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Banksters and Gangsters with Eliot Spitzer – Dylan Ratigan

Banksters and Gangsters with Eliot Spitzer – Dylan Ratigan


via Dylan Ratigan

I sat down yesterday with former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to go over some of the ideas in my new book, Greedy Bastards. Believe it or not, there is a good kind of greed, when money is invested to create real wealth, long-term. But that is not what we are doing today.

Spitzer, who went after both mobsters like Tommy Gambino and Wall Street firms, said both sectors “squeeze money” out of a sector, and that there are more parallels there than we would find comfortable. “The mob was at its most powerful when it was a monopolist,” he said. “Each has figured out how to use leverage” and “how to eliminate competition”. The three letters we have to understand to get Wall Street, Spitzer said, are “OPM” – Other People’s Money.

We discussed how naked credit default swaps can be classified and regulated as online gaming, according to controversial figure Dick Grasso, who used to run the NYSE. Spitzer called the swaps market a “cesspool” which doesn’t do anything but let people “bet in a casino without any social utility.” Finally, we talked about how banking regulations are like the water coolant in a nuclear reactor for the fuel rods. Without them… meltdown!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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With Banks Under Fire, Some Expect a Settlement: NYTimes.com

With Banks Under Fire, Some Expect a Settlement: NYTimes.com


From left, Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News; Ramin Talaie for The New York Times

From left, Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general; Robert Khuzami, of the S.E.C.; and Preet Bharara, of the United States attorney’s office. The agencies are investigating Wall Street.

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and ERIC DASH

Published: May 13, 2010

It is starting to feel as if everyone on Wall Street is under investigation by someone for something.

News on Thursday that New York State prosecutors are examining whether eight banks hoodwinked credit ratings agencies opened yet another front in what is fast becoming the legal battle of a decade for the big names of finance.

Not since the conflicts at the center of Wall Street stock research were laid bare a decade ago, eventually resulting in a $1.4 billion industrywide settlement, have so many investigations swirled across the financial landscape.

Nearly two years after Washington rescued big banks with billions of taxpayer dollars, half a dozen government agencies are still trying, with mixed success, to peel back the layers of the collapse to determine who, if anyone, broke the rules.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, the United States attorney’s office and more are examining how banks created, rated, sold and traded mortgage securities that turned out to be some of the worst investments ever devised.

Virtually all of the investigations, criminal as well as civil, are in their early stages, and investigators concede that their job is daunting. The S.E.C. has been examining major banks’ mortgage operations since last summer, but so far, it has filed a civil fraud claim against just one big player: Goldman Sachs. Goldman has vowed to fight.

But legal experts are already starting to handicap potential outcomes, not only for Goldman but for the broader industry as well. Many suggest that Wall Street banks may seek a global settlement akin to the 2002 agreement related to stock research. Indeed, Wall Street executives are already discussing among themselves what the broad contours of such a settlement might look like.

“I would be stunned if any of these cases go to trial,” said Frank Partnoy, a professor of law at the University of San Diego. “I think Wall Street needs to put this scandal behind it as quickly as possible and move on.”

As part of the 2002 settlement, 10 banks paid $1.4 billion total and pledged to change the way their analysts and investment bankers interacted to prevent conflicts of interest. This time, the price of any settlement would probably be higher and also come with a series of structural reforms.

David Boies, chairman of the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, represented the government in its case against Microsoft and is now part of a federal challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban. He said a settlement by banks might be painful but would ultimately be something Wall Street could live with. “The settlement may be bad for everyone, but not disastrous for anyone,” he said.

A settlement also would let the S.E.C. declare victory without having to bring a series of complex cases. The public, however, might never learn what really went wrong.

“The government doesn’t have the personnel to simultaneously prosecute several investment banks,” said John C. Coffee, a Columbia Law School professor.

The latest salvo came on Thursday from Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general. His office began an investigation into whether banks misled major ratings agencies to inflate the grades of subprime-linked investments.

Many Americans are probably already wondering why this has taken so long. The answer is that these cases are tricky, like the investments at the center of them.

But regulators also concede that they were reluctant to pursue banks aggressively until the financial industry stabilized. The S.E.C., for one, is now eager to prove that it is on its game after failing to spot the global Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernard L. Madoff, or head off the Wall Street excesses that nearly sank the entire economy.

The stakes are high for both sides. At a minimum, the failure to secure a civil verdict, or at least a mammoth settlement, would be another humiliation for regulators.

Wall Street wants to put this season of scandal behind it. That is particularly so given the debate over new financial regulations that is under way on Capitol Hill. The steady flow of new allegations could strengthen calls for tougher rules.

Even worse would be a criminal charge, which could put a firm out of business even if that firm were ultimately found not guilty, as was the case with the accounting giant Arthur Andersen after the fraud at Enron.

“No firm in the financial services field has the stomach for a criminal trial,” Mr. Coffee said.

Bankers have been reluctant until now to take their case to the public. But that is changing as Wall Street chieftains like Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman take to the airwaves and New York politicians warn that the city’s economy will be endangered by the attack on some of the city’s biggest employers and taxpayers.

“In New York, Wall Street is Main Street,” Gov. David A. Paterson has said. “You don’t hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder.”

There are broader political consequences as well. At the top, there is President Obama, who was backed by much of Wall Street in 2008. Many of those supporters now privately say they are disillusioned and frustrated by his attacks on their industry, which remains a vital source of campaign contributions for both parties.

Closer to home, the man who hopes to succeed Mr. Paterson, Mr. Cuomo, is painting himself as the new sheriff of Wall Street. Another attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, rode a series of Wall Street investigations to the governor’s mansion in 2006.

But ultimately, it is what Wall Street does best — making money — that is already on trial in the court of public opinion.

Put simply, the allegations against Wall Street were prompted by evidence that the firms may have devised and sold securities to investors without telling them they were simultaneously betting against them.

Wall Street firms typically play both sides of trades, whether to help buyers and sellers of everything from simple stocks to complicated derivatives complete their transactions, or to make proprietary bets on whether they would rise or fall.

These activities form half of the four-legged stool on which Wall Street’s profits and revenue rest, the others being advising on mergers and acquisitions and helping companies issue stocks, bonds and other securities.

“This case is a huge deal. It has the potential to be the mother of all Wall Street investigations,” said Mr. Partnoy of the University of San Diego. “The worry is that the government will go after dealings that Wall Street thought were insulated from review.”

Even some Wall Street executives concede that all the scrutiny makes proprietary trading a bit dubious. “The 20 guys in the room with the shades drawn are toast,” one senior executive of a major bank said.

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GORED BY WALL STREET: Senate Blocks Vote To Rein In Big Banks — Because It Probably Would Have Passed

GORED BY WALL STREET: Senate Blocks Vote To Rein In Big Banks — Because It Probably Would Have Passed


Simon JohnsonSimon Johnson

: May 21, 2010 09:21 AM

Focus on This: Merkley-Levin Did Not Get a Vote

After nine months of hard fighting, yesterday financial reform came down to this: an amendment, proposed by Senators Jeff Merkley and Carl Levin that would have forced big banks to get rid of their speculative proprietary trading activities (i.e., a relatively strong version of the Volcker Rule.)

The amendment had picked up a great deal of support in recent weeks, partly because of unflagging support from Paul Volcker and partly because of the broader debate around the Brown-Kaufman amendment (which would have forced the biggest 6 banks to become smaller). Brown-Kaufman failed, 33-61, but it demonstrated that a growing number of senators were willing to confront the power of our biggest and worst banks.

Yet, at the end of the day, the Merkley-Levin amendment did not even get a vote. Why?

continue reading…. Huffington Post

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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AP IMPACT: Gov't bank auditors got big bonuses: Just like the Banksters

AP IMPACT: Gov't bank auditors got big bonuses: Just like the Banksters


Last updated March 18, 2010 5:38 a.m. PT

AP IMPACT: Gov’t bank auditors got big bonuses

By MATT APUZZO
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER 

WASHINGTON — Banks weren’t the only ones giving big bonuses in the boom years before the worst financial crisis in generations. The government also was handing out millions of dollars to bank regulators, rewarding “superior” work even as an avalanche of risky mortgages helped create the meltdown.

The payments, detailed in payroll data released to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, are photothe latest evidence of the government’s false sense of security during the go-go days of the financial boom. Just as bank executives got bonuses despite taking on dangerous amounts of risk, regulators got taxpayer-funded bonuses despite missing or ignoring signs that the system was on the verge of a meltdown.

The bonuses were part of a reward program little known outside the government. Some government regulators got tens of thousands of dollars in perks, boosting their salaries by almost 25 percent. Often, though, rewards amounted to just a few hundred dollars for employees who came up with good ideas.

During the 2003-06 boom, the three agencies that supervise most U.S. banks – the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – gave out at least $19 million in bonuses, records show.

Nearly all that money was spent recognizing “superior” performance. The largest share, more than $8.4 million, went to financial examiners, those employees and managers who scrutinize internal bank documents and sound the first alarms. Analysts, auditors, economists and criminal investigators also got awards.

After the meltdown, the government’s internal investigators surveyed the wreckage of nearly 200 failed banks and repeatedly found that those regulators had not done enough:

-“OTS did not react in a timely and forceful manner to certain repeated indications of problems,” the Treasury Department’s inspector general said of the thrift supervision office following the $2.5 billion collapse of NetBank, the first major bank failure of the economic crisis.

-“OCC did not issue a formal enforcement action in a timely manner and was not aggressive enough in the supervision of ANB in light of the bank’s rapid growth,” the inspector general said of the currency comptroller after the $2.1 billion failure of ANB Financial National Association

-“In retrospect, a stronger supervisory response at earlier examinations may have been prudent,” FDIC’s inspector general concluded following the $1.8 billion collapse of New Frontier Bank.

-“OTS examiners did not identify or sufficiently address the core weaknesses that ultimately caused the thrift to fail until it was too late,” Treasury’s inspector general said regarding IndyMac, which in 2008 became one of the largest bank failures in history. “They believed their supervision was adequate. We disagree.”

-“OCC’s supervision of Omni National Bank was inadequate,” Treasury investigators concluded following Omni’s $956 million failure.

Because most bank inspection records are not public and the government blacked out many of the employee names before releasing the bonus data, it’s impossible to determine how many auditors got bonuses despite working on major banks that failed.

Regulators says it’s unfair to use those missteps, seen with the benefit of hindsight, to suggest any of the bonuses was improper.

“These are meant to motivate employees, have them work hard,” thrift office spokesman William Ruberry said. “The economy has taken a downturn in recent years. I’m not sure that negates the hard work or good ideas of our employees.”

At the OCC, spokesman Kevin Mukri noted that the national banks his agencies regulate generally fared better than others during the financial crisis.

“In making compensation decisions, the OCC is mindful of the need to recruit and retain the very best people, and our merit system is aimed at accomplishing that,” Mukri said. “We also believe it is important to reward those who worked so hard and showed such great professionalism throughout the crisis.”

David Barr, a spokesman for the FDIC, which handed out two-thirds of the bonuses during the boom, had no comment.

In government, as on Wall Street, bonuses are part of the culture. Federal employees can get extra pay for innovative ideas, recruiting new talent or performing exceptional work. Candidates being considered for hard-to-fill jobs may be offered student loan reimbursement or cash bonuses to get them in the door and keep them from leaving.

The bonus data released to the AP does not say specifically why each person received a bonus. For instance, one person in the OCC’s financial examining division got a $41,000 recruitment bonus on top of a $179,000 salary in 2005. In 2006, the last boom year for banks buying risky mortgages, the FDIC gave out more than 2,000 bonuses to financial examiners.

In 2008, the year the market collapsed, OTS gave 96 financial examiners bonuses of up to $3,000 for exceptional work.

At the three regulatory agencies, the value of the bonuses stayed roughly constant from before the banking boom, through the good times and into the collapse. While the total pales in comparison with the billions spent on Wall Street perks, the justification was similar.

“Bonuses were determined based upon the performance and the retention of the people,” said John Thain, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, the troubled brokerage firm that paid out $3.6 billion in bonuses just before selling itself to Bank of America. “And there is nothing that happened in the world or the economy that would make you say that those were not the right thing to do for the retention and the reward of the people who were performing.”

To be sure, Washington policymakers eased regulations and encouraged banks to write risky loans. Families bought homes they couldn’t afford. Brokers found them mortgages. Bankers quickly snatched them up, never asking whether they could be repaid. And rating agencies certified it all as safe.

But regulators were part of the problem, and the bonuses were a symptom, said Ellen Seidman, a research fellow at the New America Foundation think tank and the former head of OTS from 1997 to 2001.

“Is it probably the case that the standards for evaluating how well people in the regulatory system were doing were not as high as they should have been? Probably,” Seidman said.

But the bigger question, she said, is why government regulators thought they were doing so well: “Why did the system fool itself?”

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