgage securities, and in the second round between November and June, the central bank snapped up $600 billion of Treasury bonds.
These purchases did not stimulate demand, Levy noted.
“The slowdown is not the fault of not enough liquidity,” he said.
Levy said he expected Bernanke to say the Fed will do whatever it has to do to avoid recession.
Ultimately, the next step is likely to be take steps to alter the composition of the composition of the Fed’s balance sheet to keep bond yields low, he said.
“That is all the Fed can do,” Levy said.
“More QE would not help. Lower long-term yields on the margin would help,” he added.
Silvia forecast sluggish growth in the 2% range over the next 18 months.
“We are in one of those periods where the economy grows far below potential and the unemployment rate will probably rise,” he said.
“It is a very challenging economy. I just don’t see a silver bullet or a special spark,” he said.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Matt Taibbi
August 17, 2011 8:00 AM ET
Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – “Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?” No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.
That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – “18,000 … including Madoff,” as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.
Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency’s records – “including case files relating to preliminary investigations” – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term “Orwellian,” devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or “Matters Under Inquiry” – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission’s internal website. “After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation,” the site advised staffers, “you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI.”
Many of the destroyed files involved companies and individuals who would later play prominent roles in the economic meltdown of 2008. Two MUIs involving con artist Bernie Madoff vanished. So did a 2002 inquiry into financial fraud at Lehman Brothers, as well as a 2005 case of insider trading at the same soon-to-be-bankrupt bank. A 2009 preliminary investigation of insider trading by Goldman Sachs was deleted, along with records for at least three cases involving the infamous hedge fund SAC Capital.
The widespread destruction of records was brought to the attention of Congress in July, when an SEC attorney named Darcy Flynn decided to blow the whistle. According to Flynn, who was responsible for helping to manage the commission’s records, the SEC has been destroying records of preliminary investigations since at least 1993. After he alerted NARA to the problem, Flynn reports, senior staff at the SEC scrambled to hide the commission’s improprieties.
As a federally protected whistle-blower, Flynn is not permitted to speak to the press. But in evidence he presented to the SEC’s inspector general and three congressional committees earlier this summer, the 13-year veteran of the agency paints a startling picture of a federal police force that has effectively been conquered by the financial criminals it is charged with investigating. In at least one case, according to Flynn, investigators at the SEC found their desire to bring a case against an influential bank thwarted by senior officials in the enforcement division – whose director turned around and accepted a lucrative job from the very same bank they had been prevented from investigating. In another case, the agency farmed out its inquiry to a private law firm – one hired by the company under investigation. The outside firm, unsurprisingly, concluded that no further investigation of its client was necessary. To complete the bureaucratic laundering process, Flynn says, the SEC dropped the case and destroyed the files.
Much has been made in recent months of the government’s glaring failure to police Wall Street; to date, federal and state prosecutors have yet to put a single senior Wall Street executive behind bars for any of the many well-documented crimes related to the financial crisis. Indeed, Flynn’s accusations dovetail with a recent series of damaging critiques of the SEC made by reporters, watchdog groups and members of Congress, all of which seem to indicate that top federal regulators spend more time lunching, schmoozing and job-interviewing with Wall Street crooks than they do catching them. As one former SEC staffer describes it, the agency is now filled with so many Wall Street hotshots from oft-investigated banks that it has been “infected with the Goldman mindset from within.”
The destruction of records by the SEC, as outlined by Flynn, is something far more than an administrative accident or bureaucratic fuck-up. It’s a symptom of the agency’s terminal brain damage. Somewhere along the line, those at the SEC responsible for policing America’s banks fell and hit their head on a big pile of Wall Street’s money – a blow from which the agency has never recovered. “From what I’ve seen, it looks as if the SEC might have sanctioned some level of case-related document destruction,” says Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose staff has interviewed Flynn. “It doesn’t make sense that an agency responsible for investigations would want to get rid of potential evidence. If these charges are true, the agency needs to explain why it destroyed documents, how many documents it destroyed over what time frame and to what extent its actions were consistent with the law.”
How did officials at the SEC wind up with a faithful veteran employee – a conservative, mid-level attorney described as a highly reluctant whistle-blower – spilling the agency’s most sordid secrets to Congress? In a way, they asked for it.
On May 18th of this year, SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami sent out a mass e-mail to the agency’s staff with the subject line “Lawyers Behaving Badly.” In it, Khuzami asked his subordinates to report any experiences they might have had where “the behavior of counsel representing clients in… investigations has been questionable.”
Khuzami was asking staffers to recount any stories of outside counsel behaving unethically. But Flynn apparently thought his boss was looking for examples of lawyers “behaving badly” anywhere, including within the SEC. And he had a story to share he’d kept a lid on for years. “Mr. Khuzami may have gotten something more than he expected,” Flynn’s lawyer, a former SEC whistle-blower named Gary Aguirre, later explained to Congress.
Flynn responded to Khuzami with a letter laying out one such example of misbehaving lawyers within the SEC. It involved a case from very early in Flynn’s career, back in 2000, when he was working with a group of investigators who thought they had a “slam-dunk” case against Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant. A few years earlier, Rolf Breuer, the bank’s CEO, had given an interview to Der Spiegel in which he denied that Deutsche was involved in übernahmegespräche – takeover talks – to acquire a rival American firm, Bankers Trust. But the statement was apparently untrue – and it sent the stock of Bankers Trust tumbling, potentially lowering the price for the merger. Flynn and his fellow SEC investigators, suspecting that investors of Bankers Trust had been defrauded, opened a MUI on the case.
A Matter Under Inquiry is just a preliminary sort of look-see – a way for the SEC to check out the multitude of tips it gets about suspicious trades, shady stock scams and false disclosures, and to determine which of the accusations merit a formal investigation. At the MUI stage, an SEC investigator can conduct interviews or ask a bank to send in information voluntarily. Bumping a MUI up to a formal investigation is critical, because it enables investigators to pull out the full law-enforcement ass-kicking measures – subpoenas, depositions, everything short of hot pokers and waterboarding. In the Deutsche case, Flynn and other SEC investigators got past the MUI stage and used their powers to collect sworn testimony and documents indicating that plenty of übernahmegespräche indeed had been going on when Breuer spoke to Der Spiegel. Based on the evidence, they sent an “Action Memorandum” to senior SEC staff, formally recommending that the agency press forward and file suit against Deutsche.
Breuer responded to the threat as big banks like Deutsche often do: He hired a former SEC enforcement director to lobby the agency to back off. The ex-insider, Gary Lynch, launched a creative and inspired defense, producing a linguistic expert who argued that übernahmegespräche only means “advanced stage of discussions.” Nevertheless, the request to proceed with the case was approved by several levels of the SEC’s staff. All that was needed to move forward was a thumbs-up from the director of enforcement at the time, Richard Walker.
But then a curious thing happened. On July 10th, 2001, Flynn and the other investigators were informed that Walker was mysteriously recusing himself from the Deutsche case. Two weeks later, on July 23rd, the enforcement division sent a letter to Deutsche that read, “Inquiry in the above-captioned matter has been terminated.” The bank was in the clear; the SEC was dropping its fraud investigation. In contradiction to the agency’s usual practice, it provided no explanation for its decision to close the case.
On October 1st of that year, the mystery was solved: Dick Walker was named general counsel of Deutsche. Less than 10 weeks after the SEC shut down its investigation of the bank, the agency’s director of enforcement was handed a cushy, high-priced job at Deutsche.
Deutsche’s influence in the case didn’t stop there. A few years later, in 2004, Walker hired none other than Robert Khuzami, a young federal prosecutor, to join him at Deutsche. The two would remain at the bank until February 2009, when Khuzami joined the SEC as Flynn’s new boss in the enforcement division. When Flynn sent his letter to Khuzami complaining about misbehavior by Walker, he was calling out Khuzami’s own mentor.
The circular nature of the case illustrates the revolving-door dynamic that has become pervasive at the SEC. A recent study by the Project on Government Oversight found that over the past five years, former SEC personnel filed 789 notices disclosing their intent to represent outside companies before the agency – sometimes within days of their having left the SEC. More than half of the disclosures came from the agency’s enforcement division, who went to bat for the financial industry four times more often than ex-staffers from other wings of the SEC.
Even a cursory glance at a list of the agency’s most recent enforcement directors makes it clear that the SEC’s top policemen almost always wind up jumping straight to jobs representing the banks they were supposed to regulate. Lynch, who represented Deutsche in the Flynn case, served as the agency’s enforcement chief from 1985 to 1989, before moving to the firm of Davis Polk, which boasts many top Wall Street clients. He was succeeded by William McLucas, who left the SEC in 1998 to work for WilmerHale, a Wall Street defense firm so notorious for snatching up top agency veterans that it is sometimes referred to as “SEC West.” McLucas was followed by Dick Walker, who defected to Deutsche in 2001, and he was in turn followed by Stephen Cutler, who now serves as general counsel for JP Morgan Chase. Next came Linda Chatman Thomsen, who stepped down to join Davis Polk, only to be succeeded in 2009 by Khuzami, Walker’s former protégé at Deutsche Bank.
This merry-go-round of current and former enforcement directors has repeatedly led to accusations of improprieties. In 2008, in a case cited by the SEC inspector general, Thomsen went out of her way to pass along valuable information to Cutler, the former enforcement director who had gone to work for JP Morgan. According to the inspector general, Thomsen signaled Cutler that the SEC was unlikely to take action that would hamper JP Morgan’s move to buy up Bear Stearns. In another case, the inspector general found, an assistant director of enforcement was instrumental in slowing down an investigation into the $7 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Texas con artist R. Allen Stanford – and then left the SEC to work for Stanford, despite explicitly being denied permission to do so by the agency’s ethics office. “Every lawyer in Texas and beyond is going to get rich on this case, OK?” the official later explained. “I hated being on the sidelines.”
Small wonder, then, that SEC staffers often have trouble getting their bosses to approve full-blown investigations against even the most blatant financial criminals. For a fledgling MUI to become a formal investigation, it has to make the treacherous leap from the lower rungs of career-level staffers like Flynn all the way up to the revolving-door level at the top, where senior management is composed largely of high-priced appointees from the private sector who have strong social and professional ties to the very banks they are charged with regulating. And if senior management didn’t approve an investigation, the documents often wound up being destroyed – as Flynn would later discover.
After the Deutsche fiasco over Bankers Trust, Flynn continued to work at the SEC for four more years. He briefly left the agency to dabble in real estate, then returned in 2008 to serve as an attorney in the enforcement division. In January 2010, he accepted new responsibilities that included helping to manage the disposition of records for the division – and it was then he first became aware of the agency’s possibly unlawful destruction of MUI records.
Flynn discovered a directive on the enforcement division’s internal website ordering staff to destroy “any records obtained in connection” with closed MUIs. The directive appeared to violate federal law, which gives responsibility for maintaining and destroying all records to the National Archives and Records Administration. Over a decade earlier, in fact, the SEC had struck a deal with NARA stipulating that investigative records were to be maintained for 25 years – and that if any files were to be destroyed after that, the shredding was to be done by NARA, not the SEC.
But Flynn soon learned that the records for thousands of preliminary investigations no longer existed. In his letter to Congress, Flynn estimates that the practice of destroying MUIs had begun as early as 1993, and has resulted in at least 9,000 case files being destroyed. For all the thousands of tips that had come in to the SEC, and the thousands of interviews that had been conducted by the agency’s staff, all that remained were a few perfunctory lines for each case. The mountains of evidence gathered were no longer in existence.
To read through the list of dead and buried cases that Flynn submitted to Congress is like looking through an infrared camera at a haunted house of the financial crisis, with the ghosts of missed prosecutions flashing back and forth across the screen. A snippet of the list:
PARTY MUI # OPENED/CLOSED ISSUE
Goldman Sachs MLA-01909 6/99 – 4/00 Market Manipulation
Deutsche Bank MHO-09356 11/01 – 7/02 Insider Trading
Deutsche Bank MHO-09432 2/02 – 8/02 Market Manipulation
Lehman Brothers MNY-07013 3/02 – 7/02 Financial Fraud
Goldman Sachs MNY-08198 11/09 – 12/09 Insider Trading
One MUI – case MNY-08145 – involved allegations of insider trading at AIG on September 15th, 2008, right in the middle of the insurance giant’s collapse. In that case, an AIG employee named Jacqueline Millan reported irregularities in the trading of AIG stock to her superiors, only to find herself fired. Incredibly, instead of looking into the matter itself, the SEC agreed to accept “an internal investigation by outside counsel or AIG.” The last note in the file indicates that “the staff plans to speak with the outside attorneys on Monday, August 24th , when they will share their findings with us.” The fact that the SEC trusted AIG’s lawyers to investigate the matter shows the basic bassackwardness of the agency’s approach to these crash-era investigations. The SEC formally closed the case on October 1st, 2009.
The episode with AIG highlights yet another obstacle that MUIs experience on the road to becoming formal investigations. During the past decade, the SEC routinely began allowing financial firms to investigate themselves. Imagine the LAPD politely asking a gang of Crips and their lawyers to issue a report on whether or not a drive-by shooting by the Crips should be brought before a grand jury – that’s basically how the SEC now handles many preliminary investigations against Wall Street targets.
The evolution toward this self-policing model began in 2001, when a shipping and food-service conglomerate called Seaboard aggressively investigated an isolated case of accounting fraud at one of its subsidiaries. Seaboard fired the guilty parties and made sweeping changes to its internal practices – and the SEC was so impressed that it instituted a new policy of giving “credit” to companies that police themselves. In practice, that means the agency simply steps aside and allows companies to slap themselves on the wrists. In the case against Seaboard, for instance, the SEC rewarded the firm by issuing no fines against it.
According to Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant at the SEC, the Seaboard case also prompted the SEC to begin permitting companies to hire their own counsel to conduct their own inquiries. At first, he says, the process worked fairly well. But then President Bush appointed the notoriously industry-friendly Christopher Cox to head up the SEC, and the “outside investigations” turned into whitewash jobs. “The investigations nowadays are probably not worth the money you spend on them,” Turner says.
Harry Markopolos, a certified fraud examiner best known for sounding a famously unheeded warning about Bernie Madoff way back in 2000, says the SEC’s practice of asking suspects to investigate themselves is absurd. In a serious investigation, he says, “the last person you want to trust is the person being accused or their lawyer.” The practice helped Madoff escape for years. “The SEC took Bernie’s word for everything,” Markopolos says.
At the SEC, having realized that the agency was destroying documents, Flynn became concerned that he was overseeing an illegal policy. So in the summer of last year, he reached out to NARA, asking them for guidance on the issue.
That request sparked a worried response from Paul Wester, NARA’s director of modern records. On July 29th, 2010, Wester sent a letter to Barry Walters, who oversees document requests for the SEC. “We recently learned from Darcy Flynn… that for the past 17 years the SEC has been destroying closed Matters Under Inquiry files,” Wester wrote. “If you confirm that federal records have been destroyed improperly, please ensure that no further such disposals take place and provide us with a written report within 30 days.”
Wester copied the letter to Adam Storch, a former Goldman Sachs executive who less than a year earlier had been appointed as managing executive of the SEC’s enforcement division. Storch’s appointment was not without controversy. “I’m not sure what’s scarier,” Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic observed, “that this guy worked at an investment bank that many believe has questionable ethics and too cozy a Washington connection, or that he’s just 29.” In any case, Storch reacted to the NARA letter the way the SEC often does – by circling the wagons and straining to find a way to blow off the problem without admitting anything.
Last August, as the clock wound down on NARA’s 30-day deadline, Storch and two top SEC lawyers held a meeting with Flynn to discuss how to respond. Flynn’s notes from the meeting, which he passed along to Congress, show the SEC staff wondering aloud if admitting the truth to NARA might be a bad idea, given the fact that there might be criminal liability.
“We could say that we do not believe there has been disposal inconsistent with the schedule,” Flynn quotes Ken Hall, an assistant chief counsel for the SEC, as saying.
“There are implications to admit what was destroyed,” Storch chimed in. It would be “not wise for me to take on the exposure voluntarily. If this leads to something, what rings in my ear is that Barry [Walters, the SEC documents officer] said: This is serious, could lead to criminal liability.”
When the subject of how many files were destroyed came up, Storch answered: “18,000 MUIs destroyed, including Madoff.”
Four days later, the SEC responded to NARA with a hilariously convoluted nondenial denial. “The Division is not aware of any specific instances of the destruction of records from any other MUI,” the letter states. “But we cannot say with certainty that no such documents have been destroyed over the past 17 years.” The letter goes on to add that “the Division has taken steps… to ensure that no MUI records are destroyed while we review this issue.”
Translation: Hey, maybe records were destroyed, maybe they weren’t. But if we did destroy records, we promise not to do it again – for now.
The SEC’s unwillingness to admit the extent of the wrong doing left Flynn in a precarious position. The agency has a remarkably bad record when it comes to dealing with whistle-blowers. Back in 2005, when Flynn’s attorney, Gary Aguirre, tried to pursue an insider-trading case against Pequot Capital that involved John Mack, the future CEO of Morgan Stanley, he was fired by phone while on vacation. Two Senate committees later determined that Aguirre, who has since opened a private practice representing whistle-blowers, was dismissed improperly as part of a “process of reprisal” by the SEC. Two whistle-blowers in the Stanford case, Julie Preuitt and Joel Sauer, also experienced retaliation – including reprimands and demotions – after raising concerns about superficial investigations. “There’s no mechanism to raise these issues at the SEC,” says another former whistle-blower. Contacting the agency’s inspector general, he adds, is considered “the nuclear option” – a move “well-known to be a career-killer.”
In Flynn’s case, both he and Aguirre tried to keep the matter in-house, appealing to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro with a promise not to go outside the agency if she would grant Flynn protection against reprisal. When no such offer was forthcoming, Flynn went to the agency’s inspector general before sending a detailed letter about the wrongdoing to three congressional committees.
One of the offices Flynn contacted was that of Sen. Grassley, who was in the midst of his own battle with the SEC. Frustrated with the agency’s failure to punish major players on Wall Street, the Iowa Republican had begun an investigation into how the SEC follows up on outside complaints. Specifically, he wrote a letter to FINRA, another regulatory agency, to ask how many complaints it had referred to the SEC about SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by reptilian billionaire short-seller Stevie Cohen.
SAC has long been accused of a variety of improprieties, from insider trading to harassment. But no charge in recent Wall Street history is crazier than an episode involving a SAC executive named Ping Jiang, who was accused in 2006 of enacting a torturous hazing program. According to a civil lawsuit that was later dropped, Jiang allegedly forced a new trader named Andrew Tong to take female hormones, come to work wearing a dress and lipstick, have “foreign objects” inserted in his rectum, and allow Jiang to urinate in his mouth. (I’m not making this up.)
Grassley learned that over the past decade, FINRA had referred 19 complaints about suspicious trades at SAC to federal regulators. Curious to see how many of those referrals had been looked into, Grassley wrote the SEC on May 24th, asking for evidence that the agency had properly investigated the cases.
Two weeks later, on June 9th, Khuzami sent Grassley a surprisingly brusque answer: “We generally do not comment on the status of investigations or related referrals, and, in turn, are not providing information concerning the specific FINRA referrals you identified.” Translation: We’re not giving you the records, so blow us.
Grassley later found out from FINRA that it had actually referred 65 cases about SAC to the SEC, making the lack of serious investigations even more inexplicable. Angered by Khuzami’s response, he sent the SEC another letter on June 15th demanding an explanation, but no answer has been forthcoming.
In the interim, Grassley’s office was contacted by Flynn, who explained that among the missing MUIs he had uncovered were at least three involving SAC – one in 2006, one in 2007 and one in 2010, involving charges of insider trading and currency manipulation. All three cases were closed by the SEC, and the records apparently destroyed.
On August 17th, Grassley sent a letter to the SEC about the Flynn allegations, demanding to know if it was indeed true that the SEC had destroyed records. He also asked if the agency’s failure to produce evidence of investigations into SAC Capital were related to the missing MUIs.
The SEC’s inspector general is investigating the destroyed MUIs and plans to issue a report. NARA is also seeking answers. “We’ve asked the SEC to look into the matter and we’re awaiting their response,” says Laurence Brewer, a records officer for NARA. For its part, the SEC is trying to explain away the illegality of its actions through a semantic trick. John Nester, the agency’s spokesman, acknowledges that “documents related to MUIs” have been destroyed. “I don’t have any reason to believe that it hasn’t always been the policy,” he says. But Nester suggests that such documents do not “meet the federal definition of a record,” and therefore don’t have to be preserved under federal law.
But even if SEC officials manage to dodge criminal charges, it won’t change what happened: The nation’s top financial police destroyed more than a decade’s worth of intelligence they had gathered on some of Wall Street’s most egregious offenders. “The SEC not keeping the MUIs – you can see why this would be bad,” says Markopolos, the fraud examiner famous for breaking the Madoff case. “The reason you would want to keep them is to build a pattern. That way, if you get five MUIs over a period of 20 years on something similar involving the same company, you should be able to connect five dots and say, ‘You know, I’ve had five MUIs – they’re probably doing something. Let’s go tear the place apart.’” Destroy the MUIs, and Wall Street banks can commit the exact same crime over and over, without anyone ever knowing.
Regulation isn’t a panacea. The SEC could have placed federal agents on every corner of lower Manhattan throughout the past decade, and it might not have put a dent in the massive wave of corruption and fraud that left the economy in flames three years ago. And even if SEC staffers from top to bottom had been fully committed to rooting out financial corruption, the agency would still have been seriously hampered by a lack of resources that often forces it to abandon promising cases due to a shortage of manpower. “It’s always a triage,” is how one SEC veteran puts it. “And it’s worse now.”
But we’re equally in the dark about another hypothetical. Forget about what might have been if the SEC had followed up in earnest on all of those lost MUIs. What if even a handful of them had turned into real cases? How many investors might have been saved from crushing losses if Lehman Brothers had been forced to reveal its shady accounting way back in 2002? Might the need for taxpayer bailouts have been lessened had fraud cases against Citigroup and Bank of America been pursued in 2005 and 2007? And would the U.S. government have doubled down on its bailout of AIG if it had known that some of the firm’s executives were suspected of insider trading in September 2008?
It goes without saying that no ordinary law-enforcement agency would willingly destroy its own evidence. In fact, when it comes to garden-variety crooks, more and more police agencies are catching criminals with the aid of large and well-maintained databases. “Street-level law enforcement is increasingly data-driven,” says Bill Laufer, a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “For a host of reasons, though, we are starved for good data on both white-collar and corporate crime. So the idea that we would take the little data we do have and shred it, without a legal requirement to do so, calls for a very creative explanation.”
We’ll never know what the impact of those destroyed cases might have been; we’ll never know if those cases were closed for good reasons or bad. We’ll never know exactly who got away with what, because federal regulators have weighted down a huge sack of Wall Street’s dirty laundry and dumped it in a lake, never to be seen again.
Read the entire article HERE.
by Dean Henderson
June 1, 2011
Contributor to Global Research
(Part one of a four-part series)
The Four Horsemen of Banking (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo) own the Four Horsemen of Oil (Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP Amoco and Chevron Texaco); in tandem with Deutsche Bank, BNP, Barclays and other European old money behemoths. But their monopoly over the global economy does not end at the edge of the oil patch.
According to company 10K filings to the SEC, the Four Horsemen of Banking are among the top ten stock holders of virtually every Fortune 500 corporation.
So who then are the stockholders in these money center banks?
This information is guarded much more closely. My queries to bank regulatory agencies regarding stock ownership in the top 25 US bank holding companies were given Freedom of Information Act status, before being denied on “national security” grounds. This is rather ironic, since many of the bank’s stockholders reside in Europe.
Buffet, Schwarzenegger and Rothschild
One important repository for the wealth of the global oligarchy that owns these bank holding companies is US Trust Corporation – founded in 1853 and now owned by Bank of America. A recent US Trust Corporate Director and Honorary Trustee was Walter Rothschild. Other directors included Daniel Davison of JP Morgan Chase, Richard Tucker of Exxon Mobil, Daniel Roberts of Citigroup and Marshall Schwartz of Morgan Stanley. 
J. W. McCallister, an oil industry insider with House of Saud connections, wrote in The Grim Reaper that information he acquired from Saudi bankers cited 80% ownership of the New York Federal Reserve Bank- by far the most powerful Fed branch- by just eight families, four of which reside in the US. They are the Goldman Sachs, Rockefellers, Lehmans and Kuhn Loebs of New York; the Rothschilds of Paris and London; the Warburgs of Hamburg; the Lazards of Paris; and the Israel Moses Seifs of Rome.
CPA Thomas D. Schauf corroborates McCallister’s claims, adding that ten banks control all twelve Federal Reserve Bank branches. He names N.M. Rothschild of London, Rothschild Bank of Berlin, Warburg Bank of Hamburg, Warburg Bank of Amsterdam, Lehman Brothers of New York, Lazard Brothers of Paris, Kuhn Loeb Bank of New York, Israel Moses Seif Bank of Italy, Goldman Sachs of New York and JP Morgan Chase Bank of New York. Schauf lists William Rockefeller, Paul Warburg, Jacob Schiff and James Stillman as individuals who own large shares of the Fed.  The Schiffs are insiders at Kuhn Loeb. The Stillmans are Citigroup insiders, who married into the Rockefeller clan at the turn of the century.
Eustace Mullins came to the same conclusions in his book The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, in which he displays charts connecting the Fed and its member banks to the families of Rothschild, Warburg, Rockefeller and the others. 
The control that these banking families exert over the global economy cannot be overstated and is quite intentionally shrouded in secrecy. Their corporate media arm is quick to discredit any information exposing this private central banking cartel as “conspiracy theory”. Yet the facts remain.
The House of Morgan
The Federal Reserve Bank was born in 1913, the same year US banking scion J. Pierpont Morgan died and the Rockefeller Foundation was formed. The House of Morgan presided over American finance from the corner of Wall Street and Broad, acting as quasi-US central bank since 1838, when George Peabody founded it in London.
Peabody was a business associate of the Rothschilds. In 1952 Fed researcher Eustace Mullins put forth the supposition that the Morgans were nothing more than Rothschild agents. Mullins wrote that the Rothschilds, “…preferred to operate anonymously in the US behind the facade of J.P. Morgan & Company”. 
Author Gabriel Kolko stated, “Morgan’s activities in 1895-1896 in selling US gold bonds in Europe were based on an alliance with the House of Rothschild.” 
The Morgan financial octopus wrapped its tentacles quickly around the globe. Morgan Grenfell operated in London. Morgan et Ce ruled Paris. The Rothschild’s Lambert cousins set up Drexel & Company in Philadelphia.
The House of Morgan catered to the Astors, DuPonts, Guggenheims, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. It financed the launch of AT&T, General Motors, General Electric and DuPont. Like the London-based Rothschild and Barings banks, Morgan became part of the power structure in many countries.
By 1890 the House of Morgan was lending to Egypt’s central bank, financing Russian railroads, floating Brazilian provincial government bonds and funding Argentine public works projects. A recession in 1893 enhanced Morgan’s power. That year Morgan saved the US government from a bank panic, forming a syndicate to prop up government reserves with a shipment of $62 million worth of Rothschild gold. 
Morgan was the driving force behind Western expansion in the US, financing and controlling West-bound railroads through voting trusts. In 1879 Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Morgan-financed New York Central Railroad gave preferential shipping rates to John D. Rockefeller’s budding Standard Oil monopoly, cementing the Rockefeller/Morgan relationship.
The House of Morgan now fell under Rothschild and Rockefeller family control. A New York Herald headline read, “Railroad Kings Form Gigantic Trust”. J. Pierpont Morgan, who once stated, “Competition is a sin”, now opined gleefully, “Think of it. All competing railroad traffic west of St. Louis placed in the control of about thirty men.”
Morgan and Edward Harriman’s banker Kuhn Loeb held a monopoly over the railroads, while banking dynasties Lehman, Goldman Sachs and Lazard joined the Rockefellers in controlling the US industrial base. 
In 1903 Banker’s Trust was set up by the Eight Families. Benjamin Strong of Banker’s Trust was the first Governor of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The 1913 creation of the Fed fused the power of the Eight Families to the military and diplomatic might of the US government. If their overseas loans went unpaid, the oligarchs could now deploy US Marines to collect the debts. Morgan, Chase and Citibank formed an international lending syndicate.
The House of Morgan was cozy with the British House of Windsor and the Italian House of Savoy. The Kuhn Loebs, Warburgs, Lehmans, Lazards, Israel Moses Seifs and Goldman Sachs also had close ties to European royalty. By 1895 Morgan controlled the flow of gold in and out of the US. The first American wave of mergers was in its infancy and was being promoted by the bankers. In 1897 there were sixty-nine industrial mergers. By 1899 there were twelve-hundred. In 1904 John Moody – founder of Moody’s Investor Services – said it was impossible to talk of Rockefeller and Morgan interests as separate. 
Public distrust of the combine spread. Many considered them traitors working for European old money. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, Andrew Carnegie’s US Steel and Edward Harriman’s railroads were all financed by banker Jacob Schiff at Kuhn Loeb, who worked closely with the European Rothschilds.
Several Western states banned the bankers. Populist preacher William Jennings Bryan was thrice the Democratic nominee for President from 1896 -1908. The central theme of his anti-imperialist campaign was that America was falling into a trap of “financial servitude to British capital”. Teddy Roosevelt defeated Bryan in 1908, but was forced by this spreading populist wildfire to enact the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He then went after the Standard Oil Trust.
In 1912 the Pujo hearings were held, addressing concentration of power on Wall Street. That same year Mrs. Edward Harriman sold her substantial shares in New York’s Guaranty Trust Bank to J.P. Morgan, creating Morgan Guaranty Trust. Judge Louis Brandeis convinced President Woodrow Wilson to call for an end to interlocking board directorates. In 1914 the Clayton Anti-Trust Act was passed.
Jack Morgan – J. Pierpont’s son and successor – responded by calling on Morgan clients Remington and Winchester to increase arms production. He argued that the US needed to enter WWI. Goaded by the Carnegie Foundation and other oligarchy fronts, Wilson accommodated. As Charles Tansill wrote in America Goes to War, “Even before the clash of arms, the French firm of Rothschild Freres cabled to Morgan & Company in New York suggesting the flotation of a loan of $100 million, a substantial part of which was to be left in the US to pay for French purchases of American goods.”
The House of Morgan financed half the US war effort, while receiving commissions for lining up contractors like GE, Du Pont, US Steel, Kennecott and ASARCO. All were Morgan clients. Morgan also financed the British Boer War in South Africa and the Franco-Prussian War. The 1919 Paris Peace Conference was presided over by Morgan, which led both German and Allied reconstruction efforts. 
In the 1930’s populism resurfaced in America after Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bank and others profited from the Crash of 1929.  House Banking Committee Chairman Louis McFadden (D-NY) said of the Great Depression, “It was no accident. It was a carefully contrived occurrence…The international bankers sought to bring about a condition of despair here so they might emerge as rulers of us all”.
Sen. Gerald Nye (D-ND) chaired a munitions investigation in 1936. Nye concluded that the House of Morgan had plunged the US into WWI to protect loans and create a booming arms industry. Nye later produced a document titled The Next War, which cynically referred to “the old goddess of democracy trick”, through which Japan could be used to lure the US into WWII.
In 1937 Interior Secretary Harold Ickes warned of the influence of “America’s 60 Families”. Historian Ferdinand Lundberg later penned a book of the exact same title. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas decried, “Morgan influence…the most pernicious one in industry and finance today.”
Jack Morgan responded by nudging the US towards WWII. Morgan had close relations with the Iwasaki and Dan families – Japan’s two wealthiest clans – who have owned Mitsubishi and Mitsui, respectively, since the companies emerged from 17th Century shogunates. When Japan invaded Manchuria, slaughtering Chinese peasants at Nanking, Morgan downplayed the incident. Morgan also had close relations with Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, while German Nazi Dr. Hjalmer Schacht was a Morgan Bank liaison during WWII. After the war Morgan representatives met with Schacht at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland. 
The House of Rockefeller
BIS is the most powerful bank in the world, a global central bank for the Eight Families who control the private central banks of almost all Western and developing nations. The first President of BIS was Rockefeller banker Gates McGarrah- an official at Chase Manhattan and the Federal Reserve. McGarrah was the grandfather of former CIA director Richard Helms. The Rockefellers- like the Morgans- had close ties to London. David Icke writes in Children of the Matrix, that the Rockefellers and Morgans were just “gofers” for the European Rothschilds. 
BIS is owned by the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Bank of Italy, Bank of Canada, Swiss National Bank, Nederlandsche Bank, Bundesbank and Bank of France.
Historian Carroll Quigley wrote in his epic book Tragedy and Hope that BIS was part of a plan, “to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole…to be controlled in a feudalistic fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert by secret agreements.”
The US government had a historical distrust of BIS, lobbying unsuccessfully for its demise at the 1944 post-WWII Bretton Woods Conference. Instead the Eight Families’ power was exacerbated, with the Bretton Woods creation of the IMF and the World Bank. The US Federal Reserve only took shares in BIS in September 1994. 
BIS holds at least 10% of monetary reserves for at least 80 of the world’s central banks, the IMF and other multilateral institutions. It serves as financial agent for international agreements, collects information on the global economy and serves as lender of last resort to prevent global financial collapse.
BIS promotes an agenda of monopoly capitalist fascism. It gave a bridge loan to Hungary in the 1990’s to ensure privatization of that country’s economy. It served as conduit for Eight Families funding of Adolf Hitler- led by the Warburg’s J. Henry Schroeder and Mendelsohn Bank of Amsterdam. Many researchers assert that BIS is at the nadir of global drug money laundering. 
It is no coincidence that BIS is headquartered in Switzerland, favorite hiding place for the wealth of the global aristocracy and headquarters for the P-2 Italian Freemason’s Alpina Lodge and Nazi International. Other institutions which the Eight Families control include the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Conference and the World Trade Organization.
Bretton Woods was a boon to the Eight Families. The IMF and World Bank were central to this “new world order”. In 1944 the first World Bank bonds were floated by Morgan Stanley and First Boston. The French Lazard family became more involved in House of Morgan interests. Lazard Freres- France’s biggest investment bank- is owned by the Lazard and David-Weill families- old Genoese banking scions represented by Michelle Davive. A recent Chairman and CEO of Citigroup was Sanford Weill.
In 1968 Morgan Guaranty launched Euro-Clear, a Brussels-based bank clearing system for Eurodollar securities. It was the first such automated endeavor. Some took to calling Euro-Clear “The Beast”. Brussels serves as headquarters for the new European Central Bank and for NATO. In 1973 Morgan officials met secretly in Bermuda to illegally resurrect the old House of Morgan, twenty years before Glass Steagal Act was repealed. Morgan and the Rockefellers provided the financial backing for Merrill Lynch, boosting it into the Big 5 of US investment banking. Merrill is now part of Bank of America.
John D. Rockefeller used his oil wealth to acquire Equitable Trust, which had gobbled up several large banks and corporations by the 1920’s. The Great Depression helped consolidate Rockefeller’s power. His Chase Bank merged with Kuhn Loeb’s Manhattan Bank to form Chase Manhattan, cementing a long-time family relationship. The Kuhn-Loeb’s had financed – along with Rothschilds – Rockefeller’s quest to become king of the oil patch. National City Bank of Cleveland provided John D. with the money needed to embark upon his monopolization of the US oil industry. The bank was identified in Congressional hearings as being one of three Rothschild-owned banks in the US during the 1870’s, when Rockefeller first incorporated as Standard Oil of Ohio. 
One Rockefeller Standard Oil partner was Edward Harkness, whose family came to control Chemical Bank. Another was James Stillman, whose family controlled Manufacturers Hanover Trust. Both banks have merged under the JP Morgan Chase umbrella. Two of James Stillman’s daughters married two of William Rockefeller’s sons. The two families control a big chunk of Citigroup as well. 
In the insurance business, the Rockefellers control Metropolitan Life, Equitable Life, Prudential and New York Life. Rockefeller banks control 25% of all assets of the 50 largest US commercial banks and 30% of all assets of the 50 largest insurance companies.  Insurance companies- the first in the US was launched by Freemasons through their Woodman’s of America- play a key role in the Bermuda drug money shuffle.
Companies under Rockefeller control include Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, BP Amoco, Marathon Oil, Freeport McMoran, Quaker Oats, ASARCO, United, Delta, Northwest, ITT, International Harvester, Xerox, Boeing, Westinghouse, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, International Paper, Pfizer, Motorola, Monsanto, Union Carbide and General Foods.
The Rockefeller Foundation has close financial ties to both Ford and Carnegie Foundations. Other family philanthropic endeavors include Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, General Education Board, Rockefeller University and the University of Chicago- which churns out a steady stream of far right economists as apologists for international capital, including Milton Friedman.
The family owns 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where the national Christmas tree is lighted every year, and Rockefeller Center. David Rockefeller was instrumental in the construction of the World Trade Center towers. The main Rockefeller family home is a hulking complex in upstate New York known as Pocantico Hills. They also own a 32-room 5th Avenue duplex in Manhattan, a mansion in Washington, DC, Monte Sacro Ranch in Venezuela, coffee plantations in Ecuador, several farms in Brazil, an estate at Seal Harbor, Maine and resorts in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. 
The Dulles and Rockefeller families are cousins. Allen Dulles created the CIA, assisted the Nazis, covered up the Kennedy hit from his Warren Commission perch and struck a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood to create mind-controlled assassins. 
Brother John Foster Dulles presided over the phony Goldman Sachs trusts before the 1929 stock market crash and helped his brother overthrow governments in Iran and Guatemala. Both were Skull & Bones, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) insiders and 33rd Degree Masons. 
The Rockefellers were instrumental in forming the depopulation-oriented Club of Rome at their family estate in Bellagio, Italy. Their Pocantico Hills estate gave birth to the Trilateral Commission. The family is a major funder of the eugenics movement which spawned Hitler, human cloning and the current DNA obsession in US scientific circles.
John Rockefeller Jr. headed the Population Council until his death.  His namesake son is a Senator from West Virginia. Brother Winthrop Rockefeller was Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas and remains the most powerful man in that state. In an October 1975 interview with Playboy magazine, Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller- who was also Governor of New York- articulated his family’s patronizing worldview, “I am a great believer in planning- economic, social, political, military, total world planning.”
But of all the Rockefeller brothers, it is Trilateral Commission (TC) founder and Chase Manhattan Chairman David who has spearheaded the family’s fascist agenda on a global scale. He defended the Shah of Iran, the South African apartheid regime and the Chilean Pinochet junta. He was the biggest financier of the CFR, the TC and (during the Vietnam War) the Committee for an Effective and Durable Peace in Asia- a contract bonanza for those who made their living off the conflict.
Nixon asked him to be Secretary of Treasury, but Rockefeller declined the job, knowing his power was much greater at the helm of the Chase. Author Gary Allen writes in The Rockefeller File that in 1973, “David Rockefeller met with twenty-seven heads of state, including the rulers of Russia and Red China.”
Following the 1975 Nugan Hand Bank/CIA coup against Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, his British Crown-appointed successor Malcolm Fraser sped to the US, where he met with President Gerald Ford after conferring with David Rockefeller. 
Next Week: Part II: Freemasons & The Bank of the United States
Read the entire article HERE.
Federal Banking Regulators Expose Massive Mortgage Backed Securities Fraud as Part of Fraudclosure Investigation
From the InterAgency Report:
The Federal Reserve System, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), referred to as the agencies, conducted on-site reviews of foreclosure processing at 14 federally regulated mortgage servicers during the fourth quarter of 2010.1 This report provides a summary of the review findings and an overview of the potential impacts associated with instances of foreclosure-processing weaknesses that occurred industrywide.
Promissory Notes are “negotiable instruments” and have a face value similar to cash. The mortgage trusts all have clear criteria for the storage of the notes. All of the SEC filings I have read in regards to these trusts name a document custodian, usually the trustee. I have not yet seen even one trust prospectus or pooling and servicing agreement (PAS) where the servicer is named the document custodian. Here’s an example, of a trust where Bank of America is the servicer, Wells Fargo is the Trustee of Banc of America Mortgage 2006-B Trust (prospectus here). Note that instead of BoA as servicer for this trust, Wells Fargo as trustee is tasked with document custodian duties!
In addition, the Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement will provide the Depositor with remedies against the Sponsor for the failure by the Sponsor to deliver the Mortgage Loan documentation required to be delivered to the Trustee or a custodian under the Pooling Agreement.
Wells Fargo Bank, National Association (“Wells Fargo Bank”) will act as Trustee and custodian under the Pooling Agreement.
Wells Fargo Bank will also act as custodian of the Mortgage Files pursuant to the Pooling Agreement.
In that capacity, Wells Fargo Bank is responsible to hold and safeguard the Mortgage Notes and other contents of the Mortgage Files on behalf of the Certificateholders. Wells Fargo Bank maintains each Mortgage File in a separate file folder marked with a unique bar code to assure loan-level file integrity and to assist in inventory management. Files are segregated by transaction or investor. Wells Fargo Bank has been engaged in the mortgage document custody business for more than 25 years. Wells Fargo Bank maintains document custody facilities in its Minneapolis, Minnesota headquarters and in three regional offices located in Richfield, Minnesota, Irvine, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. As of June 30, 2006, Wells Fargo Bank maintains mortgage custody vaults in each of those locations with an aggregate capacity of over eleven million files.
Last fall, we got hints of the expected-yet-still-shocking revelation via a Countrywide/BoA employee, Linda DeMartini (testimony here), exposed the securities fraud practices in a depo taken during a NJ bankruptcy case, Kemp v Countrywide.
A direct quotation from the judge’s opinion in the bankruptcy case: “She [DeMartini] testified further that it was customary for Countrywide to maintain possession of the original note and related loan documents.” That assertion certainly seems to suggest that the failure to transfer a promissory note from Countrywide Financial to the security trust in this case was not an isolated error—but a matter of policy at Countrywide Financial.
If mortgage-backed securities aren’t in fact “mortgage-backed,” investors who bought these securities from Countrywide could hold Bank of America accountable.
“If Countrywide’s practice was to hold onto the note, then investors in this pool and others may question whether the security was constructed properly and legally and may be able to require Bank of America to buy back their securities,” Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times explained.
FROM PAGE 3 OF THE INTERAGENCY REPORT: The reviews also showed that servicers possessed original notes and mortgages. (NOTE THAT THE SERVICERS, NOT THE TRUSTEES ARE IN POSSESSION OF THE ORIGINAL NOTES & MORTGAGES)
FROM PAGE 4 (oddly it appears third party vendors where tasked with negotiable instrument document custodian duties) Third-party vendor management. Examiners generally found adequate evidence of physical control and possession of original notes and mortgages.
FROM PAGE 6 Furthermore, concerns about the prevalence of irregularities in the documentation of ownership may cause uncertainty for investors of securitized mortgages. Servicers and their affiliates also face significant reputational risk with their borrowers, with the court system, and with regulators.
FROM PAGE 7 (Keep in mind the financial sector’s propensity to fabricate evidence. Note the slippery language “may not have been sufficient” & “generally was sufficient”.): ..examiners noted instances where documentation in the foreclosure file alone may not have been sufficient to prove ownership of the note at the time the foreclosure action commenced without reference to additional information. When additional information was requested and provided to examiners, it generally was sufficient to determine ownership.
Read the entier article HERE.
By Bradley Keoun and Craig Torres
Apr 1, 2011 10:53 AM PT
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s two-year fight to shield crisis-squeezed banks from the stigma of revealing their public loans protected a lender to local governments in Belgium, a Japanese fishing-cooperative financier and a company part-owned by the Central Bank of Libya.
Dexia SA (DEXB), based in Brussels and Paris, borrowed as much as $33.5 billion through its New York branch from the Fed’s “discount window” lending program, according to Fed documents released yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Dublin-based Depfa Bank Plc, taken over in 2007 by a German real-estate lender later seized by the German government, drew $24.5 billion.
The biggest borrowers from the 97-year-old discount window as the program reached its crisis-era peak were foreign banks, accounting for at least 70 percent of the $110.7 billion borrowed during the week in October 2008 when use of the program surged to a record. The disclosures may stoke a reexamination of the risks posed to U.S. taxpayers by the central bank’s role in global financial markets.
“The caricature of the Fed is that it was shoveling money to big New York banks and a bunch of foreigners, and that is not conducive to its long-run reputation,” said Vincent Reinhart, the Fed’s director of monetary affairs from 2001 to 2007.
Separate data disclosed in December on temporary emergency- lending programs set up by the Fed also showed big foreign banks as borrowers. Six European banks were among the top 11 companies that sold the most debt overall — a combined $274.1 billion — to the Commercial Paper Funding Facility.
The discount window, which began lending in 1914, is the Fed’s primary program for providing cash to banks to help them avert a liquidity squeeze. In an April 2009 speech, Bernanke said that revealing the names of discount-window borrowers “might lead market participants to infer weakness.”
The Fed released the documents after court orders upheld FOIA requests filed by Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, and News Corp.’s Fox News Network LLC. In all, the Fed released more than 29,000 pages of documents, covering the discount window and several Fed emergency-lending programs established during the crisis from August 2007 to March 2010.
“The American people are going to be outraged when they understand what has been going on,” U.S. Representative Ron Paul, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Fed, said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
“What in the world are we doing thinking we can pass out tens of billions of dollars to banks that are overseas?” said Paul, who has advocated abolishing the Fed. “We have problems here at home with people not being able to pay their mortgages, and they’re losing their homes.”
David Skidmore, a Fed spokesman, declined to comment. Fed officials have said all the discount window loans made during the worst financial crisis since the 1930s have been repaid with interest.
The Monetary Control Act of 1980 says that a U.S. branch or agency of a foreign bank that maintains reserves at a Fed bank may receive discount-window credit.
“Our job is to provide liquidity to keep the American economy going,” Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve’s regional bank in Dallas, told reporters today. “The loans were all paid back and they were well-collateralized.”
Wachovia Corp. was the only U.S. bank among the top five discount-window borrowers as the crisis peaked.
The company, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, borrowed $29 billion from the discount window on Oct. 6, in the week after it almost collapsed, the data show. Wachovia agreed in principle to sell itself to Citigroup Inc. on Sept. 29, before announcing a definitive agreement to sell itself to Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) on Oct. 3. The Wells Fargo deal closed at the end of 2008.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Eshet declined to comment on Wachovia’s discount-window borrowing.
Bank of Scotland Plc, which had $11 billion outstanding from the discount window on Oct. 29, 2008, was a unit of Edinburgh-based HBOS Plc, which announced its takeover by London-based Lloyds TSB Group Plc in September 2008.
The borrowings in 2008 didn’t involve Lloyds, which hadn’t completed its acquisition of HBOS at the time, said Sara Evans, a spokeswoman for the company, which is now called Lloyds Banking Group Plc. (LLOY)
“This is historic usage and on each occasion the borrowing was repaid at maturity,” Evans said. “The discount window has not been accessed by the group since.”
Other foreign discount-window borrowers on Oct. 29, 2008, included Societe Generale (GLE) SA, France’s second-biggest bank; and Norinchukin Bank, which finances and provides services to Japanese agricultural, fishing and forestry cooperatives. Paris- based Societe Generale borrowed $5 billion that day, and Tokyo- based Norinchukin borrowed $6 billion.
Jim Galvin, a spokesman for Societe Generale, declined to comment.
“We used it in concert with Japanese and U.S. authorities in the purpose of contributing to the stabilization of the market,” said Fumiaki Tanaka, a spokesman at Norinchukin.
Bank of China
Bank of China, the country’s oldest bank, was the second- largest borrower from the Fed’s discount window during a nine- day period in August 2007 as subprime-mortgage defaults first roiled broader markets. The Chinese bank’s New York branch borrowed $198 million on Aug. 17 of that month.
“It was just routine borrowing,” said Dale Zhu, head of the Bank of China New York branch’s treasury.
Two Deutsche Bank AG divisions borrowed $1 billion each, according to a document released yesterday.
Arab Banking Corp., then 29 percent-owned by the Libyan central bank, used its New York branch to get at least 73 loans from the Fed in the 18 months after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed. The largest single loan amount outstanding was $1.2 billion in July 2009, according to the Fed documents.
The foreign banks took advantage of Fed lending programs even as their host countries moved to prop them up or orchestrate takeovers.
Dexia received billions of euros in capital and funding guarantees from France, Belgium and Luxembourg during the credit crunch.
The Fed loans were “secured by high-quality U.S. dollar municipal securities,” and used only to fund U.S. loans, bonds and other financial assets, Ulrike Pommee, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mail.
“The Fed played its role as central banker, providing liquidity to banks that needed it,” she said, adding that Dexia’s outstanding balance at the Fed has been reduced to zero. “This information is backward-looking.”
Depfa was taken over in October 2007 by Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, which in turn was seized by the German government in 2009.
“Since the end of May 2010, Depfa is not making use of the Federal Reserve Discount Window,” Oliver Gruss, a spokesman for the bank, said in an e-mailed statement. He declined to comment further.
Many foreign banks own large pools of dollar assets — bonds, securities and loans — funded by short-term borrowings in money markets. The system works when markets are calm, said Dino Kos, former executive vice president at the New York Fed in charge of open-market operations. In times of stress, banks can be subject to sudden liquidity squeezes, he said.
“They are playing with fire,” said Kos, a managing director at Hamiltonian Associates Ltd. in New York, an economic research firm. “When the market dries up, and they can’t roll over their funding — bingo, you have a liquidity crisis.”
The potential for dollar shortages remains. As the Greek fiscal crisis roiled financial markets last year, the Fed had to open swap lines with the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of England and two other central banks to make more dollars available around the world. That move was partially the result of U.S. money market funds shrinking their exposure to European bank commercial paper.
Bloomberg News is posting the Fed documents here for subscribers to the Bloomberg Professional Service as well as online at www.bloomberg.com.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Dan Freed
03/21/11 – 12:28 PM EDT
NEW YORK (TheStreet) — The Federal Reserve will release data on bank borrowing during the financial crisis of 2008, after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the banking industry aimed at preventing the disclosures, Bloomberg News reported Monday.
Bloomberg sued the Federal Reserve to get it to release the data, and a Fed spokesman said the U.S. central bank will comply with the decision and release the records within the next five days.
It will be the first time a court has forced the central bank to disclose borrowing at its discount window, according to the report.
The Clearing House Association, which represents U.S. banking subsidiaries of Bank of America(BAC_), Bank of New York Mellon(BK_), Citigroup(C_), Deutsche Bank(DB_), HSBC(HBC_), JPMorgan Chase(JPM_), U.S. Bancorp(USB_) and Wells Fargo(WFC_) had argued such disclosures would make banks less likely to borrow at the discount window in the future for fear disclosure of those actions would attach a stigma to the institution, the report stated.
Submitted by Tyler Durden
03/18/2011 11:11 -0400
Following the clusterflock of black swans that has hit world markets in the past month, the Fed has realized it needs to act quick to distribute money to undercapitalized bank shareholders ahead of the upcoming bank sector bail out, which will naturally be funded by taxpayers all over again. According to the Fed, the 19 worst banks in America (in other words those that are allowed to issue dividends) are: Ally Financial Inc. (no, really, f/k/a GMAC is healthy), American Express Company, Bank of America Corporation, The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, BB&T Corporation, Capital One Financial Corporation, Citigroup Inc., Fifth Third Bancorp, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Keycorp, MetLife, Inc., Morgan Stanley, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., Regions Financial Corporation, State Street Corporation, SunTrust Banks, Inc., U.S. Bancorp, and Wells Fargo & Company. The surge in share prices of the mentioned banks confirms that this is nothing but the latest round of Fed-endorsed taxpayer rape, which nobody can do anything against as the Fed is an “unsupervised” entity, DC is owned by Wall Street, and the peasantry is downloading porn on their iPad.
Full Fed press release:
The Federal Reserve on Friday announced it has completed the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), its cross- institution study of the capital plans of the 19 largest U.S. bank holding companies.
As a result of the CCAR, some firms are expected to increase or restart dividend payments, buy back shares, or repay government capital. The Federal Reserve on Friday will discuss the reviews and its decisions with firms that requested a capital action.
All 19 firms will receive more detailed assessments of their capital planning processes next month.
In February 2009, the Federal Reserve advised bank holding companies that safety and soundness considerations required that dividends be substantially reduced or eliminated. Since that time, the Federal Reserve has indicated that increased capital distributions would generally not be considered prudent in the absence of a well-developed capital plan and a capital position that would remain strong even under adverse conditions.
The Federal Reserve’s actions on capital distributions come after significant improvement in both economic conditions and the capital positions of financial institutions. From the end of
2008 through 2010, common equity increased by more than $300 billion at the 19 largest U.S. bank holding companies. Moreover, conclusion of the Basel III agreement to increase capital requirements and passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act have substantially clarified the regulatory environment in which these firms will be operating.
The return of capital to shareholders under appropriate conditions is a step in the process of improvement in the financial sector and will help to promote banks’ long-term access to capital. Such access will support lending to consumers and businesses. The capital plan reviews foster appropriate capital distributions in a measured fashion while still helping to ensure continued increases in firms’ capital bases.
These supervisory reviews by the Federal Reserve come in the context of a significant change in supervisors’ expectations for firms’ substantive capital policies and capital planning processes. Among other things:
Firms are expected to demonstrate their ability to remain viable financial intermediaries as they make the planned capital distributions, even under stressed conditions;
Firms are expected to continue to increase their capital base; In 2011, firms generally are expected to limit dividends to 30 percent or less of anticipated earnings;
Planned share repurchases will be reviewed if there are material adverse deviations from the revenue and loss assumptions in a firm’s capital plan such that capital is not increasing as anticipated; and in the event of a sharp deterioration in economic conditions that could have negative implications for safety and soundness, the Federal Reserve may require modification of previously submitted capital plans.
The CCAR involves a forward-looking, detailed evaluation of capital planning and stress scenario analysis at the 19 large bank holding companies. Although it was not standardized to the degree the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP) was in early 2009, it builds on the experience gained during that exercise. In the CCAR, the Federal Reserve assessed the firm’s ability, after taking into account the proposed capital actions, to maintain sufficient capital levels to continue lending in stressed economic environments, including under an adverse scenario specified by the Federal Reserve. The adverse scenario was intended to represent developments in a typical recession, with a decline in economic growth, a rise in unemployment, and a sharp drop in risky asset prices (for details, please see Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review: Objectives and Overview, attached). Federal Reserve supervisors carefully analyzed and adjusted as appropriate projections of stressed revenues and losses provided by the firms in the CCAR.
It is important to note that there are a number of reasons why firms participating in the CCAR may not be making capital distributions this quarter. For example, a firm may not have requested approval of any such action, Federal Reserve supervisors may have believed a requested distribution was too high at this time and could weaken the firm’s ability to weather adverse economic conditions, or supervisors may not have been comfortable with the capital planning process underlying the request. Firms may resubmit capital proposals each quarter, with their prospects for an answer of no objection dependent on their responses to any concerns raised during the CCAR.
Read the entire article HERE.
Imagine if you will that you are walking down the street flush with pay day cash when a mugger steals your wallet. Several people witness this theft, and all are willing to testify on your behalf. Unfortunately, the cop who apprehends our felon, rather than slap cuffs on him, suggests that he take the cash and the credit cards and pop into a nearby Tiffany’s to see if there is anything the wife might like. With a bagful of blue boxes in hand, the thief returns the cash empty wallet with maxed out credit cards to the cop. Our protector then turns to us and hands us a newly minted financial burden with a shrug.
A seemingly ridiculous scenario, but one that has occurred repeatedly in the last decade. Some thieves didn’t get away. Jeff Skilling, Dennis Kozloski, and Bernie Madoff, to name a few, are all doing time for their frauds. While their crimes hurt a lot of people, none participated in the near collapse of the financial system we experienced just a few short years ago. Those particular bandits have mostly escaped without prosecution and with a boat load of cash.
The following three crooks had an impact on your life, whether as a victim of deceptive lending practices, falling portfolio values, or by losing your job as a result of an economy that spiraled out of control when the methods they used to enrich themselves imploded …
“Listen, suckers were throwing money at us from both sides, you think I would turn a blind eye to that?”
Remember how the whole mess started in sub-prime mortgages, a large chuck of which were originated at Countrywide Financial (now owned by Bank of America) under the leadership of Angelo Mozilo. Mozilo co-founded Countrywide in 1969 along with the now defunct IndyMac Bank, both of which, for the most part, were standard mortgage originators until the housing bubble started inflating.
Mozilo and Countrywide did not create products like the option ARM, the 80-20 product, FlexPay, or any of the other dubious mortgage products that were developed in the early 2000s, but they swooped into the fray when it was clear that there was money to be made. In fact, according to the Center for Public Integrity, Countrywide was the top subprime lender between 2005 and 2007, originating $97 billion in loans at the peak of the housing market.
From 2001-2006, Mozilo is estimated to have received total compensation of $470 million. That includes $140 million in stock he sold prior to Countrywide’s demise. In fact, in a 2006 e-mail written just days after the massive sale, Mozilo is quoted as saying, “We have no way, with any reasonable certainty, to assess the real risk of holding these loans on our balance sheet.”
During the period that Mozilo disposed of chunks of his shares, Countrywide was engaged in an aggressive share buyback program. How can a CEO possibly justify a share buyback while unceremoniously dumping the stock?
Publicly, while reducing guidance for 2006 in October of that year, Mozilo continued to tout the strength of Countrywide and cited expected improvement of results from refinancing activity, while downplaying the real risk to the balance sheet.
For not disclosing the full extent of the risks a declining housing market posed to Countrywide’s portfolio, and for selling the stock while clearly in possession on material non-public information, Mozilo paid $67.5 million in fines, and the criminal investigation has been recently dropped. Not only is that a paltry sum for a man purportedly worth as much as $600 million, but $45 million of that is being paid by Bank of America as part of its obligations in the takeover of Countrywide.
It simply makes your head spin.
“I can’t hide myself very well, so how could I be hiding anything else?”
Cassano, former head of AIG Financial Products, is the man “credited” with the collapse of the insurance giant. Cassano amassed large returns for his division and AIG by writing insurance on bond portfolios in the form of Credit Default Swaps (CDS)– and that was fine, when he was winning. He bragged about his large, unhedged positions, fought internal audits that valued the swaps far below Cassano’s claims, and claimed that his products were so safe that investors would not lose as much as $1.
For a time the con was successful, but as the housing market began to crumble and the mortgages insured by Cassano’s CDS began to default, write offs began to mount. As late as December of 2007, Cassano still had AIG CEO Martin Sullivan convinced. Sullivan commented at the time that the probability of the housing crisis causing losses at AIG were “close to zero,” despite the fact that the company was witting off $1.1 billion as a result of CDS covering American mortgages. Two months later, that number became $11.1 billion, and the death spiral began.
For the eight year period from 2000-2008, Cassano earned roughly $315 million, including a $35 million bonus received after the collapse of the insurance giant and the $182 billion tax payer funded bailout. Despite clear evidence that he sought to conceal the massive problems in his division, no criminal charges have been filed.
How this cannot be considered fraud raises serious questions about the effectiveness of our legal system when it comes to financial crimes.
Fuld headed Lehman Brothers from 1994 until its collapse in 2008, and received total compensation in excess of $500 million, although he claims it was only $310 million. Under Fuld, Lehman engaged in some serious financial chicanery using what is known as “Repo 105″.
Repos, or Repurchase agreements, are used throughout the financial sector as a means of balancing the books for short periods. The Federal Reserve is active in the repo market, providing temporary funds collateralized by some securities (usually Treasuries) with an agreement that the receiver of the funds will repurchase the securities at a later date for a specified amount. All part of normal business, and the process basically amounts to a secured loan.
The thing that Lehman discovered is that, if you over collateralize a loan, you can treat it as a sale of assets, not a loan, despite the fact that you are contractually bound to repurchase your collateral. The name “Repo 105″ stems from the loop hole that allowed Lehman to use $105 of collateral for $100 in cash.
So at quarter end, when the company’s financials would come under scrutiny in coincidence with its earnings release, Lehman routinely “sold” assets under the repo agreement and used the proceeds to pay off some debt, thereby reducing leverage and “improving” its financial condition. A few weeks after earnings, Lehman would releverage by borrowing to repurchase the assets.
Fuld claims that he had no knowledge of the Repo 105 transactions, despite the fact that in one quarter Lehman used the transactions to “remove” as much as $50 billion of assets and debt from its balance sheet.
Now I am not the CEO of a large securities firm, but if I were, and my numbers changed for a few days by $50 billion, I think I might notice. So either Fuld is a complete idiot and should never have been doing anything more mentally strenuous than finger painting, or he is complicit in what amounts to fraudulent reporting.
As yet, no charges or penalties have been levied against Fuld.
Read the entire article HERE.