Tags: TBTF

Introducing the Gigantic and Dangerous Wall Street Loophole You’ve Never Heard of

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This spring, traders and analysts working deep in the global swaps markets began picking up peculiar readings: Hundreds of billions of dollars of trades by U.S. banks had seemingly vanished.

The vanishing of the trades was little noted outside a circle of specialists. But the implications were big. The missing transactions reflected an effort by some of the largest U.S. banks — including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley — to get around new regulations on derivatives enacted in the wake of the financial crisis, say current and former financial regulators.

The trades hadn’t really disappeared. Instead, the major banks had tweaked a few key words in swaps contracts and shifted some other  trades to affiliates in London, where regulations are far more lenient. Those affiliates remain largely outside the jurisdiction of U.S. regulators, thanks to a loophole in swaps rules that banks successfully won from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2013.

Many of the CFTC employees who were lobbied in these meetings went on to work for banks. Between 2010 and 2013, there were 50 CFTC staffers who met with the top five U.S. banks 10 or more times. Of those 50 staffers, at least 25 now work for the big five or other top swaps-dealing banks, or for law firms and lobbyists representing these banks.

The lobbying blitz helped win a ruling from the CFTC that left U.S. banks’ overseas operations largely outside the jurisdiction of U.S. regulators. After that rule passed, U.S. banks simply shipped more trades overseas. By December of 2014, certain U.S. swaps markets had seen 95 percent of their trading volume disappear in less than two years.

– From the excellent Reuters article: U.S. Banks Moved Billions of Dollars in Trades Beyond Washington’s Reach

The following story is guaranteed to make you sick. Once again, we’re shown that following trillions in taxpayer funded bailouts and backstops, TBTF Wall Street banks immediately went ahead and focused all their attention obtaining loopholes in order to transfer risk and make billions upon billions of dollars in the financial matrix, as opposed to adding any benefit whatsoever to society.

From Reuters:

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“Bank Lives Matter” – Obama Administration Makes Another Move to Protect Profits of Criminal Mega Banks

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Three top Democrats are accusing the Department of Housing and Urban Development of quietly removing a key clause in its requirements for taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage insurance in order to spare two banks recently convicted of federal crimes from being frozen out of the lucrative market.

HUD’s action is the latest in a series of steps by federal agencies to eliminate real-world consequences for serial financial felons, even as the Obama administration has touted its efforts to hold banks accountable.

– From the Intercept article: Obama Administration Finds New Way to Let Criminal Banks Avoid Consequences

Two days ago, I highlighted a feel-good story about how officials in Santa Cruz County decided to take mega bank criminality into their own hands by voting to cease business relationships with five criminal TBTF mega banks. Here’s an excerpt from the post, Santa Cruz County Votes to Cease Doing Business with Five TBTF Mega Banks:

“There seems to be no limit to the greed in some our nation’s largest banks. I believe it is critical that the County only work with the most trustworthy institutions as we invest and protect the public’s tax dollars. Santa Cruz County should not be involved with those who rigged the world’s biggest financial markets.

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Cronyism Pays – Eric “Too Big to Jail” Holder Triumphantly Returns to His Prior Corporate Law Firm Job

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Trying to determine Barack Obama’s most corrupt, crony appointee presents a virtually impossible task. Every single person he’s appointed to a position of power over the course of his unfathomably shady, violent and unconstitutional presidency, has been little more than a gatekeeper for powerful vested interests. Obama’s job was to talk like a marxist, but act like a robber baron. In this regard, his reign has been an unprecedented success.

All that said, if anyone is a top contender for the worst of the worst of the Obama Administration, it’s Eric Holder. As head of the Department of Justice, he was the one man who could’ve played an enormously positive role in American society, by punishing those responsible for creating the financial crisis that destroyed tens of millions of lives globally. Instead, he chose to actively protect the financial oligarchs and ushered in a tragic new era for these United States. One in which the world suddenly realized that the U.S. is little more than a glorified oligarchy. Essentially an aggressive Banana Republic armed with nuclear weapons and the swagger of a third world dictator.

Holder’s list of failures and evidence shameless cronyism are virtually endless. I’ve covered many of them on this site. Here are just a few:

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“He Woke up on 3rd Base and Thought He Hit a Triple” – A Community Banker Responds to Jamie Dimon

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The recent shareholder letter by JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon provides a crystal clear example of why it’s so dangerous to encourage and subsidize the corporate welfare babies known as the “Too Big to Fail” mega banks. The letter, which features a gigantic photograph of the executive seated casually with legs crossed in jeans, a shirt that appears almost uncomfortable around his neck in the absence of a tie, and all ten fingers touching flawlessly in what undoubtably took multiple takes to provide the sufficient creepiness factor (the presence of presidential cufflinks cannot be confirmed or denied), expounded on how well the mega banks performed during the financial crisis compared to the hundreds of small banks that failed.

This was understandably too much to handle for Camden R. Fine, president and chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America. He wrote a scathing piece in American Banker in rebuttal titled, Dimon’s Defense of Big-Bank Model: An Exercise in Hubris.

Here are some choice excerpts:

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Four “Too Big to Fail/Jail” Banks Threaten to Hold Back Funds to Democrats Over Elizabeth Warren

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Having already proven that their institutions are above the law in the aftermath of the financial crisis, executives at the “Too Big to Fail and Jail” banks have decided it’s time to teach Senate Democrats a lesson. Not being content with trillions in taxpayer backed bailouts to protect and further consolidate virtually all wealth within their oligarch fiefdoms, these bankers are irate at the notion that a commoner would dare criticize their unassailable crony privilege.

However, the worst part of this story, is that while Warren is harsher than most of her completely bought and paid for colleagues, she is still pretty meek when it comes to the big bank oligopoly. In her most misguided position, she doesn’t even support an audit of the largest organized crime institution operating within these United States, the Federal Reserve. Oh and for those of you who will claim the Fed is already audited, think again. Read: The Fed Impedes GAO Audits by Destroying Source Documents.

Thus it seems even Warren’s meager push for reform is simply too much for the thin skinned bailout baby banks to handle. From The Hill:

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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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