Posts Tagged ‘Ben Bernanke’
The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix
by Matt Taibbi
April 25, 2013 1:00 PM ET
Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.
You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”
That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.
Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.
It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.
Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.
“It’s a double conspiracy,” says an amazed Michael Greenberger, a former director of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and now a professor at the University of Maryland. “It’s the height of criminality.”
The bad news didn’t stop with swaps and interest rates. In March, it also came out that two regulators – the CFTC here in the U.S. and the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions – were spurred by the Libor revelations to investigate the possibility of collusive manipulation of gold and silver prices. “Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks – many other benchmarks – are legit areas of inquiry,” CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.
But the biggest shock came out of a federal courtroom at the end of March – though if you follow these matters closely, it may not have been so shocking at all – when a landmark class-action civil lawsuit against the banks for Libor-related offenses was dismissed. In that case, a federal judge accepted the banker-defendants’ incredible argument: If cities and towns and other investors lost money because of Libor manipulation, that was their own fault for ever thinking the banks were competing in the first place.
“A farce,” was one antitrust lawyer’s response to the eyebrow-raising dismissal.
“Incredible,” says Sylvia Sokol, an attorney for Constantine Cannon, a firm that specializes in antitrust cases.
All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation’s GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it’s increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system.
If true, that would leave us living in an era of undisguised, real-world conspiracy, in which the prices of currencies, commodities like gold and silver, even interest rates and the value of money itself, can be and may already have been dictated from above. And those who are doing it can get away with it. Forget the Illuminati – this is the real thing, and it’s no secret. You can stare right at it, anytime you want.
The banks found a loophole, a basic flaw in the machine. Across the financial system, there are places where prices or official indices are set based upon unverified data sent in by private banks and financial companies. In other words, we gave the players with incentives to game the system institutional roles in the economic infrastructure.
Libor, which measures the prices banks charge one another to borrow money, is a perfect example, not only of this basic flaw in the price-setting system but of the weakness in the regulatory framework supposedly policing it. Couple a voluntary reporting scheme with too-big-to-fail status and a revolving-door legal system, and what you get is unstoppable corruption.
Every morning, 18 of the world’s biggest banks submit data to an office in London about how much they believe they would have to pay to borrow from other banks. The 18 banks together are called the “Libor panel,” and when all of these data from all 18 panelist banks are collected, the numbers are averaged out. What emerges, every morning at 11:30 London time, are the daily Libor figures.
Banks submit numbers about borrowing in 10 different currencies across 15 different time periods, e.g., loans as short as one day and as long as one year. This mountain of bank-submitted data is used every day to create benchmark rates that affect the prices of everything from credit cards to mortgages to currencies to commercial loans (both short- and long-term) to swaps.
Dating back perhaps as far as the early Nineties, traders and others inside these banks were sometimes calling up the company geeks responsible for submitting the daily Libor numbers (the “Libor submitters”) and asking them to fudge the numbers. Usually, the gimmick was the trader had made a bet on something – a swap, currencies, something – and he wanted the Libor submitter to make the numbers look lower (or, occasionally, higher) to help his bet pay off.
Famously, one Barclays trader monkeyed with Libor submissions in exchange for a bottle of Bollinger champagne, but in some cases, it was even lamer than that. This is from an exchange between a trader and a Libor submitter at the Royal Bank of Scotland:
SWISS FRANC TRADER: can u put 6m swiss libor in low pls?…
PRIMARY SUBMITTER: Whats it worth
SWSISS FRANC TRADER: ive got some sushi rolls from yesterday?…
PRIMARY SUBMITTER: ok low 6m, just for u
SWISS FRANC TRADER: wooooooohooooooo.?.?. thatd be awesome
Screwing around with world interest rates that affect billions of people in exchange for day-old sushi – it’s hard to imagine an image that better captures the moral insanity of the modern financial-services sector.
Hundreds of similar exchanges were uncovered when regulators like Britain’s Financial Services Authority and the U.S. Justice Department started burrowing into the befouled entrails of Libor. The documentary evidence of anti-competitive manipulation they found was so overwhelming that, to read it, one almost becomes embarrassed for the banks. “It’s just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money,” chirped one yen trader. “Pure manipulation going on,” wrote another.
Yet despite so many instances of at least attempted manipulation, the banks mostly skated. Barclays got off with a relatively minor fine in the $450 million range, UBS was stuck with $1.5 billion in penalties, and RBS was forced to give up $615 million. Apart from a few low-level flunkies overseas, no individual involved in this scam that impacted nearly everyone in the industrialized world was even threatened with criminal prosecution.
Two of America’s top law-enforcement officials, Attorney General Eric Holder and former Justice Department Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer, confessed that it’s dangerous to prosecute offending banks because they are simply too big. Making arrests, they say, might lead to “collateral consequences” in the economy.
The relatively small sums of money extracted in these settlements did not go toward reparations for the cities, towns and other victims who lost money due to Libor manipulation. Instead, it flowed mindlessly into government coffers. So it was left to towns and cities like Baltimore (which lost money due to fluctuations in their municipal investments caused by Libor movements), pensions like the New Britain, Connecticut, Firefighters’ and Police Benefit Fund, and other foundations – and even individuals (billionaire real-estate developer Sheldon Solow, who filed his own suit in February, claims that his company lost $450 million because of Libor manipulation) – to sue the banks for damages.
One of the biggest Libor suits was proceeding on schedule when, early in March, an army of superstar lawyers working on behalf of the banks descended upon federal judge Naomi Buchwald in the Southern District of New York to argue an extraordinary motion to dismiss. The banks’ legal dream team drew from heavyweight Beltway-connected firms like Boies Schiller (you remember David Boies represented Al Gore), Davis Polk (home of top ex-regulators like former SEC enforcement chief Linda Thomsen) and Covington & Burling, the onetime private-practice home of both Holder and Breuer.
The presence of Covington & Burling in the suit – representing, of all companies, Citigroup, the former employer of current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew – was particularly galling. Right as the Libor case was being dismissed, the firm had hired none other than Lanny Breuer, the same Lanny Breuer who, just a few months before, was the assistant attorney general who had balked at criminally prosecuting UBS over Libor because, he said, “Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution.”
In any case, this all-star squad of white-shoe lawyers came before Buchwald and made the mother of all audacious arguments. Robert Wise of Davis Polk, representing Bank of America, told Buchwald that the banks could not possibly be guilty of anti- competitive collusion because nobody ever said that the creation of Libor was competitive. “It is essential to our argument that this is not a competitive process,” he said. “The banks do not compete with one another in the submission of Libor.”
But Wise eventually outdid even that argument, essentially saying that while the banks may have lied to or cheated their customers, they weren’t guilty of the particular crime of antitrust collusion. This is like the old joke about the lawyer who gets up in court and claims his client had to be innocent, because his client was committing a crime in a different state at the time of the offense.
“The plaintiffs, I believe, are confusing a claim of being perhaps deceived,” he said, “with a claim for harm to competition.”
Judge Buchwald swallowed this lunatic argument whole and dismissed most of the case. Libor, she said, was a “cooperative endeavor” that was “never intended to be competitive.” Her decision “does not reflect the reality of this business, where all of these banks were acting as competitors throughout the process,” said the antitrust lawyer Sokol. Buchwald made this ruling despite the fact that both the U.S. and British governments had already settled with three banks for billions of dollars for improper manipulation, manipulation that these companies admitted to in their settlements.
Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld LLP, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs in this Libor suit, declined to comment specifically on the dismissal. But he did talk about the significance of the Libor case and other manipulation cases now in the pipeline.
“It’s now evident that there is a ubiquitous culture among the banks to collude and cheat their customers as many times as they can in as many forms as they can conceive,” he said. “And that’s not just surmising. This is just based upon what they’ve been caught at.”
Greenberger says the lack of serious consequences for the Libor scandal has only made other kinds of manipulation more inevitable. “There’s no therapy like sending those who are used to wearing Gucci shoes to jail,” he says. “But when the attorney general says, ‘I don’t want to indict people,’ it’s the Wild West. There’s no law.”
The problem is, a number of markets feature the same infrastructural weakness that failed in the Libor mess. In the case of interest-rate swaps and the ISDAfix benchmark, the system is very similar to Libor, although the investigation into these markets reportedly focuses on some different types of improprieties.
Though interest-rate swaps are not widely understood outside the finance world, the root concept actually isn’t that hard. If you can imagine taking out a variable-rate mortgage and then paying a bank to make your loan payments fixed, you’ve got the basic idea of an interest-rate swap.
In practice, it might be a country like Greece or a regional government like Jefferson County, Alabama, that borrows money at a variable rate of interest, then later goes to a bank to “swap” that loan to a more predictable fixed rate. In its simplest form, the customer in a swap deal is usually paying a premium for the safety and security of fixed interest rates, while the firm selling the swap is usually betting that it knows more about future movements in interest rates than its customers.
Prices for interest-rate swaps are often based on ISDAfix, which, like Libor, is yet another of these privately calculated benchmarks. ISDAfix’s U.S. dollar rates are published every day, at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., after a gang of the same usual-suspect megabanks (Bank of America, RBS, Deutsche, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, etc.) submits information about bids and offers for swaps.
And here’s what we know so far: The CFTC has sent subpoenas to ICAP and to as many as 15 of those member banks, and plans to interview about a dozen ICAP employees from the company’s office in Jersey City, New Jersey. Moreover, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, or ISDA, which works together with ICAP (for U.S. dollar transactions) and Thomson Reuters to compute the ISDAfix benchmark, has hired the consulting firm Oliver Wyman to review the process by which ISDAfix is calculated. Oliver Wyman is the same company that the British Bankers’ Association hired to review the Libor submission process after that scandal broke last year. The upshot of all of this is that it looks very much like ISDAfix could be Libor all over again.
“It’s obviously reminiscent of the Libor manipulation issue,” Darrell Duffie, a finance professor at Stanford University, told reporters. “People may have been naive that simply reporting these rates was enough to avoid manipulation.”
And just like in Libor, the potential losers in an interest-rate-swap manipulation scandal would be the same sad-sack collection of cities, towns, companies and other nonbank entities that have no way of knowing if they’re paying the real price for swaps or a price being manipulated by bank insiders for profit. Moreover, ISDAfix is not only used to calculate prices for interest-rate swaps, it’s also used to set values for about $550 billion worth of bonds tied to commercial real estate, and also affects the payouts on some state-pension annuities.
So although it’s not quite as widespread as Libor, ISDAfix is sufficiently power-jammed into the world financial infrastructure that any manipulation of the rate would be catastrophic – and a huge class of victims that could include everyone from state pensioners to big cities to wealthy investors in structured notes would have no idea they were being robbed.
“How is some municipality in Cleveland or wherever going to know if it’s getting ripped off?” asks Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management, a fund manager who has long been an advocate of greater transparency in the derivatives world. “The answer is, they won’t know.”
Worse still, the CFTC investigation apparently isn’t limited to possible manipulation of swap prices by monkeying around with ISDAfix. According to reports, the commission is also looking at whether or not employees at ICAP may have intentionally delayed publication of swap prices, which in theory could give someone (bankers, cough, cough) a chance to trade ahead of the information.
Swap prices are published when ICAP employees manually enter the data on a computer screen called “19901.” Some 6,000 customers subscribe to a service that allows them to access the data appearing on the 19901 screen.
The key here is that unlike a more transparent, regulated market like the New York Stock Exchange, where the results of stock trades are computed more or less instantly and everyone in theory can immediately see the impact of trading on the prices of stocks, in the swap market the whole world is dependent upon a handful of brokers quickly and honestly entering data about trades by hand into a computer terminal.
Any delay in entering price data would provide the banks involved in the transactions with a rare opportunity to trade ahead of the information. One way to imagine it would be to picture a racetrack where a giant curtain is pulled over the track as the horses come down the stretch – and the gallery is only told two minutes later which horse actually won. Anyone on the right side of the curtain could make a lot of smart bets before the audience saw the results of the race.
At ICAP, the interest-rate swap desk, and the 19901 screen, were reportedly controlled by a small group of 20 or so brokers, some of whom were making millions of dollars. These brokers made so much money for themselves the unit was nicknamed “Treasure Island.”
Already, there are some reports that brokers of Treasure Island did create such intentional delays. Bloomberg interviewed a former broker who claims that he watched ICAP brokers delay the reporting of swap prices. “That allows dealers to tell the brokers to delay putting trades into the system instead of in real time,” Bloomberg wrote, noting the former broker had “witnessed such activity firsthand.” An ICAP spokesman has no comment on the story, though the company has released a statement saying that it is “cooperating” with the CFTC’s inquiry and that it “maintains policies that prohibit” the improper behavior alleged in news reports.
The idea that prices in a $379 trillion market could be dependent on a desk of about 20 guys in New Jersey should tell you a lot about the absurdity of our financial infrastructure. The whole thing, in fact, has a darkly comic element to it. “It’s almost hilarious in the irony,” says David Frenk, director of research for Better Markets, a financial-reform advocacy group, “that they called it ISDAfix.”
After scandals involving libor and, perhaps, ISDAfix, the question that should have everyone freaked out is this: What other markets out there carry the same potential for manipulation? The answer to that question is far from reassuring, because the potential is almost everywhere. From gold to gas to swaps to interest rates, prices all over the world are dependent upon little private cabals of cigar-chomping insiders we’re forced to trust.
“In all the over-the-counter markets, you don’t really have pricing except by a bunch of guys getting together,” Masters notes glumly.
That includes the markets for gold (where prices are set by five banks in a Libor-ish teleconferencing process that, ironically, was created in part by N M Rothschild & Sons) and silver (whose price is set by just three banks), as well as benchmark rates in numerous other commodities – jet fuel, diesel, electric power, coal, you name it. The problem in each of these markets is the same: We all have to rely upon the honesty of companies like Barclays (already caught and fined $453 million for rigging Libor) or JPMorgan Chase (paid a $228 million settlement for rigging municipal-bond auctions) or UBS (fined a collective $1.66 billion for both muni-bond rigging and Libor manipulation) to faithfully report the real prices of things like interest rates, swaps, currencies and commodities.
All of these benchmarks based on voluntary reporting are now being looked at by regulators around the world, and God knows what they’ll find. The European Federation of Financial Services Users wrote in an official EU survey last summer that all of these systems are ripe targets for manipulation. “In general,” it wrote, “those markets which are based on non-attested, voluntary submission of data from agents whose benefits depend on such benchmarks are especially vulnerable of market abuse and distortion.”
Translation: When prices are set by companies that can profit by manipulating them, we’re fucked.
“You name it,” says Frenk. “Any of these benchmarks is a possibility for corruption.”
The only reason this problem has not received the attention it deserves is because the scale of it is so enormous that ordinary people simply cannot see it. It’s not just stealing by reaching a hand into your pocket and taking out money, but stealing in which banks can hit a few keystrokes and magically make whatever’s in your pocket worth less. This is corruption at the molecular level of the economy, Space Age stealing – and it’s only just coming into view.
This story is from the May 9th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.
Startling Evidence That Central Banks And Wall Street Insiders Are Rapidly Preparing For Something BIG
If you want to figure out what is going to happen next in the financial markets, carefully watch what the insiders are doing. Those that are “connected” have access to far better sources of information than the rest of us have, and if they hear that something big is coming up they will often make very significant moves with their money in anticipation of what is about to happen. Right now, Wall Street insiders and central banks all around the globe are making some very unusual moves. In fact, they appear to be rapidly preparing for something really big. So exactly what are they up to? In a previous article entitled “Are The Government And The Big Banks Quietly Preparing For An Imminent Financial Collapse?“, I speculated that they may be preparing for a financial meltdown of some sort. As I noted in that article, more than 600 banking executiveshave resigned from their positions over the past 12 months, and I have been personally told that a substantial number of Wall Street bankers have been shopping for “prepper properties” this summer. But now even more evidence has emerged that quiet preparations are being made for an imminent financial collapse. That doesn’t guarantee that something will happen or won’t happen. Like any good detective, we are gathering clues and trying to figure out what the evidence is telling us.
Why Is George Soros Selling So Much Stock And Buying So Much Gold?
I am certainly not a fan of George Soros. He has funneled millions upon millions of dollars into organizations that are trying to take America in the exact wrong direction.
However, I do recognize that he is extremely well connected in the financial world. Soros is almost always ahead of the curve on financial matters, and if something big is going to go down George Soros is probably going to know about it ahead of time.
That is why it is very alarming that he has dumped all of his banking stocks and that he is massively hoarding gold. The following is from shtfplan.com….
In a harbinger of what may be coming our way in the Fall of 2012, billionaire financier George Soros has sold all of his equity positions in major financial stocks according to a 13-F report filed with the SEC for the quarter ending June 30, 2012.
Soros, who manages funds through various accounts in the US and the Cayman Islands, has reportedly unloaded over one million shares of stock in financial companies and banks that include Citigroup (420,000 shares), JP Morgan (701,400 shares) and Goldman Sachs (120,000 shares). The total value of the stock sales amounts to nearly $50 million.
What’s equally as interesting as his sale of major financials is where Soros has shifted his money. At the same time he was selling bank stocks, he was acquiring some 884,000 shares (approx. $130 million) of Gold via the SPDR Gold Trust.
Why would you dump over a million shares of stock in major banks and purchase more than 100 million dollars worth of gold?
Well, it would make perfect sense if you believed that a collapse of the financial system was about to happen.
Earlier this year, George Soros told the following to Newsweek….
“I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”
It looks like he is putting his money where his mouth is.
Perhaps even more disturbing is what he believes is coming after the financial collapse….
As anger rises, riots on the streets of American cities are inevitable. “Yes, yes, yes,” he says, almost gleefully. The response to the unrest could be more damaging than the violence itself. “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.”
That doesn’t sound good.
George Soros has told us what he believes is going to happen, and now he is making moves with his money that indicate that he is convinced that it is actually about to start happening.
But he is not the only one that has been busy accumulating gold.
Billionaire John Paulson (the one that made 20 billion dollars on the subprime mortgage meltdown) has been buying gold like crazy and his company now “has 44 percent of its $24 billion fund exposed to bullion.”
So why are Soros and Paulson buying up so much gold?
Central Banks Are Also Hoarding Gold
According to the World Gold Council, the amount of gold bought by the central banks of the world absolutely soared during the second quarter of 2012. The 157.5 metric tons of gold bought by the central banks of the world last quarter was an increase of 62.9 percent from the first quarter of 2012 and a 137.9 percent increase from the second quarter of 2011.
Prior to 2009, the central banks of the world had been net sellers of gold for about two decades. But now that has totally changed, and last quarter central banks stocked up on gold in quantities that we have not seen before….
At 157.5 metric tons, gold buying among central banks came in at its highest quarterly level since the sector became a net buyer of the precious metal in the second quarter of 2009, data in the organization’s quarterly Gold Demand Trends report show.
So why have the central banks of the world become such gold bugs?
Is there something they aren’t telling us?
Rampant Insider Selling
Wall Street insiders have been dumping a whole lot of stock this year.
First quarter earnings have been decent, if not spectacular. And many corporate executives are issuing cautiously optimistic guidance for the rest of the year.
But while insiders’ lips are saying one thing, their wallets are saying another. The level of insider selling among S&P 500 (SPX) companies is the highest in nearly 10 years. That is not good.
A lot of insiders appear to be getting out at the top of the market while the getting is still good.
Other insiders appear to be bailing out before the bottom falls out from beneath them.
Just check out what has been happening to Facebook stock. It hit another new record low on Thursday as insiders dumped stock. The following is from a CNN article….
Facebook’s life as a public company has been a nightmare from day one, and the pain continued on Thursday as some company insiders got their first chance to dump shares.
Facebook stock hit a new intra-day low of $19.69 Thursday morning, and ended the day 6.3% lower at $19.87.
Sadly, Facebook has now lost close to half of its value since the IPO.
Will Facebook end up being the poster child for the irrational stock market bubble that we have seen over the past couple of years?
Overall, retail investors have been very busy pulling money out of stocks in recent weeks.
The following are the net inflows to equity funds over the past five weeks (in millions of dollars) according to ICI….
According to the figures above, more than 10 billion dollars has been pulled out of equity funds over the past two weeks alone.
So does this mean anything?
But it is very interesting and it bears watching.
Why Does The U.S. Government Need So Much Ammunition?
In my previous article, I also noted that the U.S. government appears to be very rapidly making preparations for something really big.
This week, it was revealed that the Social Security Administration plans to buy 174,000 hollow point bullets which will be delivered to 41 different locations all over America.
Now why in the world does the Social Security Administration need 174,000 bullets?
And why do they need hollow point bullets? Those bullets are designed to cause as much damage to internal organs as possible.
But of course this is only the latest in a series of very large purchases of ammunition by U.S. government agencies. The following is from a recent article by Paul Joseph Watson….
Back in March, Homeland Security purchased 450 million rounds of .40-caliber hollow point bullets that are designed to expand upon entry and cause maximum organ damage, prompting questions as to why the DHS needed such a large amount of powerful bullets merely for training purposes.
This was followed by another DHS solicitation asking for a further 750 million rounds of assorted bullets, including 357 mag rounds that are able to penetrate walls.
Now why in the world would the government need over a billion rounds of ammunition?
If it was the U.S. military I could understand this. You can burn through a whole lot of ammunition fighting wars.
But this makes no sense – unless they believe that big trouble is coming.
The American people are more frustrated and more angry than at any other time in modern history. This upcoming election is only going to cause Americans to become even more angry and even more divided.
All it would take is just the right “spark” to cause this country to erupt.
It could be the upcoming election.
It could be the collapse of the financial system.
Or it might be something else.
But the conditions are definitely there for it to happen.
Unfortunately, the American public is never told to prepare because authorities never want “to panic” the general population.
We are always the last to know, and that stinks.
So don’t wait for someone to come on the television and announce that a crisis is happening.
If you wait that long, it will be too late.
Instead, open up your eyes and think for yourself.
We all need to work hard to get prepared for the coming crisis while we still can.
As you can see, Wall Street insiders, the U.S. government and the central banks of the world are busy getting prepared.
Don’t put your head in the sand.
The warning signs are there and time is running out.
Read the entire article HERE.
by Tyler Durden
January 1, 2012
When it comes to the fabled President’s Working Group on Capital Markets, also known as the Plunge Protection Team, the myths about the subject are certainly far greater than any underlying reality. To be sure, vast amounts of popular folkflore has been expounded into the public arena, with most of it being shot down simply due to it assuming conspiracy theories of such vast scale that the human mind is unable to grasp the complexity, and ultimately the inverse Gordian Knot makes an appearance with the claim that vast conspiracies are largely untenable simply because it is impossible to keep a secret from so many people for so long. Yet what if the secret is not a secret at all but is fully out in the open, and is only a matter of interpretation, and contextualizing? Why just 3 years ago it would appear preposterous to allege the capital markets are a ponzi and that the Fed does everything in its power to keep stocks higher. Well, what a difference three years make: now the Chairman himself in a Washington Post OpEd has admitted that the sole gauge of Fed success is the loftiness of the Russell 2000, neither unemployment nor inflation really matter now that the Fed’s third mandate has been fully whipped out. Furthermore, Keynesian economics, and the entire top echelon of the educational system have also been represented as a paradigm which merely perpetuates the status quo as the alternative is the realization that the whole system is a house of cards. As for the global capital markets being nothing short of a ponzi, we merely point you to the general direction of Europe, the ECB and its bank, where the monetary interplay is nothing short of the world’s biggest pyramid scheme. Yet the PPT, or whatever it is informally called, does not exist? Consider further that only recently did it become known that the former SecTres Hank Paulson himself was exposed as presenting material non-public information to a bevy of Goldman arb desk diaspora hedge funds, headed by with none other than the head of the President’s Working Group on Capital Markets Asset Managers committee David Mindich. So, if contrary to all the evidence that there is some vast underlying pattern, if not a conspiracy per se, one were to take the leap of faith and take the next step, where would one end up? Well, most likely looking at the Exchange Stabilization Fund, or ESF, which Eric deCarbonnel has spent so much time trying to unmask. Is it possible that the ESF, located conveniently at the nexus between US monetary policy, foreign policy and last but not least, a promoter of the interests of the US military-industrial complex, is precisely the organization that so many have been trying to expose for years? Watch and decide for yourself.
As a reminder deCarbonnel is not some tinfoil hat clad sub-basement dweller – it was his input that led us to the realization that in attempting to control the Treasury curve, the Fed will, and already has, experiment with selling puts on various Treasury maturities in an attempt to generate reflexivity whereby the synthetic determines the value of the underlying (something ETFs are now doing oh so well), the value naturally always being higher, higher, higher irrelevant of what underlying demand there is (and as we showed last week, with a record amount of international outflows in the past month, the demand, at least from abroad, is just not there). So what does Eric assert?
After months of work, the video series on the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund is finally finished!
Why you should watch these five videos:
It is impossible to understand the world today without knowing what the ESF is and what it has been doing. Officially in charge of defending the dollar, the ESF is the government agency which controls the New York Fed, runs the CIA’s black budget, and is the architect of the world’s monetary system (IMF, World Bank, etc). ESF financing (through the OSS and then the CIA) built up the worldwide propaganda network which has so badly distorted history today (including erasing awareness of its existence from popular consciousness). It has been directly involved in virtually every major US fraud/scandal since its creation in 1934: the London gold pool, the Kennedy assassinations, Iran-Contra, CIA drug trafficking, HIV, and worse…
So while nursing that New Year’s Day hangover, take some time and watch this series of videos. If nothing else, they even if merely the extended ramblings of some person that one can quickly dismiss as merely the latest lunatic, they do present an alterantive reality to what so many may be accustomed to. After all at the end of the day imagination, the ability to think outside the box, and to see patterns where previously there were none, is the greatest threat to the ending status quo by far.
Read the entire article HERE.
Another example of why you should choose physical gold and silver rather than the paper counterpart. These derivatives are simply way too over leveraged and when the music stops someone is going to be left without a chair and the one sitting will most likely be JPMorgan or Goldman Sachs. And don’t expect the government to do anything about it. Lawrence Lepard describes the heist below:
By Lawrence Lepard
November 18, 2011
Imagine you are Ben Bernanke, or on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. The time frame is July and August of 2011 and the price of gold is on a tear. Commodities inflation has been persistent and is breaking out everywhere. Your prediction that inflation “is contained” and is a “temporary phenomena” are beginning to look absurd. What do you do?
Simple. Hint that QE3, the primary drive of inflation, is coming and then fail to deliver at the September FOMC meeting. That takes care of the price of gold and the gold stocks. Ah, but those pesky commodities speculators keep making money and trading against what you want the markets to do. So what is to be done there? Hey Jon Corzine, how about you tank the largest broker for the small commodities punters in the world, and we let them twist in the wind? That will serve them right. Teach them to bet against the government approved scenario.
Think it did not happen? Well think again. All of the pieces fit. It sure is convenient that all those commodities speculators are now out of the box. Also, who will want to speculate on commodities in the future given customer funds are no longer protected. Furthermore, commodities speculators are not a very “All American” group. From the authorities point of view they can say: screw them, who will feel sympathy? Hell, James Bullard, Fed Governor, in an interview on CNBC yesterday said the MF Global collapse proves that the system works. Yes it does Jim, for you. Personally, I have $90,000 at MF Global and I would like to have my honestly earned money returned. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening any time soon seem slim. In part because when MF Global entered bankruptcy the judge appointed a Trustee whose law firm has done substantial work for JP Morgan, a deeply interested party. We will probably never find out what happened here. But for those of us whose eyes are open the results speak for themselves.
This whole mess stinks to high heaven. I am with Gerald Celente, if the largest commodity broker in America can go bankrupt and nothing is done, then where can you put your money and expect it to be safe? I, for one, do not accept that Jon Corzine is stupid enough to lever up MF Global 40:1 and use the proceeds and customer money to bet on European sovereign debt. This was a hit, pure and simple. That is why there is no resolution to the problem, and it is just another example of the deeply corrupt US political/financial axis. It may take money away from a bunch of commodities speculators, and it may cool down the perceived inflation, but it is just another hole in the dike which is The US Financial System. A dike whose life can probably now be measured in months, not years.
Read the entire article HERE.
by Matt Taibbi
November 10, 10:07 AM ET
Federal judge Jed Rakoff, a former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s office here in New York, is fast becoming a sort of legal hero of our time. He showed that again yesterday when he shat all over the SEC’s latest dirty settlement with serial fraud offender Citigroup, refusing to let the captured regulatory agency sweep yet another case of high-level criminal malfeasance under the rug.
The SEC had brought an action against Citigroup for misleading investors about the way a certain package of mortgage-backed assets had been chosen. The case is very similar to the notorious Abacus case involving Goldman Sachs, in which Goldman allowed short-selling billionaire John Paulson (who was betting against the package) to pick the assets, then told a pair of European banks that the “designed to fail” package they were buying had been put together independently.
This case was similar, but worse. Here, Citi similarly told investors a package of mortgages had been chosen independently, when in fact Citi itself had chosen the stuff and was betting against the whole pile.
This whole transaction actually combined a number of Goldman-style misdeeds, since the bank both lied to investors and also bet against its own product and its own customers. In the deal, Citi made a $160 million profit, while its customers lost $700 million.
Goldman, in the Abacus case, got fined $550 million. In this worse case, the SEC was trying to settle with Citi for just $285 million. Judge Rakoff balked at the settlement and particularly balked at the SEC’s decision to allow Citi off without any admission of wrongdoing. He also mocked the SEC’s decision to describe the crime as “negligence” instead of intentional fraud, taking the entirely rational position that there’s no way a bank making $160 million ripping off its customers can conceivably be described as an accident.
“Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?” And this: “How can a securities fraud of this nature and magnitude be the result simply of negligence?”
Rakoff of course is right – the settlement is nuts. If you take Citi’s $160 million profit on the deal into consideration, what we’re talking about then is a $125 million fine for causing $700 million in damages. That, and no admission of wrongdoing.
Just imagine a mugger who steals $70 from some lady’s wallet being sentenced to walk free after paying back twelve bucks. Magritte himself could not devise a more surreal take on criminal justice.
It gets worse. Over the last decade, Citi has repeatedly been caught committing a variety of offenses, and time after time the bank has been dragged into court and slapped with injunctions demanding that they refrain from ever engaging the same practices ever again. Over and over again, they’ve completely blown off the injunctions, with no consequences from the state – which does nothing except issue new (soon-to-be-ignored-again) injunctions.
In this current case, this particular unit at Citi had already been slapped with two different SEC cease-and-desist orders barring it from violating certain securities laws. Here’s a summary from Bloomberg:
The commission already had two cease-and-desist orders in place against the same Citigroup unit, barring future violations of the same section of the securities laws that the company now stands accused of breaking again. One of those orders came in a 2005 settlement, the other in a 2006 case. The SEC’s complaint last month didn’t mention either order, as if the entire agency suffered from amnesia.
The SEC’s latest allegations also could have triggered a violation of a court injunction that Citigroup agreed to in 2003, as part of a $400 million settlement over allegedly fraudulent analyst-research reports. Injunctions are more serious than SEC orders, because violations can lead to contempt-of-court charges.
But the SEC avoided the issue of the 2003 injunction by charging Citi with a different type of fraud. But, as Bloomberg points out, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much if they had accused Citi of violating the 2003 injunction, since the bank had already done that once and not been punished for it:
In December 2008, the SEC for the second time accused Citigroup of breaking the same section of the law covered by the 2003 injunction, over its sales of so-called auction-rate securities. Instead of trying to enforce the existing court order, the SEC got yet another one barring the same kinds of fraud violations in the future.
So to recap: a unit of Citigroup, having repeatedly violated the same laws and having repeatedly violated the SEC’s own cease-and-desist orders and injunctions, is dragged into court one more time for committing a massive fraud.
And what does the SEC do? It doesn’t even bring up Citi’s history of ignoring the SEC’s own order, slaps the bank with a fractional fine, refuses to target any individuals, allows the bank to walk away without an admission of wrongdoing, and puts a cherry on the top by describing the $160 million heist not as a crime, but as unintentional negligence.
BRING OUT THE SOFT CUSHIONS! The SEC gets rough with Citigroup.
Imagine a car thief who, when caught driving a stolen Lexus, tells the police he simply stepped into the wrong car and drove off by mistake. Now imagine he tells the same story when, two years later, he’s caught screaming over the GW bridge in a stolen Mercedes.
Then, two years after that, he’s caught on the Cross-Bronx Expressway blasting the stereo in a boosted 7-series BMW. Cops ask him for an explanation. “I must have gotten in the wrong car by mistake,” he says, shrugging. And the cops buy the story and send him home without a charge.
That’s roughly what we’re dealing with with this SEC action. To extend the metaphor just a little further – let’s say that BMW wasn’t even the only car he accidentally drove away that day, but the cops didn’t bother with the others. In the latest Citi case, the $700 million fraud was just one of many dicey CDOs marketed by that unit of Citi. But the SEC chose to address just that one case in its settlement.
Rakoff quite correctly took issue with all of this. From Jonathan Weil’s Bloomberg piece:
“What does the SEC do to maintain compliance?” Additionally, [Rakoff] asked: “How many contempt proceedings against large financial entities has the SEC brought in the past decade as a result of violations of prior consent judgments?” We’ll see if the SEC finds any.
Rakoff gained some notoriety a few years ago when he rejected as inadequate an SEC settlement with Bank of America, which was accused of misleading shareholders about the size of the bonuses paid out by Merrill Lynch, the investment bank BofA was in the process of acquiring. Rakoff dismissed the original $33 million fine as “half-baked justice,” although he eventually approved a $150 million fine.
The amazing thing about the wave of corruption that has overtaken the financial services industry is that most of it couldn’t happen without virtually every player at every level signing off on these deals. From the ratings agencies to the law firms to the accounting firms to the regulators to the bank executives themselves, everybody had to be on board in order for a lot of these fraud schemes to work.
Judges are a part of that picture, and too often, members of the bench sign off on dirty deals made between banks and regulators when the law says that such settlements must be “fair, reasonable, adequate and in the public interest.”
It’s great that Rakoff is behaving as any decent human being would and rejecting these disgusting settlements. But equally disturbing is the fact that more judges haven’t done the same thing. Are people with backbones really that rare?
An audit of the Federal Reserve has revealed that the privately owned Federal Reserve secretly doled out more than $16 trillion in zero interest loans to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world. The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Federal Reserve acted illegally. In fact, according to the report, the Federal Reserve knew their financial transactions were illegal and provided conflict of interest waivers to its employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans. The report is evidence that reveals major securities fraud in the embezzlement of $16 trillion by the Federal Reserve. Securities fraud and embezzlement are both felony criminal offenses.
Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly appropriating or secreting assets by one or more individuals to whom such assets have been entrusted. Embezzlement is performed in a manner that is premeditated, systematic and/or methodical, with the explicit intent to conceal the activities from other individuals, usually because it is being done without their knowledge or consent. U.S. Code TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 31 – EMBEZZLEMENT AND THEFT § 644. Banker receiving unauthorized deposit of public money
Whoever, not being an authorized depositary of public moneys, knowingly receives from any disbursing officer, or collector of internal revenue, or other agent of the United States, any public money on deposit, or by way of loan or accommodation, with or without interest, or otherwise than in payment of a debt against the United States, or uses, transfers, converts, appropriates, or applies any portion of the public money for any purpose not prescribed by law is guilty of embezzlement and shall be fined under this title or not more than the amount so embezzled, whichever is greater, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; but if the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000, he shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
$16 trillion is 10 times more than what the U.S. Congress authorized and Bush ($700 billion) and Obama ( $787 billion) signed off on. The Federal Reserve was only authorized by Congress to disburse $1.487 trillion in federal tax dollars in bailouts. The Federal Reserve embezzled another $14.5 trillion.
The Congressional report determined that the Fed secretly hide most of the embezzled money into their own banks. The rest the Fed unilaterally transfered trillions of dollars to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland. Foreign banks and corporations which the Federal Reserve bankers had a personal financial interest or stake in.
The report reveals that the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in federal money from the Fed – conflict of interest. Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks (money laundering banks) for the Fed’s emergency loans programs (aka – embezzlement schemes).
In another disturbing finding, the Government Accountability Office said that on Sept. 19, 2008, William Dudley, who is now the New York Fed president, was granted a waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time AIG and GE were given federal funds. One reason the Fed did not make Dudley sell his holdings, according to the audit, was that it would have exposed the Fed’s conflict of interest and major securities fraud in the embezzlement of $16 trillion.
The investigation also revealed that the Fed outsourced most of its embezzling to private contractors, many of which were rewarded with extremely low-interest and then-secret loans.
The Fed outsourced virtually all of the operations of their $16 trillion embezzlement scheme to private contractors like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo. For their part the same firms also received trillions of dollars in Fed loans at near-zero interest rates. Morgan Stanley helped the Federal Reserve banker launder embezzled $trillions into AIG.
A more detailed Government Accountability Office investigation into corruption charges, securities fraud, embezzlement, money-laundering and conflicts of interest at the Fed was due on Oct. 18. The Sanders Report on the GAO Audit on Major Conflicts of Interest at the Federal Reserve
Did you know that the $14.5 trillion the Federal Reserve embezzled (US Congress only authorized $1.487 trillion) could pay the entire U.S. national debt – $14.346 trillion. To avert default the U.S. government need only to seize the assets of the Federal Reserve banks (the big six U.S. banks collectively hold about $9.399 trillion in assets) and get back the $trillions that the Federal Reserve illegally embezzled and money laundered to their foreign banks and corporations.
The U.S. government can recover $trillions from the Federal Reserve and their banks through asset forfeiture. Asset forfeiture is confiscation, by the State, of assets which are either (a) the alleged proceeds of crime or (b) the alleged instrumentalities of crime, and more recently, alleged terrorism. Proceeds of crime means any economic advantage derived from or obtained directly or indirectly from a criminal offense or criminal offenses. Crimes committed by the Federal Reserve banks against the United States and its people include; conflict of interest, securities fraud, embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, hoarding, profiteering, larceny, racketeering . . .
In 1982, a criminal forfeiture provision was enacted as part of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961, which provided for the forfeiture of all property over which the RICO organization exercised an influence.
The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 added new felony provisions at 18 U.S.C. § 1956 for the laundering of the proceeds of certain defined “specified unlawful activity,” as well as prohibiting structuring transactions under 31 U.S.C. § 5324 (with the intent to evade certain reporting requirements). The law also added civil and criminal forfeiture provisions at 18 U.S.C. §§ 981 and 982 for confiscating the property involved in money laundering.
According to the Legislative Guide to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto, “Criminalizing the conduct from which substantial illicit profits are made does not adequately punish or deter organized criminal groups. Even if arrested and convicted, some of these offenders will be able to enjoy their illegal gains for their personal use and for maintaining the operations of their criminal enterprises. Despite some sanctions, the perception would still remain that crime pays. . . . Practical measures to keep offenders from profiting from their crimes are necessary. One of the most important ways to do this is to ensure that States have strong confiscation regimes”
Top 10 Banks in the United States
As of Mar. 31, 2010.
Source: Federal Reserve System, National Information Center.
According to United States Code, TITLE 12 CHAPTER 3 SUBCHAPTER IX § 341. Second. states that the U.S. Federal Reserve Banks can be dissolved today by “forfeiture of franchise for violation of law.” Securities fraud and embezzlement by the Federal Reserve Bank is cause for immediate forfeiture and imprisonment of the Federal Reserve and its bankers.
List of banks involved in the $16 trillion + securities fraud and embezzlement
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York provides an up to date list of “Primary Dealers” obligated to implement the Federal Reserve fraud and embezzlement scheme. http://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/pridealers_current.html
“Primary dealers serve as trading counterparties of the New York Fed in its implementation of (Fed) monetary policy. This role includes the obligations to: (i) participate consistently in open market operations to carry out U.S. monetary policy pursuant to the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC); and (ii) provide the New York Fed‘s trading desk with market information and analysis (non-public stock market information – aka insider trading) helpful in the formulation and implementation of monetary policy (so that the Fed can profit from this insider information). Primary dealers are also required to participate in all auctions of U.S. government debt (acquiring wealth generated from the transactions of the illicit funds – aka money laundering for the Fed) and to make reasonable markets for the New York Fed when it transacts on behalf of its foreign official account-holders. (the New York Fed is stating who they are working for – on behalf of its foreign official account- holders)”
List of Primary Dealers (Fed’s money laundering banks. Listed in alphabetical order only.)
Bank of Nova Scotia, New York Agency (the third largest bank in Canada. Opened New York Agency in 1907)
BMO Capital Markets Corp. (the fourth largest Canadian bank)
BNP Paribas Securities Corp. (Paris, France)
Barclays Capital Inc. (London, United Kingdom)
Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. (United States)
Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CIA drug money laundering bank, United States)
Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC (Zurich, Switzerland)
Daiwa Capital Markets America Inc. (Tokyo, Japan)
Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. (Frankfurt, Germany.)
Goldman, Sachs & Co. (United States)
HSBC Securities (USA) Inc. (founded in Hong Kong, headquarters London, United Kingdom)
Jefferies & Company, Inc. (United States)
J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (United States)
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (United States)
Mizuho Securities USA Inc. (Tokyo, Japan)
Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC (United States)
Nomura Securities International, Inc. (Tokyo, Japan)
RBC Capital Markets, LLC (a Canadian investment bank, part of Royal Bank of Canada)
RBS Securities Inc. (Royal Bank of Scotland Group)
SG Americas Securities, LLC (United States)
UBS Securities LLC. (Zürich & Basel, Switzerland. Rothschild controlled. The Rothschild family hold the popes purse strings from this bank – the keys of the Vatican is a predominate part of their logo.)
All of the above named banks (includes both U.S. and foreign banks) money launder the over $16 trillion (U.S) that the Federal Reserve embezzled. These banks money launder the Fed embezzled U.S. Tax Dollars in three steps:
1) the illicit funds are introduced into the financial system by “placement”,
2) the “Primary Dealers” carrying out complex financial transactions in order to camouflage the illicit funds (“layering”), and
3) they acquire wealth generated from the transactions (loans, mortgages, stock market trading) of the illicit funds (“integration”).
All listed banks are controlled by the European Central Bank (Rothschild family) which controls it all for the Vatican, which is headed by the Nazi German Pope. All are working to enslave the World under a New World Order, aka Fourth Reich, aka Fourth unHoly Roman Empire.
Read the entire article HERE.
by Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senator of Vermont
October 19, 2011
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 – A new audit of the Federal Reserve released today detailed widespread conflicts of interest involving directors of its regional banks.
“The most powerful entity in the United States is riddled with conflicts of interest,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said after reviewing the Government Accountability Office report. The study required by a Sanders Amendment to last year’s Wall Street reform law examined Fed practices never before subjected to such independent, expert scrutiny.
The GAO detailed instance after instance of top executives of corporations and financial institutions using their influence as Federal Reserve directors to financially benefit their firms, and, in at least one instance, themselves. “Clearly it is unacceptable for so few people to wield so much unchecked power,” Sanders said. “Not only do they run the banks, they run the institutions that regulate the banks.”
Sanders said he will work with leading economists to develop legislation to restructure the Fed and bar the banking industry from picking Fed directors. ”This is exactly the kind of outrageous behavior by the big banks and Wall Street that is infuriating so many Americans,” Sanders said.
The corporate affiliations of Fed directors from such banking and industry giants as General Electric, JP Morgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers pose “reputational risks” to the Federal Reserve System, the report said. Giving the banking industry the power to both elect and serve as Fed directors creates “an appearance of a conflict of interest,” the report added.
The 108-page report found that at least 18 specific current and former Fed board members were affiliated with banks and companies that received emergency loans from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.
In the dry and understated language of auditors, the report noted that there are no restrictions in Fed rules on directors communicating concerns about their respective banks to the staff of the Federal Reserve. It also said many directors own stock or work directly for banks that are supervised and regulated by the Federal Reserve. The rules, which the Fed has kept secret, let directors tied to banks participate in decisions involving how much interest to charge financial institutions and how much credit to provide healthy banks and institutions in “hazardous” condition. Even when situations arise that run afoul of Fed’s conflict rules and waivers are granted, the GAO said the waivers are kept hidden from the public.
The report by the non-partisan research arm of Congress did not name but unambiguously described several individual cases involving Fed directors that created the appearance of a conflict of interest, including:
- Stephen Friedman In 2008, the New York Fed approved an application from Goldman Sachs to become a bank holding company giving it access to cheap Fed loans. During the same period, Friedman, chairman of the New York Fed, sat on the Goldman Sachs board of directors and owned Goldman stock, something the Fed’s rules prohibited. He received a waiver in late 2008 that was not made public. After Friedman received the waiver, he continued to purchase stock in Goldman from November 2008 through January of 2009 unbeknownst to the Fed, according to the GAO.
- Jeffrey Immelt The Federal Reserve Bank of New York consulted with General Electric on the creation of the Commercial Paper Funding Facility. The Fed later provided $16 billion in financing for GE under the emergency lending program while Immelt, GE’s CEO, served as a director on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
- Jamie Dimon The CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the same time that his bank received emergency loans from the Fed and was used by the Fed as a clearing bank for the Fed’s emergency lending programs. In 2008, the Fed provided JP Morgan Chase with $29 billion in financing to acquire Bear Stearns.At the time, Dimon persuaded the Fed to provide JP Morgan Chase with an 18-month exemption from risk-based leverage and capital requirements. He also convinced the Fed to take risky mortgage-related assets off of Bear Stearns balance sheet before JP Morgan Chase acquired this troubled investment bank.
To read a more detailed analysis of the GAO report prepared for Sen. Sanders, click here.
To read the full GAO report, click here.
Read the entire article HERE.
BY CRIS SHERIDAN
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released its findings from their second audit of the Federal Reserve revealing a well-established revolving door and numerous conflicts of interest between the Fed and top banking executives, most of whom sit on its board.
As revealed in The Sanders Report, which should probably be mandatory reading for the Occupy Wall Street movement, specific board members directly profited from removing restrictions or giving certain banks access to cheaper Fed loans while simultaneously holding stock in that company. Although such actions would’ve normally been restricted by the Fed’s own internal regulations to prohibit such obvious conflicts of interest, waivers were issued instead to certain individuals allowing them to maintain their financial relationships with companies like the most-beloved Goldman Sachs.
What is most troubling, however, aside from the numerous incidents cited in the report, is how completely non-transparent the Fed is when compared to other central banks around the globe. Here’s an astonishing list of examples from The Sanders Report mentioned above (emphasis mine):
The central bank in Australia prohibits its directors from working for or having a material financial interest in private financial companies located in its country. If such regulations were in place at the Fed, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase and many other bank executives would be prohibited from serving on the Fed’s board of directors. (See page 65 of GAO report)
The central bank in Canada requires its directors to disclose any potential conflicts of interest as soon as they are discovered; avoid or withdraw from participation in any real, potential, or apparent conflicts of interest; and cannot vote on any matters in which there is a conflict of interest. If these regulations existed at the Fed, Stephen Friedman would have been required to immediately resign from Goldman’s board, sell his Goldman stock, or resign from the Fed’s board of directors. Instead, Mr. Friedman was allowed to financially benefit from the increase in Goldman’s stock while it received approval from the Fed to become a bank holding company and received billions in emergency Fed loans. (See page 46 of GAO report)
The central bank in Canada also prohibits its directors from having affiliations with entities that perform clearing and settlement responsibilities in the financial services industry or serve as dealers in government securities. The Fed does not. These regulations would have prevented both Friedman and Dimon from serving on the Fed’s board of directors. (See page 46 of GAO report)
The directors of central banks in Australia, Canada, England and the European Union all have to disclose potential conflicts of interest and must disclose its conflict of interest policies on the internet. The Federal Reserve does not. (See page 47 and 49 of GAO report)
Unless you have time to read all 127 pages of the GAO release, I highly encourage you to read the 5 page Sanders Report instead. Given how ugly and incriminating this information is, the Fed should start thinking about some high-profile firings or, at least, putting together a top-notch public relations team…if they haven’t already.
If they don’t do something, expect to see protesters showing up at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York pretty soon (conveniently located down the street from Zuccotti Park at 33 Liberty Street).
By the way, for those of you who believe our banking institutions are the root of our financial problems, I pose to you the following questions:
Q: Which is the largest bank in the nation?
A: Our central bank, the Federal Reserve
Q: Who is primarily responsible for supervising and regulating the banking industry?
A: The Federal Reserve
Q: Who is reponsible for maintaining financial stability?
A: The Federal Reserve
Q: Who lowered interest rates to artificially low levels and helped foster a speculative housing bubble?
A: The Federal Reserve
Q: Who said on live television in 2005 that we weren’t in a housing bubble and that we wouldn’t see a recession? (click here for video)
A: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
(BTW, if you think that a housing bubble and market crash weren’t seen by others years earlier, click here)
Q: Who now bails out the banks with money printed out of thin air and raises the cost of living for everyday Americans?
A: The Federal Reserve
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to blame the Federal Reserve for all our problems, but holding their feet to the fire to implement far greater transparency and a comprehensive elimination of various conflicts of interest with member banks is a good place to start.
Read the entire article HERE.
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 Bud Conrad
October 17, 2011
Foreign central banks buy US Treasury and Agency debt through accounts at the Federal Reserve, where it is held in custody. Without these central banks buying our debt, the US federal government would have to find a new source of funds or the result could be higher interest rates. Looking at the data on a monthly basis (and then multiplied by 12 to give the annual rate), here is the dramatic picture of how foreign central-bank purchases of our debt have shifted, from buying $500 billion to selling off $1 trillion. At this rate of selling over several months, interest rates would go higher – if other things were equal. Of course, things are not equal because the Fed has been forcing rates lower with its massive QE2 and other programs. QE 2 was $600 billion over nine months, or an annualized rate of $800 billion per year. Since foreigners are selling off our government debt, Fed purchases of government debt are even more necessary.
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Here are the data on the amount of Treasuries purchased in the last quarter of the year at an annualized rate: Foreigners have decreased their holdings for the first time since 2007.
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Here’s another chart worth considering. This is a comparison to the ten-year Treasury, with the purchases of Treasuries inverted.
(Click on image to enlarge)
In my latest article in The Casey Report on interest rates, I discuss the above chart and cover the broader issues driving interest rates.
What could be the cause of all this? The Senate passed a controversial bill that threatens to punish China for “currency manipulation” which will bring mandatory tariffs. China’s opposition to the Senate action could be the power behind the big shift in direction of these custody holdings. In an election year, government action against Chinese imports may be seen as supportive for US jobs, thus garnering votes. But unintended consequences of decreasing liquidity in the credit markets will put pressure on financial markets. The movement shown in these charts could be the result of China’s reaction to some of those anticipated policies. We can’t tell what country is doing the selling until two months have gone by and the TIC data are published. In some senses, it doesn’t matter which country is behind the shift. If rates begin to rise rapidly, even in the face of continued Fed manipulation, it could call into question confidence in the Fed’s ability to keep supporting the economy. The rate on the ten-year Treasuries jumped from 1.8% to 2.2% in the last week. Foreign selling of this magnitude is dangerous for the dollar, and it could be very bad for US interest rates.
[Whether this shift is temporary or a long-term reversal remains to be seen – but the end of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency is all but certain. How can one prepare for such a life-changing move? Listen to the audio recordings of the recently held Casey Research/Sprott Summit, When Money Dies, to gain insights and actionable advice from experts including Adam Fergusson and Doug Casey on how you can not just survive what’s coming, but thrive. Order your set today.]
Additional Links and Reads
Banking Corporatism in 1912 (Ludwig von Mises Institute)
The Mises Institute dug up a great cartoon from 1912, representing what would happen to the US with the creation of a central bank. The picture says it all. That’s essentially what did happen.
Kinder Morgan to Buy El Paso for $21.1 Billion (Bloomberg)
In the biggest energy transaction of the year thus far, Kinder Morgan purchased El Paso Corp. to form the country’s largest national gas pipeline network. The natural gas market is an interesting beast. On the one hand, natural gas prices are dirt cheap. On the other, they can’t say low forever, but as Doug Casey says just because something is inevitable doesn’t mean that it’s imminent. There are some who have given up on investing in natural gas, while others are willing to put big bucks into it.
What I find interesting about the whole field is that involves so much hard science. Whether the general economy will go up or down is the realm of economics – not exactly a science. And of course, the economy will affect oil and gas prices, but natural gas requires making estimates of scientific facts. How much gas is left in the ground? What are the well decline rates? How damaging are fracking chemicals? While in economics we can argue back and forth without getting anywhere, these questions will have clear answers in the future. Someone will be right, and someone will be wrong.
The second table of results from this poll, copied below, showed some particularly noteworthy findings which I’ve discussed before. This table represents only workers and the unemployed who are searching for a job. At the top of the unemployment pile are workers aged 18 to 29 with 14% unemployment and 30% underemployment. That’s pretty crazy – only 56% are working full time. And of those 56%, how many do you think actually have a good, career-track job versus something like flipping burgers?
This relates to today’s intro. If one graduated college in 1998, one could get a job at Goldman Sachs. Graduate ten years later, and one will be lucky to find a position as an assistant accounting clerk with the exact same qualifications.
Read the entire article HERE.