Thursday Musings On Financial Fraud

Criminal Enterprise

Now I’ve seen it all.

Max Keiser is, of course, quite the capitalist.  And Barry, bless his heart (I do like the guy) is about as far apart politically from myself as someone can be and still be considered to be interested in anything approaching representative government.

But that people have major differences in politics does not mean that they can’t agree on when crimes have been committed:

Here are some recent improprieties by the big banks:

  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments. See thisthis and this
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Details hereherehereherehere,herehereherehereherehere and here
  • Pledging the same mortgage multiple times to different buyers.  See thisthisthisthis and this.  This would be like selling your car, and collecting money from 10 different buyers for the same car
  • Committing massive fraud in an $800 trillion dollar market which effects everything from mortgages, student loans, small business loans and city financing
  • Pushing investments which they knew were terrible, and then betting against the same investments to make money for themselves. See thisthisthisthis and this
  • Engaging in unlawful “Wash Trades” to manipulate asset prices. See thisthis and this
  • Participating in various Ponzi schemes. See thisthis and this
  • Bribing and bullying ratings agencies to inflate ratings on their risky investments

The executives of the big banks invariably pretend that the hanky-panky was only committed by a couple of low-level rogue employees.  But studies show that most of the fraud is committed by management.

Indeed, one of the world’s top fraud experts – professor of law and economics, and former senior S&L regulator Bill Black – says that most financial fraud is “control fraud”, where the people who own the banks are the ones who implement systemic fraud.  See thisthis and this.

But at least the big banks do good things for society, like loaning money to Main Street, right?


  • The big banks have slashed lending since they were bailed out by taxpayers … while smaller banks have increased lending. See thisthis and this

What’s particularly galling about a list like this is the utter lack of attention that it has garnered in the political sphere.  And I’m not talking about Barry’s screed or Max picking it up either — I’m talking about the fact that this has been going on for five years on a more-or-less uninterrupted basis and nobody has been indicted, prosecuted or jailed — nor have any politicians taken this as a prime campaign issue.

Last night a large package of data came “over the transom” from someone who I’ve not heard from before detailing a whole host of allegations and claims from the 2000s, some of which have now been proved up.  It contained many pieces of correspondance with lawmakers offices and other various officials.  I’ve not investigated everything in it (that will take a while) but the “first-blush” claims are that there has been formal intimidation applied toward the person who sent it to me.

The usual argument that goes with such a package is that people who report on it should fear being “disappeared”, Gitmo’d or similar.  As anyone who’s read the Ticker for the last five years knows I’ve repeatedly commented that I’m well-aware that all the nice three-letter agencies in the US (and probably all those in other nations too) read the Ticker; some surreptitiously and some through “official” addresses that are easy to see.  Do I care?  Uh, no.  What would possibly be the point of publishing something other than expecting lots of people to read it?

If you recall I reported catching Bernanke pulling systemic liquidity right around the time of Lehman’s ka-boomwhile claiming he was adding liquidity to relieve stress.  If that was intended to be “hidden” it was a particularly-clumsy act on The Fed’s part, as the data was published on their own web site.   The market’s reaction to that event was predictable — it blew up.  Yet there was zero outrage either in the “mainstream press”or among Congress over what really happened and the clear disconnect between truth and claim — to the contrary, even today people back-slap and high-five Bernanke as a “savior” during the crisis!  The cognitive disconnect between reality and perception has long ago exceeded the limits of rational explanation.

For the last several years we’ve been in a literal twilight zone when it comes to economic reality.  Outright theft and fraud has been intentionally ignored up and down the line and the most-common retort to any report on these scams is “what makes you think this matters?”  This is even true when the scam it something like LIBOR that impacts several hundred trillion in derivatives!  The utter scale of such a scandal defies belief — yet the market, politicians and others all shrug.


As Fox News like to claim, “I report, you decide.”  Anyone who believes that the fraud and felony game won’t run out and that when the music stops everyone will have a chair is a fool, but the world is full of fools and from foolish belief comes opportunity.

In the meantime when your lefty and righty friends try to claim that “nobody committed any crimes” may I recommend you feast on the nice list that Barry Ritholz put together — I don’t think I missed many of these but it is nice of Barry to put them all together in one place, complete with links to the original source stories.

I will continue to maintain that until these frauds and felones do matter, and prosecutions follow, there will be no actual economic recovery — because there can’t be.  Nobody in their right mind leads with their nuts when some of their competitors are known to have a free pass on any sort of illegal act they might choose to commit in an attempt to squash entrepreneurial upstarts.

Until the outrage, followed by indictments, prosecutions and imprisonment starts of the banksters and those affiliated with them, there will be no actual economic recovery.  Markets will go up and they will go down, but the premise of a stock market floating on fraud is one that cannot be trusted or invested in — and thus for virtually everyone in the “real world” the only defensible act is to stay away.

That’s the unfortunate lesson that one must garner from the last five years.

The Market-Ticker

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