Tags: TBTF

Mega Banks Are Fined for Foreign Exchange Rigging – Now It’s Back To “Business as Usual”

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 12.11.39 PMFar from chastening the world’s biggest currency trading firms, the multi-billion dollar fines levied by regulators on Wednesday are more likely to draw a line under the affair and gradually allow a return to business as usual.

A year into a wide-ranging industry probe into charges that banks routinely fleeced clients over currencies, industry observers and politicians were frustrated by a deal they said showed the affair will end just with fines rather than any reform of what they say is the Wild West of financial markets.

– From the Reuters article: Banks pay up and carry on after FX fines

While many readers will have likely already heard about the latest slap on the wrist fine received by the mega banks with regard to FX rigging (which will only encourage more criminality), there are two reasons I want to add my two cents on the topic.

First, it’s an incredible admission of the level of lawlessness that society is willing to put up with, that Reuters so matter-of-factly admits that absolutely nothing will change despite mega banks once again being caught in extraordinarily unethical behavior.

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The Credit Bubble’s “Final Frontier” – Meet Goldman’s Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation

Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation. Say that three times fast.

According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the bailed out financial criminals at Goldman Sachs are set to launch the latest and greatest toxic derivative product directly into the portfolios of willing muppets the world over. It all starts this September, so public pension funds may as well just start taking out stacks of hundreds and torching them at Burning Man while they still have a chance.

Yes, it’s called the “Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation,” and no, you will not have a clue what’s in it. No seriously, you won’t have a clue.

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Former Aide to Bill Clinton Speaks – “My Party Has Lost its Soul”

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.37.26 AMOne reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them. 

- From Bill Curry’s excellent article in SalonMy party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats.

Bill Curry’s article published this past Sunday by Salon is simply extraordinary. One of the things I’ve felt has been lacking in America for some time is the ability for well-meaning people within the “power structure” to look inward and be honest with themselves about the immoral decay fellow members of their socio-economic class have wrought upon the nation via a singleminded pursuit of wealth and power. A perfect example of an ignorant, destructive oligarch completely devoid of self-awareness was put on full display earlier this year when Sam Zell appeared on Bloomberg TV and essentially said the poor just need to act more like the rich.

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The New York Times Describes Obama – “A Restless President Weary of the Obligations of the White House…”

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 4.27.46 PMWhat’s so amusing about today’s article from the New York Times titled, At Dinner Tables, Restless President Finds Intellectual Escape, is that the author appears to be quite sympathetic to Obama. She seems to want to portray the President as a real statesman; one who is so far above politics and the pedestrian task of being Commander in Chief that he finds it necessary to flee his responsibilities in order to find intellectual escape while dining extravagantly with “elites” in Europe. In contrast, he merely comes across as the arrogant, disconnected, oligarch coddler he is.

The article also seems to say something important about the New York Times’ own disconnectedness, particularly considering the paper’s Pentagon correspondent recently referred to the American public as children, with the government and mainstream media playing the role of parents.

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The New York Times Covers “Oligarch Welfare” – Tax Breaks for Private Planes, Yachts and More…

I’m pleased to say that the topic of oligarch and corporate welfare finally seems to be getting the much needed attention it deserves. While billionaires like Sam Zell (read my open letter to him) continue to spout nonsense about how the poor just need to be more like the rich, objective folks are catching on to the joke.

Ironically, the biggest welfare queens in America are the oligarchs and multinational corporations themselves, yet many of them constantly like to blame growing inequality on the supposed character deficiencies of the lower classes.

Earlier this week, I wrote a very well received post titled, A First Look at a New Report on Crony Capitalism – Trillions in Corporate Welfare, as well as the post, Walmart Admits in its Annual Report that its Profits Depend Heavily on Corporate Welfare.

The New York Times has now thrown its hat in the arena with an article titled: A Nation of Takers?

Here are some excerpts:

In the debate about poverty, critics argue that government assistance saps initiative and is unaffordable. After exploring the issue, I must concede that the critics have a point. Here are five public welfare programs that are wasteful and turning us into a nation of “takers.”

First, welfare subsidies for private planes. The United States offers three kinds of subsidies to tycoons with private jets: accelerated tax write-offs, avoidance of personal taxes on the benefit by claiming that private aircraft are for security, and use of air traffic control paid for by chumps flying commercial.

I worry about those tycoons sponging off government. Won’t our pampering damage their character? Won’t they become addicted to the entitlement culture, demanding subsidies even for their yachts? Oh, wait …

Second, welfare subsidies for yachts. The mortgage-interest deduction was meant to encourage a home-owning middle class. But it has been extended to provide subsidies for beach homes and even yachts.

In the meantime, money was slashed last year from the public housing program for America’s neediest.

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Eric Holder and the DOJ Have Spent Millions of Taxpayer Dollars on Unreported Personal Travel

As the Attorney General of these United States, Eric Holder is the top legal advisor for the entire nation. As such, he has been in a position to help punish financial criminals and the mega-banks for the crimes they committed in the run-up to the financial crisis, and the egregious looting thereafter.

Despite his unique role, Eric Holder has spent the past five years taking absolutely zero action on any matter of national significance. In fact, his major claim to fame appears to be that he has solidified the creation of a group of untouchable criminals known as the “Too Big to Jail” class.

So what does Eric Holder do in his spare time, you know, when he isn’t coddling financial oligarchs and running firearms into Mexico? Apparently, according to a recent study from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, he likes to hop on government planes for personal trips at taxpayer expense. Serfs up suckers!

From The Washington Post:

The agency that tracks federal travel did not report hundreds of personal and other “non mission” trips aboard government planes for senior Justice Department officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to a watchdog report.

Congress’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the 395 flights cost taxpayers $7.8 million. But the General Services Administration, which oversees trips aboard federal jets, did not require documentation because of a GSA reporting exemption that covers intelligence agencies, even in cases of unclassified personal travel.

The findings, released Thursday, came out nearly 19 months after Republican lawmakers began questioning Holder’s use of an FBI jet for travel unrelated to Justice Department work. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to look into the matter.

For security reasons, attorneys general are required to use non-commercial flights when they fly, and they have access to Defense Department jets. However, they must reimburse the government for personal trips.

Oh right, good luck with that. I’m more likely to have dinner with the Easter Bunny tonight.

Full article here.

In the spirit of this article, I suggest watching this classic Eric Holder video clip that I highlighted last year. Enjoy:

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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A Vital Message from Venezuela – “They Talk Like Marx, Rule Like Stalin…”

The following quote written on a piece of cardboard from the ongoing protests in Venezuela basically summarizes how the oligarchs, or the 0.01%, and their political henchmen rule in all countries around the world at the moment. Then they cry like little welfare babies when people criticize their behavior.

Powerful stuff:

They speak like Marx
Rule like Stalin
And live like Rockefellers
While the people suffer

TalklikeMarx

Warren Buffet is the absolute master of the above tactic, which is why I once wrote about him being: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.

In Liberty,
Michael Kriegr

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Here’s What Happened When a Journalist Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society

Before we get into this post, let’s review the definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

Antisocial Personality Disorder:  A mental health condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others. This behavior is often criminal.

Now for the symptoms:

Symptoms:

A person with antisocial personality disorder may:

  • Be able to act witty and charming
  • Be good at flattery and manipulating other people’s emotions
  • Break the law repeatedly
  • Disregard the safety of self and others
  • Have problems with substance abuse
  • Lie, steal, and fight often
  • Not show guilt or remorse
  • Often be angry or arrogant

How about treatment?

Treatment:

Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. People with this condition rarely seek treatment on their own. They may only start therapy when required to by a court.

Behavioral treatments, such as those that reward appropriate behavior and have negative consequences for illegal behavior, may hold the most promise. Certain forms of talk therapy are also being explored.

Exactly as many of us have said. Jail time and accountability are necessary to stop these people. Bailouts will only encourage continued sociopathic behavior, which is exactly what we have seen. Think about the above as you read the post below. Enjoy…

The following article by Kevin Roose was published late last night by New York Magazine, and it recounts what the journalist saw when he crashed Wall Street fraternity Kappa Beta Phi’s private party back in 2012. Some elements of his experience were already published a couple years back in a New York Times piece, but his latest article adds an additional perspective and recounts many outrageous aspects of the event I had never read before. This article is particularly important considering the recent trend of billionaires running around on financial television claiming they are being prosecuted for no reason.

Basically, it will confirm what everyone already thought. That a great many of these oligarch financiers are complete and total sociopaths and a menace to society.

From New York Magazine:

Recently, our nation’s financial chieftains have been feeling a little unloved. Venture capitalists are comparing the persecution of the rich to the plight ofJews at Kristallnacht, Wall Street titans are saying that they’re sick of being beaten up, and this week, a billionaire investor, Wilbur Ross, proclaimed that “the 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons.”

Ross’s statement seemed particularly odd, because two years ago, I met Ross at an event that might single-handedly explain why the rest of the country still hates financial tycoons – the annual black-tie induction ceremony of a secret Wall Street fraternity called Kappa Beta Phi.

It was January 2012, and Ross, wearing a tuxedo and purple velvet moccasins embroidered with the fraternity’s Greek letters, was standing at the dais of the St. Regis Hotel ballroom, welcoming a crowd of two hundred wealthy and famous Wall Street figures to the Kappa Beta Phi dinner. Ross, the leader (or “Grand Swipe”) of the fraternity, was preparing to invite 21 new members — “neophytes,” as the group called them — to join its exclusive ranks.

Yeah Ross, what’s not to love about a guy like you.

Looking up at him from an elegant dinner of rack of lamb and foie gras were many of the most famous investors in the world, including executives from nearly every too-big-to-fail bank, private equity megafirm, and major hedge fund. AIG CEO Bob Benmosche was there, as were Wall Street superlawyer Marty Lipton and Alan “Ace” Greenberg, the former chairman of Bear Stearns. And those were just the returning members. Among the neophytes were hedge fund billionaire and major Obama donor Marc Lasry and Joe Reece, a high-ranking dealmaker at Credit Suisse. All told, enough wealth and power was concentrated in the St. Regis that night that if you had dropped a bomb on the roof, global finance as we know it might have ceased to exist.

If you recall, last year Mr. Benmosche compared anger at Wall Street bonuses to the lynching of black people in the south. 

I’d heard whisperings about the existence of Kappa Beta Phi, whose members included both incredibly successful financiers (New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones) and incredibly unsuccessful ones (Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne, former New Jersey governor and MF Global flameout Jon Corzine). It was a secret fraternity, founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, that functioned as a sort of one-percenter’s Friars Club. Each year, the group’s dinner features comedy skits, musical acts in drag, and off-color jokes, and its group’s privacy mantra is “What happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.” For eight decades, it worked. No outsider in living memory had witnessed the entire proceedings firsthand.

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The Comcast/Time Warner Merger and the War Between Centralization and Decentralization

Or take the right to vote. In principle, it is a great privilege. In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty. Therefore, if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society’s merely functional collectives into self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups, capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Government.

-Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited (1958) 

Until recent years, the struggle between the forces of “centralization” and “decentralization” was more of a full on slaughter-fest than an actually battle or war. As Americans sat there blissfully asleep for decades, every facet of our lives has been carefully consolidated into the hands of a smaller and smaller group of corporations, and hence individual executives. This trend is undeniable in everything from food, banking, media and everything in between.

Myself and many others saw the financial crisis of 2008 as a gigantic wakeup call. The disasters caused by powerful financial institutions and the greedy people that ran them should have been used as a rallying cry to break these institutions up. To recognize the dangers of too much power in one particular place. This is especially important in something as crucial as banking. However, as we are all painfully aware, this is not what happened. Rather, the institutions were bailed out, the industry consolidated even more than it was before, and the perpetrators of the crisis emerged from it even more wealthy and powerful.

My personal focus on this website has been to expose the unique dangers presented by centralization in the financial industry and the monetary system. However, many others are dedicated to the equally important and disturbing trends in other industries. Consumer goods is one of these areas, and a very telling diagram went around late last year showing how 10 companies basically control everything you buy. Take a look below:

10corporations

Dangerous consolidation of the media is a trend that has also been discussed by many people on many occasions, and many of us by now have heard the stat that in the U.S. just six media giants control 90% of all TV, news, radio and film. Now that Comcast is set to buy Time Warner, the situation is about to get that much worse. The International Business Times made some poignant points:

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An Open Letter to Sam Zell: Why Your Statements are Delusional and Dangerous

The 1 percent are being pummeled because it’s politically convenient to do so. The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.

– Sam Zell yesterday on Bloomberg Television

Mr. Zell,
I’ve seen clips of you on television several times in the past. I can’t say those appearances elicited strong reactions from me. I can recall being offended at things you have said, and I can remember agreeing with you on other occasions. However, yesterday I found your statements on “class warfare,” “envy” and the “1%” delusional and dangerous. I will address these two points separately.

Why Your Statements Are Delusional

Individuals, social classes, even cultures and nation-states develop storylines and so-called “myths” about themselves and how they fit into the bigger picture of current events and human history. We all see ourselves and whatever group(s) with which we identify within a particular social, political and economic context. This is obvious, yet it is much more difficult to look at your owns myths and question them. It is far easier to look at other groups’ myths and heap criticism on them. That is basically all you do.

For the purpose of this letter, I will focus on socio-economic groups that people are now using in these contemporary United States. Ever since Occupy Wall Street popularized the terms, many people have divided themselves into two overly-simplistic groups, the so-called 99% and the 1%. However, this isn’t the real struggle. I was always against the 1% label, because the true cancer, the true problem comes from a much smaller slice of the population. It comes from what I call the “oligarchs,” the 0.01%, and the politicians that do their bidding. This is your class Mr. Zell, so let’s get that straight right off the bat. That doesn’t mean everyone in the 0.01% should be vilified. I am certain there are many well meaning, decent and honestly good people in that bucket. Nevertheless, what the past five years have proven without a shadow of a doubt is that this class collectively represents the most destructive, delusional and counter-productive members of our society.

Your statements on Bloomberg yesterday prove my point exactly. Let’s start with the most offensive and asinine statement. You said:  

The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder.

First of all you talk of envy. Now without a doubt, there is a significant portion of the so-called 99% that would want nothing more than to have the riches and the power of the 1%, but certainly not all of them, or even necessarily the majority. In my life I have had various experiences and met a lot of people. I lived most of my life in Manhattan and the last three years in Boulder, Colorado. What defines Manhattan more than anything else is that it is a money-chasing place. People who live there are generally obsessed with money as well as materialism, and want as much as they can get in the shortest period of time. People in Colorado are not this way. When I lived in NYC, almost every conversation I overheard would consist of how to make more money or get a bigger bonus. In three years in Colorado, I cannot recall ever hearing a similar conversation. Of course this is an over-generalization, but there is certainly truth to it.

It’s fine to want to make money, and it’s also fine to just want to be comfortable, content and fulfilled in what you do. I’m not making a judgement call here. What I am saying is that people like you, who are constantly surrounded by people that think just like you, people who obsess 24/7 about how to make more money on money, you think that everyone thinks just like you. Sorry to break it to you, they don’t.

So this is where your delusion begins. You think everyone that has issues with you oligarchs and how the 0.01% is destroying our economy and society is simply envious because you assume they think like you do. Certainly, if you were poor you would be envious of the the rich. You’ve made that clear. However, that is not the primary motivation of the anger and resentment swelling up from the underclasses.

I will use myself as an example. I worked on Wall Street from the moment I graduated Duke University. By the time I was in my mid-20s my career was taking off. I was well into the “1%” by my late-20s and if I had continued along that path, who knows maybe one day I could’ve been an oligarch like you. If you were me, you would have continued to pound the pavement of the world’s financial centers to one day become a “master of the universe.” But I don’t want to be you Sam Zell. I voluntarily took myself off that career path, at the very top of my game because I became so disillusioned by the monetary and financial system after the crisis and the bailout of the crooks (your socio-economic class) that caused it. I’m not trying to portray myself as special or some sort of a hero. I am just making the point that from your point of view my choice was completely irrational, and probably one you could never comprehend. Yet there are plenty of people like me out there and you don’t seem to understand this because your entire worldview revolves around wealth.

Your misdiagnosis of the root cause of the current dissent in America is a result of your obliviousness to the actual concerns of the 99%. A group about which you speak with such certainty, yet certainly know almost nothing about. In fact, my website is dedicated to highlighting all of the destructive trends happening in this nation today. From record high food stamp participation, to declining real wages and the reality that young people need to take on so much debt they become indentured serfs from the moment they enter the workforce. From a loss of 4th Amendment rights due to illegal NSA spying, to the militarization of the police force. From oligarch immunity from serious financial crimes that average citizens would be thrown in jail for life for, to trillion dollar bailouts with zero strings attached for the financial community. From the over-prosecution of some of our bravest citizens such as Aaron Swartz, Barrett Brown and Private Manning to a fraudulent two-party sham political system entirely controlled by your socio-economic class.

While I agree that President Obama talks in simplistic, imbecilic “class warfare” terms, what does he do in reality? He is the most oligarch-coddling President this nation has ever seen. Talk is cheap Zell. I only listed a few of the root problems causing dissent in the country. They are very real, they are not going away and as long as oligarchs like you pretend they don’t exist and this is all the result of “envy” nothing will get better. In fact, it will get much, much worse. I see very little envy. I see a populace waking up to a gigantic fucking fraud, full of below average cronies thieving and people getting pissed about it. I see a 0.01% class of oligarchs to which the free market and the rule of law do not apply. So I’m not sure what exactly the 99% is supposed to be emulating. Your unaccountable criminality?

Of course I couldn’t end this section without calling you out on the most absurd thing you said: “The 1 percent work harder.”

Where to begin…First of all, I’d like some hard data to back up this statement. You complain about class warfare and then hypocritically say something like that? How is that not class warfare. You, a billionaire, come on television and tell 320 million people that the reason they feel disillusioned and agitated is because they are lazy. If that’s not class warfare I don’t know what is.

But let’s take this a step further. Let’s assume that the average person in the 1% works harder than the average person in the 99%. This reality still means that there are likely millions, if not tens of millions of above average workers within the 99% that work considerably harder than the average 1% person. Even if you don’t accept my numbers, you can’t deny there would still be hundreds of thousands that fall into that bucket. So what do you have to say to them? Furthermore, where does your expertise on the work ethic of the 99% come from? I highly doubt you spend much time hanging around them.

Why Your Statements Are Destructive
There is genuine dissent in America and it would behoove you to actually try to understand it, rather than assuming it is represented by inane political rhetoric from Barrack Obama. In case you hadn’t noticed, Obama isn’t popular. Neither are Democrats and Republicans. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll showed that 42% of Americans identify as Independent, versus 31% as Democrats and 25% as Republicans. This is the highest “Independent” identification on record. People know something is very wrong, they know the system is broken.

Generally speaking, the dissent from both the “progressive” side and the “libertarian” side overlaps on many issues. Issues that you seem to be oblivious to. These are:

1) Opposition to Wall Street bailouts, the concept of TBTF and the growth of crony capitalism generally.
2) The fact that the “rule of law” is not applied to oligarchs, politicians and government officials.
3) The destruction of civil liberties through the nation and the militarization of police.
4) Endless and pointless wars abroad, as well as the destructive war on drugs at home.

As you yourself admit: “the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.” This is true, and since the 0.01% wields even greater power, you must accept responsibility for these issues. Instead, you just come on television and call everyone envious.

The fact that there is such tremendous overlap on such major issues from activists on the so-called “left” and the “right” is extraordinarily important. These are real grievances that are not going away. Angst on these issues must be dealt with, and no amount of superficial, ignorant statements will change that reality. The only thing that the arrogant oligarch attitude will do is cause more people to despise you. Is that what you want?

I don’t think you’re a bad guy with evil intent. I think you are a money obsessed financier who hasn’t taken the time to actually understand what is really going on within your own country because you have your head so far up your own ass. It’s hard for anyone to actually look at themselves in the mirror and be honest about themselves and the myths they create. However, history shows us that when decadent plutocrats are unable to do so, we end up with disastrous situations. Situations which are often times violent and result in despotism. A situation I desperately hope to avoid, and I truly hope you and others like you recognize your error before it is too late.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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