Rejecting settlement neither reasonable, nor fair, nor adequate, nor in the public interest

Deux articles intéressants qui démontrent la magouille entre les financiers et les politiciens.

Après, on demande, au peuple, travaillé comme des imbéciles pour s’assurer que l’oligarchie financière d’avoir le statut de «Too Big to Fail».


Extrait de: Maverick Judge Jed Rakoff Stares, Keith Fitz-Gerald, Chief Investment Strategist, Down The Street, December 5, 2011

One of the biggest problems with Wall Street's malfeasance is how the ruling elite view legal settlements - as little more than an acceptable cost of doing business.

Well, no more.

Thanks to Judge Jed Rakoff we may see some real regulatory action leading to good old-fashioned investigations, perp walks, and even jail for the guilty.

I'm not talking just about the Bernie Madoffs or the Raj Rajaratnams either. I'm talking about potentially CEOs and even entire corporate boards.

Judge Rakoff recently rendered a 15-page decision rejecting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) $285 million settlement with Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) over toxic mortgages, calling it

"neither reasonable, nor fair, nor adequate, nor in the public interest."

This is important because settlements like these have been a farce for years - little more than the financial equivalent of a parking ticket and having about as much impact.

In fact, in a world where banking secrecy is paramount and investment firms like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) and others rule the roost, they're little more than obfuscations of the truth.

The investigations into these banks are toothless or highly secretive at best. Rarely does the public see anything even remotely resembling full disclosure.

Instead we're supposed to be placated by headlines insinuating that the SEC, the National Futures Association (NFA) and more than 20 other regulatory agencies are looking out for our best interests.

Who are they kidding?

A Drop in the Bucket

Remember the $550 million fine Goldman was forced to pay for its role in toxic credit default swaps (CDOs)? At the time it was the largest ever levied.

SEC officials couldn't stumble over themselves fast enough nor get enough sound bites. I recall lots of PR shots with earnest-looking people evidently proud of themselves for having made Goldman pony up at the time.

And the mainstream press loved it. But there was one tiny problem.

The firm booked $13.3 billion that year. Paying off the SEC in a settlement that neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing was an acceptable cost of doing business that amounted to a mere 4% of revenue.

The proposed Citi settlement was much the same. It would have required Citi to give up $160 million of alleged ill-gotten profits, $30 million of interest, and a $95 million kicker for negligence.

Bear in mind, Citi reported full-year net income of $10.6 billion on revenue of $60.5 billion in 2010 which means that, like the Goldman fine, the settlement:

Is a drop in the bucket at a mere 1.50% of net income.

I think Judge Rakoff's ruling has been a long time coming. And I love the fact that he specifically called out the Citi settlement as too lenient - especially when it also potentially allows Citi to skate on reimbursing investors for the $700 million the firm lost as part of its toxic mortgage trading.

You may not realize this, but private investors cannot bring securities claims based on negligence. In my mind, they should be able to, but for now this is the way the law stands.

The way I see it, Rakoff's decision finally gets at the core of what caused the financial crisis: toothless regulators beholden to the very powerful elite they were supposed to keep in check.

I am all too glad to see him show the public the first glimpse of backbone we've seen yet.

Washington, are you watching and listening?

Sitting on the Bench, Swinging for the Fences

Judge Rakoff noted in his ruling that there is an

"overriding public interest in knowing the truth."

 Yes, there is.

And as Judge Rakoff put it, the SEC's core duty is to "see that the truth emerges." In the event that it doesn't as part of the settlement process, "courts must not, in the name of deference of convenience, grant judicial enforcement, to the agency's contrivances."

I did some checking and I learned that this is not the first time Rakoff has stuck it to the SEC.

Apparently, he's the one who made headlines when he initially rejected the BofA settlement related to that bank's shotgun takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co., a fact I'd forgotten.

At the time, Rakoff rejected the SEC's $33 million BofA settlement on the grounds that it punished shareholders. The SEC then came back with a much more realistic $150 million agreement.

Some think Rakoff has gone too far. They worry that judges have no business interfering in agreements ostensibly reached by private parties.

But I disagree. I believe the SEC is the public.

And the public has the right to know about any case where the transparency of the financial markets (or lack thereof) has so impacted the markets as to destroy the wealth of millions of hard working people and bring the global markets to the edge of oblivion.

Frankly, I'd love to shake Judge Rakoff's hand.

I hope what he's done encourages judges to finally stand up for the body of law they supposedly represent and the public that it's intended to protect.


Extrait de : The Fed Bailouts: Money for Nothing , Alan Grayson, Former U.S. Congressman from Florida's 8th District, 12/ 5/11

I think it's fair to say that Congressman Ron Paul and I are the parents of the GAO's audit of the Federal Reserve. And I say that knowing full well that Dr. Paul has somewhat complicated views regarding gay marriage.

Anyway, one of our love children is a massive 251-page GAO report technocratically entitled "Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Policies and Processes for Managing Emergency Assistance." It is almost as weighty as that 13-lb. baby born in Germany last week, named Jihad.

It also is the first independent audit of the Federal Reserve in the Fed's 99-year history.

Feel free to take a look at it yourself, it's right here. It documents Wall Street bailouts by the Fed that dwarf the $700 billion TARP, and everything else you've heard about.

I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm dramatizing or amplifying what this GAO report says, so I'm just going to list some of my favorite parts, by page number.

Page 131 - The total lending for the Fed's "broad-based emergency programs" was $16,115,000,000,000. That's right, more than $16 trillion. The four largest recipients, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, received more than a trillion dollars each. The 5th largest recipient was Barclays PLC. The 8th was the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, PLC. The 9th was Deutsche Bank AG. The 10th was UBS AG. These four institutions each got between a quarter of a trillion and a trillion dollars. None of them is an American bank.

Pages 133 & 137 - Some of these "broad-based emergency program" loans were long-term, and some were short-term. But the "term-adjusted borrowing" was equivalent to a total of $1,139,000,000,000 more than one year. That's more than $1 trillion out the door. Lending for these programs in fact peaked at more than $1 trillion.

Pages 135 & 196 - Sixty percent of the $738 billion "Commercial Paper Funding Facility" went to the subsidiaries of foreign banks. 36% of the $71 billion Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility also went to subsidiaries of foreign banks.

Page 205 - Separate and apart from these "broad-based emergency program" loans were another $10,057,000,000,000 in "currency swaps." In the "currency swaps," the Fed handed dollars to foreign central banks, no strings attached, to fund bailouts in other countries. The Fed's only "collateral" was a corresponding amount of foreign currency, which never left the Fed's books (even to be deposited to earn interest), plus a promise to repay. But the Fed agreed to give back the foreign currency at the original exchange rate, even if the foreign currency appreciated in value during the period of the swap.

These currency swaps and the "broad-based emergency program" loans, together:  

Totaled more than $26 trillion.

That's almost $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. That's an amount equal to more than seven years of federal spending -- on the military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt, and everything else. And around twice American's total GNP.

Page 201 - Here again, these "swaps" were of varying length, but on Dec. 4, 2008, there were $588,000,000,000 outstanding. That's almost $2,000 for every American. All sent to foreign countries. That's more than twenty times as much as our foreign aid budget.

Page 129 - In October 2008, the Fed gave $60,000,000,000 to the Swiss National Bank with the specific understanding that the money would be used to bail out UBS, a Swiss bank. Not an American bank. A Swiss bank.

Pages 3 & 4 - In addition to the "broad-based programs," and in addition to the "currency swaps," there have been hundreds of billions of dollars in Fed loans called "assistance to individual institutions." This has included Bear Stearns, AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, and "some primary dealers." The Fed decided unilaterally who received this "assistance," and who didn't.

Pages 101 & 173 - You may have heard somewhere that these were riskless transactions, where the Fed always had enough collateral to avoid losses. Not true. The "Maiden Lane I" bailout fund was in the hole for almost two years.

Page 4 - You also may have heard somewhere that all this money was paid back. Not true. The GAO lists five Fed bailout programs that still have amounts outstanding, including $909,000,000,000 (just under a trillion dollars) for the Fed's Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities Purchase Program alone. That's almost $3,000 for every American.

Page 126 - In contemporaneous documents, the Fed apparently did not even take a stab at explaining why it helped some banks (like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) and not others. After the fact, the Fed referred vaguely to "strains in the financial markets," "transitional credit," and the Fed's all-time favorite rationale for everything it does, "increasing liquidity."

81 different places in the GAO report - The Fed applied nothing even resembling a consistent policy toward valuing the assets that it acquired. Sometimes it asked its counterparty to take a "haircut" (discount), sometimes it didn't. Having read the whole report, I see no rhyme or reason to those decisions, with billions upon billions of dollars at stake. 

Page 2 - As massive as these enumerated Fed bailouts were, there were yet more. The GAO did not even endeavor to analyze the Fed's discount window lending, or its single-tranche term repurchase agreements.

Pages 13 & 14 - And the Fed wasn't the only one bailing out Wall Street, of course. On top of what the Fed did, there was the $700,000,000,000 TARP program authorized by Congress (which I voted against). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) also provided a federal guarantee for $600,000,000,000 in bonds issued by Wall Street.

There is one thing that I'd like to add to this, which isn't in the GAO's report. All this is something new, very new. For the first 96 years of the Fed's existence, the Fed's primary market activities were to buy or sell U.S. Treasury bonds (to change the money supply), and to lend at the "discount window." Neither of these activities permitted the Fed to play favorites. But the programs that the GAO audited are fundamentally different.

They allowed the Fed to choose winners and losers.

So what does all this mean? Here are some short observations:

(1) In the case of TARP, at least The People's representatives got a vote. In the case of the Fed's bailouts, which were roughly 20 times as substantial, there was never any vote. Unelected functionaries, with all sorts of ties to Wall Street, handed out trillions of dollars to Wall Street. That's now how a democracy should function, or even can function.

(2) The notion that this was all without risk, just because the Fed can keep printing money, is both laughable and cryable (if that were a word). Leaving aside the example of Germany's hyperinflation in 1923, we have the more recent examples of Iceland (75% of GNP gone when the central bank took over three failed banks) and Ireland (100% of GNP gone when the central bank tried to rescue property firms).

(3) In the same way that American troops cannot act as police officers for the world, our central bank cannot act as piggy bank for the world. If the European Central Bank wants to bail out UBS, fine. But there is no reason why our money should be involved in that.

(4) For the Fed to pick and choose among aid recipients, and then pick and choose who takes a "haircut" and who doesn't, is both corporate welfare and socialism. The Fed is a central bank, not a barber shop.

(5) The main, if not the sole, qualification for getting help from the Fed was to have lost huge amounts of money. The Fed bailouts rewarded failure, and penalized success. (If you don't believe me, ask Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan.) The Fed helped the losers to squander and destroy even more capital.

(6) During all the time that the Fed was stuffing money into the pockets of failed banks, many Americans couldn't borrow a dime for a home, a car, or anything else. If the Fed had extended $26 trillion in credit to the American people instead of Wall Street, would there be 24 million Americans today who can't find a full-time job?

And here's what bothers me most about all this: it can happen again. I've called the GAO report a bailout autopsy. But it's an autopsy of the undead.