Meet the “Bandits’ Club” – The TBTF Wall Street Cartel Rigging the FX Market

Another day, another tale of how the “Too Big to Jail” Wall Street cartel manipulates a major global market with no repercussions whatsoever. Must be nice having essentially every Congressperson and regulator in your back pocket. Get caught? Pay a little fine and get on with it. Everyone wins!

Actually, everyone loses. Except for the handful of FX manipulators, rigging global currency markets from their Essex villages outside of London. These traders for major TBTF banks refer to themselves by various names in their now silenced Bloomberg chat rooms, from The Cartel,” “The Bandits’ Club,” “One Team, One Dream” and “The Mafia.” Very classy guys. Glad we bailed your asses out…

More from Bloomberg:

Now regulators from Bern to Washington are examining evidence first reported by Bloomberg News in June that a small group of senior traders at big banks had something else on their screens: details of each other’s client orders. Sharing that information may have helped dealers at firms, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., UBS AG and Barclays Plc, manipulate prices to maximize their own profits, according to five people with knowledge of the probes.

“This is a market where there is no law and people have turned a blind eye,” said former Senator Ted Kaufman, a Delaware Democrat who sponsored legislation in 2010 to shrink the largest U.S. banks. “We’ve been talking about banks being too big to fail. What’s almost as big a problem is banks too big to manage.”

At the center of the inquiries are instant-message groups with names such as “The Cartel,” “The Bandits’ Club,” “One Team, One Dream” and “The Mafia,” in which dealers exchanged information on client orders and agreed how to trade at the fix, according to the people with knowledge of the investigations who asked not to be identified because the matter is pending. Some traders took part in multiple chat rooms, one of them said.

The currency investigations are taking place as authorities grapple with a widening list of scandals involving the manipulation by banks of benchmark financial rates, including the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and ISDAfix, used to determine the value of interest-rate derivatives. The U.K. regulator also is reviewing how prices are set in the $20 trillion gold market, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Don’t be ridiculous, everyone knows the gold market is the only market on earth that isn’t manipulated.

“Some of these problems developed over many years without anybody speaking up,” said Andrew Tyrie, chairman of Britain’s Commission on Banking Standards and Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee. “This is remarkable. It suggests something very wrong with the culture at these institutions.”

Blasphemy!

Continue reading

Like this post?
Donate bitcoins: 1LefuVV2eCnW9VKjJGJzgZWa9vHg7Rc3r1


 Follow me on Twitter.

The U.S. Military Has Awarded Contracts to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan

I suppose it just wasn’t enough that our allies, “the rebels” in Syria, have significant Al-Qaeda elements to them. No, we are the USA! USA! Best country ever. Defender of human rights. City on a hill. We must do far more than that. So we did.

This story below from Bloomberg, highlights a 236-page report by the U.S. Army Suspension and Debarment Office, which shows that military contracts have been granted to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yep, this is exactly what happens when an empire gets too big, too corrupt, and ends up in the hands of a bunch of sociopaths. From Bloomberg:

Supporters of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been getting U.S. military contracts, and American officials are citing “due process rights” as a reason not to cancel the agreements, according to an independent agency monitoring spending.

“I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko said.

The 236-page report and Sopko’s summary provide one of the watchdog agency’s most critical appraisals of U.S. performance in helping to build a stable Afghanistan as the Pentagon prepares to withdraw combat troops by the end of next year.

The U.S. has 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, with plans to reduce the number to 34,000 by February. President Barack Obama hasn’t decided how many to keep in the country after 2014 to train Afghan forces and engage in anti-terrorist missions.

“Anti-terrorist missions.” Like what, rewarding them lucrative contracts?

An audit showed that after 16 months, none of the agency’s essential program objectives have been reached and the money spent has mostly financed workshops and training sessions. The project is aimed at bolstering Afghanistan’s government before troop withdrawals planned for next year.

“It’s troubling that after 16 months, this program has not issued its first community grant,” Sopko said. “Rather, it has spent almost $50 million, about a quarter of the total program budget, on conferences, overhead and workshops.”

Regarding the 43 cases of contractors with militant connections, Sopko said the Army should “enforce the rule of common sense” in its suspension and debarment program. “They may be enemies of the United States but that is not enough to keep them from getting government contracts,” according to the agency’s report.

Someone’s definitely lining their pockets…and it’s not just the “terrorists.”

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

Follow me on Twitter!

Stage Two of the Housing Bubble Begins: Blackstone to Lend to Others for “Buy to Rent”

As we all know, any good ponzi scheme needs a continued stream of new investors in order to keep it going otherwise the whole thing falls apart.  We also know that the current rebound in the U.S. housing market is a centrally planned monster, led by private equity firms with access to cheap money and laundered foreign capital flooding into depressed markets, crowding out American families looking to purchase a home. Well now that Blackstone has spent more than $5 billion in its “buy-to-rent” scheme, it wants others to be able to “participate” in this wonderful investment opportunity (after them of course).  Oh and by the way, one of the most common ads on the local radio here in Boulder as of late explains to people how they too can “get in” on the buy-to-rent trade.  Best of luck. From Bloomberg:

Blackstone Group LP, the private-equity firm that has spent $5 billion on more than 30,000 distressed houses, is preparing to expand its bet on the housing recovery by lending to other landlords.

The firm, which already owns more rental homes than any other investor, has set up B2R Finance LP to offer loans starting at $10 million, according to four people who reviewed the terms. B2R is reaching out to landlords with portfolios of properties seeking to grow in the burgeoning industry for single-family homes to rent, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

At least five rental companies have received non-binding term sheets from B2R, according to the people. Jeffrey Tennyson, the former chief executive officer of mortgage originator EquiFirst Corp., is running the firm, which stands for buy-to-rent. He previously led EquiFirst to become the 12th-largest wholesale subprime lender in the U.S. by 2007, when Barclays Bank PLC bought it. The London-based bank closed the business two years later after the market collapsed.

Tennyson didn’t return phone messages seeking comment on his role at B2R. Peter Rose, a spokesman for Blackstone, declined to comment.

So basically we continue to recycle the same characters from the last housing bubble to come on in and do it again.

Continue reading

PayPal’s President is “Fascinated” by Bitcoin

Really interesting video interview here by Bloomberg News with PayPal’s President David Marcus.  When asked about Bitcoin, Marcus states that he is “spending a lot of time looking at it” and calls it “truly fascinating.”  Interesting, because 95% of Twitter and mainstream financial “journalists” are entirely convinced it is a bubble and a scam.  Oh, and it’s back to 166 a coin.

Watch the interview here.  The discussion about Bitcoin comes in at around the 2:50 minute mark.

Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society Runs Out of Gold…Importing from Switzerland and London

Hong Kong’s Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society has been in operations for over a century, and its President Haywood Cheung was interviewed by Bloomberg news earlier today.  Whoever orchestrated the attack on gold and silver in the last week or so has gravely miscalculated, since the response to the drop has been surging demand for physical gold and silver.  While I tend to be skeptical when I hear about silver shortages since these reports have been so exaggerated in the past, the lack of silver coin availability and premiums are the most extreme I have seen since the financial and economic meltdown of 2008.  Now we discover that the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society has essentially sold out of gold bullion, and must wait until Wednesday for shipments to arrive from Switzerland and London.

Crony Capitalist “Uncle” Warren Buffett Drives Company Profits Using Derivatives

As regular readers know all too well, there are few people in these United States that I find more disingenuous than the mainstream media celebrated, crony capitalist extraordinaire Warren Buffett.  The man who used to warn about trade deficits, the U.S. dollar’s vulnerable position and famously called the derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction,” has become nothing more than a political stooge for the status quo ever since he was bailed out in the financial crisis.  So with the derivatives market bigger and more dangerous than ever, you’d expect “Uncle Warren” to be shouting from the rooftops about how much risk they pose right?  Wrong.  Rather, America’s number one crony is using derivatives to drive earnings at his company, Berkshire Hathaway, and pimping stocks on CNBC like a cheap used car salesman every other day.  From Bloomberg:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) said fourth- quarter profit rose 49 percent on gains tied to derivatives wagers made by billionaire Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett.

warren-0

Net income rose to $4.55 billion, or $2,757 a share, from $3.05 billion, or $1,846, a year earlier, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said today in a statement. Gains on derivatives surged to $1.4 billion from $163 million.

Continue reading

Meet Mary Jo White: The Next SEC Chief and a Guaranteed Wall Street Patsy

Obama’s nominee to head the SEC, Mary Jo White, is just another gatekeeper appointed to make sure no one ever goes after the Wall Street crime syndicate.  As I have written about many times in the past, Obama does not nominate anyone to a high position of power in government who will not behave like a good little lapdog for Wall Street.

Despite Obama’s propagandist statement about how “you don’t want to mess with Mary Jo,” her background implies she will function as a useful servant to the financial oligarchs.  Forget for a second about that fact at her recent firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP her clients included the usual suspects such as such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Morgan Stanley (MS), and UBS AG, but she is actually known as the prosecutor who popularized the “slap Wall Street on the wrist” approach.  From Bloomberg:

As Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor during the 1990s, Mary Jo White could have sought the corporate equivalent of the death penalty: indicting Prudential Securities Inc. for fraudulently marketing $8 billion in ruinous energy partnerships to small investors.

Instead, Prudential’s attorneys pressed White, who had earned notice as an aggressive litigator in terrorism and organized crime cases, to consider something less punitive. She ultimately accepted, agreeing to a $330 million fine and placing Prudential on probation, allowing it to avoid criminal charges.

White’s record on white-collar cases reveals a more practical streak. Her invention of corporate probation, or deferred prosecution, in the Prudential matter was later copied by scores of U.S. attorneys seeking punishment for a company without going to trial.

“Practical” means having no balls and laying down to Wall Street crimes.

Continue reading

How Jack “Bailout Bonus” Lew Got to Treasury

As I and many others have pointed out for years, unless you are a crony Wall Street welfare queen you can pretty much forget about any high level position in the Obama Administration.  Barack made that clear from day one when he decided to surround himself with two of the people at the core of the 2008 financial crisis, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.  The trend is simply continuing with the current nominee for Treasury Secretary: Jack “Bailout Bonus” Lew.  The revolving door is institutionalized and at this point as reliable as a Swiss watch.  From Bloomberg:

Jack Lew is the nominee for Treasury secretary whose own bonus as an investment banker was bailed out by the Treasury Department when it rescued Citigroup Inc. (C) in 2008.  He owes much to America’s taxpayers. He should also be grateful to Citigroup for agreeing to let him rejoin the government without suffering much for it financially.

An intriguing revelation from Lew’s Senate confirmation hearing last week was that he stood to be paid handsomely by Citigroup if he left the company for a top U.S. government job, under his 2006 employment agreement with the bank. The wording of the pay provisions made it seem, at least to me, as if Citigroup might have agreed to pay Lew some sort of a bounty to seek out, and be appointed to, such a position.

Of course he is close to one of the biggest snakes in the grass in modern American history, Robert Rubin.

He joined Citigroup in 2006 as chief operating officer of its global wealth-management division. Lew was recommended by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who at the time was chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee. (There seems to be an unwritten rule that every Treasury secretary must have deep ties to Rubin.)

Continue reading

America Meet Your New Slumlord: Wall Street

And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.

- Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, May 28, 1816

Well they aren’t really your “new” slumlord in the sense you have been debt slaves to the financials system for decades.  What I really mean is that it is now becoming overt and literal.  Literal because financiers are now the main players in the real estate market and are buying all the homes ordinary citizens were kicked out of over the past few years.  Yep, we bailed out the financial system so that financiers with access to cheap credit can buy up all of America’s real estate so that they can then rent it back to you later.

Of course, my opinion is that this will ultimately backfire on all the private equity buyers once they find out multiple generations will start living together and a weak economy will not provide the rental income they envision going forward.  Particularly once we have another severe slowdown…which always happens eventually.  Incredibly, Blackstone has spent $1.5 billion to buy homes in the last 2-3 months alone!

From Bloomberg:

Blackstone has spent more than more than $2.5 billion on 16,000 homes to manage as rentals, deploying capital from the $13.3 billion fund it raised last year, said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for the world’s largest private equity firm. That’s up from $1 billion of homes owned in October, when Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said the company was spending $100 million a week on houses.

“The market is moving much faster than anybody thought possible,” Gray said during an interview in Blackstone’s New York headquarters. “Housing is much stronger than people anticipated.”

Of course the market is improving.  Not because citizens are buying, but because financiers with access to cheap credit are in a bidding war to become America’s slumlords.

Continue reading

Ivy League Gone Wild: Mocking Homeless People, Branding and Vomit Omelets

This story of degenerate behavior at America’s “finest institutions” is a perfect reflection of our declining culture and society.  Just remember as you read the article that this is the pool from which future Central Bank chiefs, government officials and Managing Directors at Goldman will be chosen.  From Bloomberg:

Yale was hit with a discrimination complaint after fraternity members chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!”

An undergraduate house at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard is under fire for an annual hook-up party its residents call Incest Fest. The event is so named because only house members are allowed to attend. Two university clubs have also staged pranks ridiculing homeless people in Harvard Square, according to the Crimson, the student newspaper.

Cornell, which had started tightening its hazing and alcohol policies before Desdunes died, publishes a list of recent hazing incidents on its website. In one account, students were blindfolded and told they would be branded. Their skin was then touched with metal tongs that had been immersed in ice water. “Unable to distinguish cold from hot, new members thought they were being branded.”

Dartmouth, based in Hanover, New Hampshire, was rocked by a hazing scandal in January when then-senior Andrew Lohse wrote in the school newspaper about eating omelets made from vomit and other degrading rituals at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Two other hazing victims came forward after Lohse was criticized by students and alumni.

In April, Ravital Segal wrote in the Huffington Post of being forced to chug bottles of hard liquor in a 2006 Dartmouth sorority initiation. She wrote that she woke up in an intensive care unit with a lethal level of alcohol in her system and two broken teeth. Three other women from two sororities were at the same hospital that night with alcohol poisoning and pressured each other into denying the incident was hazing, Segal said in the article. She declined to comment for this story.

Classy.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike