The recent release of the Panama Papers, the 11.5 million confidential documents exposing the hidden wealth of world leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, has caused little ripple here in the US. Why? Well, who needs Panama when America’s wealthy have Delaware. States like Delaware and Nevada have …
Apr 14 2016
May 22 2015
The new Attorney General Loretta Lynch proves why she should not have been confirmed, as she rubber stamps the same weak polices of her predecessor Eric Holder regarding the prosecution of the “Too Big to Jail” bankers.
By Ben Protess and Ben Corkery, The New York Times
Adding another entry to Wall Street’s growing rap sheet, five big banks have agreed to pay about $5.6 billion and plead guilty to multiple crimes related to manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates, federal and state authorities announced on Wednesday.
The Justice Department forced four of the banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland – to plead guilty to antitrust violations in the foreign exchange market as part of a scheme that padded the banks’ profits and enriched the traders who carried out the plot. The traders were supposed to be competitors, but much like companies that rigged the price of vitamins and automotive parts, they colluded to manipulate the largest and yet least regulated market in the financial world, where some $5 trillion changes hands every day, prosecutors said. [..]
A fifth bank, UBS, will also plead guilty on Wednesday to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, a benchmark rate that underpins the cost of trillions of dollars in credit cards and other loans. Federal prosecutors had previously agreed not to prosecute the Swiss bank over the Libor scheme. But in a rare stand against corporate recidivism, the Justice Department voided that non-prosecution agreement after learning that UBS was also taking part in the effort to manipulate currency prices.
The guilty pleas, which the banks are expected to enter in federal court in Connecticut on Wednesday, represent a first in a financial industry that has been dogged by numerous scandals and investigations since the 2008 financial crisis. Until now, banks have either had their biggest banking units or small subsidiaries plead guilty. But with the four banks charged with currency violations, the guilty pleas will come from their parent companies. [..]
For the banks, though, life as a felon is likely to carry more symbolic shame than practical problems. Although they could be technically barred by American regulators from managing mutual funds or corporate pension plans or perform certain other securities activities, the banks have obtained waivers from the Securities and Exchange Commission that will allow them to conduct business as usual. In fact, the cases were not announced until after the S.E.C. had time to act.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Wall Street watchdog group Better Markets weighed in on the lack of any criminal prosecutions:
Better Markets called it a “slap on the wrist” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in an e-mail: “That’s not accountability for Wall Street. It’s business as usual, and it stinks.” [..]
Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a non-profit group, said that the Justice Department had not done enough, saying “it talks tough, but winks at Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail banks’ criminal conduct, structuring sweetheart deals to minimize the impact on the criminals.”
Kelleher said the fines alone wouldn’t deter future criminal acts and that the Justice Department should punish bank executives and their supervisors for bad behavior. “Banks don’t commit crimes, bankers do,” he said.
Warren said “the big banks have been caught red-handed conspiring to manipulate financial markets, and several have even admitted in court that they’re felons – but not a single trader is being held individually accountable, and regulators are stumbling over themselves to exempt the banks from the legally required consequences of their criminal behavior.”
At Esquire Politics, Charles Pierce is not impressed by Ms. Lynch:
What a fake. What a fraud. What an insult to any stick-up kid doing five-to-fifteen for robbing a bodega. The banks don’t even have to look between the cushions on the sofa for the loose change they’ll use to pay the fines. They get to use their stockholders’ money to pay the fine. [..]
This is altogether remarkable. Here we have a staggering series of crimes that did very real damage to thousands of people all over the world. Here we have a staggering series of crimes, but not a single identifiable criminal. Who rigged the markets? The bank buildings? A shadowy cabal of ledgers? Motorcycle gangs made up of quarterly reports? This is the only area of criminal justice where law-enforcement actively avoids identifying anyone as a criminal.
Let us face facts. Within these institutions, there have to be hundreds of people who were involved in some way with a scam this large. There were people who supervised those hundreds of people, and people who supervised them. Somewhere, in that mass of criminal activity, I’m willing to bet something substantial that a human being committed an actual crime.
But, no. “The banks” get fined. This is just too freaking hilarious.
After all this evidence and investigation, not one person has been arrested. Sure some were fired at insistence of some regulators, but never criminally charged. So, the crooks are still getting away with breaking the law. Fines are a joke. Most of these banks will recoup those fines in less than a day and, at the end of the year, deduct them as business losses, so the tax payer once again foots the bill. I would hardly call that a victory. It’s a joke.
Dec 25 2014
As David Dayen puts it, “it isn’t prison” but the consequences are at least a bit satisfying.
Finally, a Financial Executive Is Sacked for His Company’s Misdeeds
By David Dayen, The New Republic
Lets say you run a company whose misdeeds are splashed across the pages of the business section on an almost weekly basis. you might reasonably expect to be fired without delay. But then let’s stipulate that you’re in the financial service industry. Recent history suggest that you’ll be able to keep your job and your handsome bonus, and that even if law enforcement decide to penalize the company for improprieties, somebody else – like your shareholders – will pay those fines, leaving you to continue your charmed life unscathed.
William erbey, the billionaire chairman of the mortgage serving giant Ocwen, probably thought that would be his fate as well, but he didn’t anticipate the determination of New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky. On Monday, Lawsky announced that Erbey would step down from Ocwen and four related businesses, as part of the settlement of an investigation into the companies sad enduring legacy of ripping off homeowners.
The consequences for Erbey have been huge financial losses as Ocwen shares dropped 31% “after agreeing to a settlement that prevents it from acquiring mortgage-servicing rights until the company makes improvements to satisfy New York regulators.” The company must also provide $150 million for relief to homeowners and hire a monitor who will approve the appointment of two independent directors to Ocwen’s board and continue to oversee the business.
According to Forbes, poor Erbey is no longer a billionaire:
Erbey, according to Forbes’s Real Time Wealth Rankings for billionaires, lost over $300 million on Monday causing his net worth to fall to around $800 million and knocking him out of the billionaire ranks. He was worth as much as $2.5 billion in March when we published our annual listing of the world’s wealthiest. [..]
Forbes now calculates Erbey’s net worth at $802 million, as of late afternoon trading.
As Atrios said, “it’s sad that this is all we’ll get.”
Jul 18 2012
The Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission opened the flood gates for millions of dollars of donations to political campaigns with virtually no oversight and no control. The Court sent the message that it was up to Congress to require disclosure of donations to political campaigns. So far, that has not worked out so well. But some members if the traditional and nontraditional media have taken the matter into their own hands and made public the names of the largest donors to mostly the coffers of the GOP and their radical agenda.
Most of those donors are billionaires who have only their own wealth and self-interest at heart over the needs and rights of the 99.9%. Yeah, damned some of those puny millionaires, too.
ProPublica, an independent, non-profit investigative internet news site along with PBS’ Frontline did an expose of one of those billionaires, formerly one of the most secretive, Sheldon Adelson. The article takes a look at Mr. Adelson’s casino holdings in Macau and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act:
Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau’s hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.
Adelson pushed his chips to the center of the table, keeping his nerve even as his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2008.
The Macau bet paid off, propelling Adelson into the ranks of the mega-rich and underwriting his role as the largest Republican donor in the 2012 campaign, providing tens of millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP causes.
Now, some of the methods Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators, according to people familiar with both inquiries.
Internal email and company documents, disclosed here for the first time, show that Adelson instructed a top executive to pay about $700,000 in legal fees to Leonel Alves, a Macau legislator whose firm was serving as an outside counsel to Las Vegas Sands.
The company’s general counsel and an outside law firm warned that the arrangement could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is unknown whether Adelson was aware of these warnings. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars American companies from paying foreign officials to “affect or influence any act or decision” for business gain.
Federal investigators are looking at whether the payments violate the statute because of Alves’ government and political roles in Macau, people familiar with the inquiry said. Investigators were also said to be separately examining whether the company made any other payments to officials. An email by Alves to a senior company official, disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, quotes him as saying “someone high ranking in Beijing” had offered to resolve two vexing issues – a lawsuit by a Taiwanese businessman and Las Vegas Sands’ request for permission to sell luxury apartments in Macau. Another email from Alves said the problems could be solved for a payment of $300 million. There is no evidence the offer was accepted. Both issues remain unresolved.
Steve Engelberg, managing editor at ProPublica, talks with Rachel Maddow about the reporting in a new ProPublica/Frontline PBS collaboration looking into the questionable dealings behind the Macau-based casino fortune of big-money Republican donor Sheldon Adelson
Nov 21 2011
Sometimes a person or organization becomes so powerful and Evil that they appear cartoonish.
It might seem impossible to find a similar character outside of a James Bond movie. After all, who really wants to take over the world and has a plan to do it, right?
So attributing truly Evil intentions to a public organization, and voicing those concerns, automatically puts one into the land of tinfoil-hat, konspiracy lunatics.
And yet there is an ongoing theft taking place in global finance on such a scale that is threatening the concept of democracy itself, and Goldman Sachs has their fingerprints all over the crime scene.
At what point do we suspend our disbelief and embrace reality? These guys really are Evil.
“We are doing God’s work.”
– Lloyd Blankfein, CEO Goldman Sachs
The Independent had a great graphic recently that displayed the New Reality in Europe.
As the financial crisis has deepened in Europe, Goldman Sachs has taken over the halls of power.
May 08 2010
Remember how crooked accountants like Arthur Anderson helped create the Enron disaster? Well the credit rating oligopoly of the Big Three (Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s) is doing almost the same thing, and Senator Al Franken wants to put a stop to it.
As Senator Franken told ABC news
“If a failing student paid their teacher to turn their F into an A, everyone would agree that what the teacher had done was unethical … But right now, investors are being sold a phony bill of goods. We need to protect consumers from the pay-to-play system that rewards Wall Street players at the expense of Main Street.”
Al Franken has an Amendment to the Wall St reform bill that will bring this to an end.
More below the fold
May 07 2010
I am reminded of the words of our founding father, Thomas Jefferson. 3/4ths of this Senate are not fit to polish his statue. The words this titan among men once said were . . .
“The bank mania… is raising up a moneyed aristocracy in our country which has already set the government at defiance, and although forced at length to yield a little on this first essay of their strength, their principles are unyielded and unyielding. These have taken deep root in the hearts of that class from which our legislators are drawn, and the sop to Cerberus from fable has become history. Their principles lay hold of the good, their pelf of the bad, and thus those whom the Constitution had placed as guards to its portals, are sophisticated or suborned from their duties.”
Cry about that, Glenn Beck!
In the face of the defeat of the Kaufman-Brown Amendment to break up the Too Big To Fail banks, I have this to say.
F*** these Corporate Senators and the Bankers Limos They Rode In On!!!!
May 06 2010
Where did our 2 TRILLION dollars go, Ben Bernanke?
Watch Senator Bernie Sanders as he spoke today for almost a half and hour in one of the greatest speeches the Senate has ever seen.
I will be adding some quotes from this video in updates. I wanted to get this video published fast, because I think this is a matter of utmost importance.
Are we looking at a Huge Scam?
~ Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
The American people have a right to know where TRILLIONS of dollars of their tax payer dollars are going!
~ Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Why did the Fed argue that this information must be kept secret as a matter of National Security?
~ Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Congress required the Treasury Department to disclose who received TARP money, why is it wrong to demand the same of the Federal Reserve?
Apr 23 2010
Over a year ago Fed Chief Ben Bernanke made a very clear statement for what needed to be done.
“If actions taken by the administration, the Congress, and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability — and only if that is the case, in my view – – there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery,” Bernanke said in remarks to the Senate Banking Committee in Washington.
It seemed to make sense. The collapse of the financial system was what caused the Global Recession, so stabilizing the financial system appeared to be a necessary condition to get out of it.
Eight months later the IMF declared that stability was returning to the financial system. There certainly are signs that the financial system, because of massive government intervention, is repairing itself. Borrowing costs have dropped. Securities markets have reopened. Large banks are better capitalized.
But is that the whole story? I’ve taken a look at the raw numbers and they show something very different.
Feb 05 2010
Lazard Ltd, formerly known as Lazard Frères, gave away the “store” in bonuses to its employees to the tune of $565,000 per person. Lazard, unlike Goldman “Sacks” and other Wall St. investment agencies, did not receive any bail out money.
The firm doled out $616 million in compensation and benefits to about 2,300 employees last quarter, or more than triple the amount handed out in the same period in 2008. It was a consequence, Lazard said, of a decision to pay more bonuses in cash and accelerate some deferred cash awards from a prior year. But so great was the firm’s generosity that compensation costs overwhelmed quarterly revenues and resulted in a net loss of about $55 million for the fourth quarter. The charges also almost wiped out full-year profits.