Wall Street

Eric Holder Says Justice Department Has Moles on Wall Street

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Testifying on High Frequency Trading Before the House Appropriations Committee on April 4, 2014

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Testifying on High Frequency Trading Before the House Appropriations Committee on April 4, 2014 | No attribution

This is excellent news because those guys truly believe they are “The Masters of the Universe“.  Now let’s see a few of their bubbles burst…H/t: PamK741

Wall Street On Parade – 9-23-2014

In addition to hundreds of Federal bank examiners permanently stationed at Wall Street’s biggest banks by the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in an effort to eradicate a serial crime spree, an unknown number of Justice Department moles are now roaming about the mahogany corridors of power, chatting up potential criminals around the water cooler and hoping to make it out alive before being detected.

Avoiding detection as a mole becomes so much more challenging when the highest law enforcement officer in the land, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, comes to New York to address Wall Street’s lawyers and tells them, flat out, that he’s got moles stationed inside his Wall Street targets. (There were likely 100,000 text messages flying about Wall Street before Holder got to the next paragraph of his speech.)

The revelation by Holder came on September 17, not in off the cuff remarks, but in a carefully prepared speech delivered at NYU School of Law in Manhattan. Discussing an insider trading case, Holder stated:

“It was only because the government had a cooperating witness inside the company – a witness who had agreed to wear a wire – that the department was able to record a verbal account of these actions, to illuminate other obstruction, and to uncover illegal conduct that otherwise might never have come to light.

“Similarly, in our full-court press to investigate and prosecute the ongoing LIBOR matter – which is being led by the Criminal and Antitrust Divisions, and involved a wide-ranging scheme to rig one of the world’s benchmark interest rates – witnesses from inside some of the world’s leading financial firms have played important roles.  They have strengthened our ability to follow leads; to obtain guilty pleas from subsidiaries of major banks like UBS and RBS; and to pursue individual charges against nine former traders and managers at these institutions. Our ongoing investigation into the manipulation of foreign exchange rates has relied on similar investigative techniques involving undercover cooperators, as well.” [Italics added.]

We learn two things in that last sentence. Moles are now called “undercover cooperators” by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney General wants Wall Street to know they’re there.

One can just imagine the paranoia that has spread exponentially on Wall Street since September 17. Every question asked by a colleague is assumed to be a trap. Every wrinkle in those crisp, $400 Gekko shirts is assumed to be a wire. A pair of new eyeglasses might be equipped with a Justice Department mic.

So why would Eric Holder want to throw cold water on all that wonderful synergism on Wall Street — “The Cartel” and “The Bandits’ Club” in the world of foreign currency trading come to mind.

Based on the rest of Holder’s speech, one has the feeling that since multi-billion dollar fines have not worked; deferred prosecutions have not worked; the 849-page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act didn’t work; and perp walks of the lower ranks haven’t worked, the new crime deterrent strategy on Wall Street appears to be to spread the word of an army of moles hiding out in bathroom stalls, boardrooms, and perched on bar stools to record loose tongues.

Holder is nothing if not straight-forward. He came right out and acknowledged that  those jaded ways of Wall Street that collapsed the financial system six years ago are back. “…we are already witnessing a troubling return to some of the very same profit-driven risk-taking that contributed to the 2008 collapse,” said Holder.

Holder went to great lengths to explain how hard it is to prosecute Wall Street’s top dogs, saying it “is true for any number of reasons – from possible advice-of-counsel defenses; to the adequacy or inadequacy of written disclosures; to the difficulty to establish materiality and intent.  And in some instances, it is simply not possible to establish knowledge of a particular scheme on the part of a high-ranking executive who is far removed from a firm’s day-to-day operations.”

The new thinking at the Justice Department, according to Holder, involves incentivizing individuals. Holder told the audience of lawyers: “…no financial fraud case is prosecutable unless we have sufficient evidence of intent – we should seek to better equip investigators to obtain this often-elusive evidence.  This means, among other things, thinking creatively about ways to incentivize witness cooperation and encourage whistleblowers at financial firms to come forward.”

One way to do that, according to Holder, is to increase the bounty for whistleblowers on Wall Street to the one-third of recovered amounts that can be paid to whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, which is limited to fraud against government-funded programs. Holder said he would “implore” Congress to take that action.

Holder explained further:

“…the Justice Department has come to rely on a statute known as the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act – or FIRREA – a little-used law passed after the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.  Over the last few years, the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group – a part of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force – has been aggressive in using this law to develop the types of cases that have resulted in major settlements with JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America, among many others…

“Like the False Claims Act, FIRREA includes a whistleblower provision.  Butunlike the FCA, the amount an individual can receive in exchange for coming forward is capped at just $1.6 million – a paltry sum in an industry in which, last year, the collective bonus pool rose above $26 billion, and median executive pay was $15 million and rising.

“In this unique environment, what would – by any normal standard – be considered a windfall of $1.6 million is unlikely to induce an employee to risk his or her lucrative career in the financial sector.”

So the new plan at Justice to rein in an unrepentant Wall Street appears to be spreading moles about like rat traps in an infested basement while dangling the incentive cheese that they may be able to retire sooner and better off than their bosses.

Of course, there is also the less taxpayer-costly plan of simply breaking up these global behemoths so that they can’t ever again crash the economy by restoring the one law that actually worked for 66 years – the Glass-Steagall Act.

Paul Krugman slams Wall Street for “undermining our economy and our society”

Paul Krugman slams Wall Street for "undermining our economy and our society"

Paul Krugman (Credit: AP/Lai Seng Sin)

I know this is the second consecutive Salon article, but economist, Paul Krugman has something to say and I wanted to share it…

Salon

The New York Times columnist argues that America’s large financial sector has done more harm than good

In his latest column for the New York Times, best-selling author and award-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that the financial sector of the American economy is not only outsized but that it’s hurting the economy and making Americans’ lives worse.

Citing journalist Michael Lewis’ new book on high-frequency trading — which opens with a story about an expensive tunnel being drilled for fiber-optic cable to cut down the communication time between Chicago’s futures markets and the stock market in NYC by three milliseconds — Krugman argues that American public policy has become overly influenced by high finance, with inequality and economic instability as a result. “[American] society,” Krugman writes, “is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.”

After claiming that the large financial sector in the U.S. doesn’t increase overall prosperity and doesn’t promote economic stability, Krugman writes that its primary function seems to be to prey off of less powerful economic actors. “[Wall Street's] playing small investors for suckers,” Krugman says, “causing them to waste huge sums in a vain effort to beat the market.” The result, Krugman posits, is a select few Wall Street players making a lot of private profits while contributing little to the overall public.

Krugman continues:



In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing — maybe less than nothing — in return. [NYU Professor Thomas] Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.

So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It’s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that’s undermining our economy and our society.

 

The Year of the Great Redistribution

Robert Reich

The stock market closed out a record year at an all-time high [at the end of the year] giving stockholders in 2013 their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.

But the real news here, that went completely unreported, is that the 2013 bull market widened inequality because

(1) the richest 1 percent of Americans own 35 percent of the value of all shares of stock, and the richest 10 percent own over 80 percent,

(2) the corporate profits on which these gains were based came largely from keeping the wages of ordinary workers low,

(3) the capital gains and dividends these gains generated are taxed at a lower rate than most of the income of the middle class, and

(4) the biggest winners are the top executives and Wall Street traders whose year-end bonuses are tied to the stock market, and the hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose “carried interest” loophole allows them to cash in big-time. When will we stop measuring the health of the economy by the Dow Jones Industrial average? —

Uh, America, are we listening to this man?

Ted Cruz Gets His Health Insurance Through Goldman Sachs, His Wife Confirms

This is the guy that wants to take away the chance for millions of working Americans to have affordable health care…

The Huffington Post

The wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) confirmed in an interview with The New York Times what the tea party star’s opponents have insinuated gleefully for weeks: The most vocal opponent of Obamacare enjoys a high-priced health plan through investment bank Goldman Sachs.

“Ted is on my health care plan,” Heidi Nelson Cruz, who has worked in the firm’s management division for eight years, told the paper in a story published Wednesday.

Cruz’s plan through Goldman appeared to be an uncomfortable fact for the conservative senator as he lambasted the health care reform law and helped drive what would become a two-week government shutdown. In an exchange during Cruz’s 20-hour anti-Obamacare marathon on the Senate floor in September, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) tried unsuccessfully to get Cruz to admit where he gets his own coverage.

“Will the senator from Texas for the record tell us now — and those who watched this debate — whether he is protected and his family’s protected?” Durbin asked.

Cruz deflected the discussion toward an uninsured diabetic woman that Durbin had been talking about earlier.

A spokeswoman for Cruz confirmed to the Times that the senator gets his coverage through Goldman. The Wall Street bank told the paper the coverage is worth at least $20,000 a year. “The senator is on his wife’s plan, which comes at no cost to the taxpayer and reflects a personal decision about what works best for their family,” the spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said.

As a HuffPost reader noted, it’s debatable whether such a plan comes at no cost to the taxpayer. Employer-sponsored health plans are generally tax-deductible for companies, so the Cruz family’s expensive health plan presumably reduces Goldman’s tax liability.

“Ted is very much a visionary,” Heidi Cruz Nelson told the Times. “He is very strategic, and he’s very practical, and he does what needs to be done, not what everybody wants him to do.”

In interviews with the Times, friends of Heidi Nelson Cruz described her as “less ideological” than her husband, who, recent polls have shown, is still adored by tea party adherents and loathed by liberals and many independents after the shutdown. Before her time at Goldman, she held several posts in the George W. Bush administration, including in the Treasury Department and the National Security Agency.

“Nothing in her background remotely approached Ted’s Scalia-like conservatism,” one friend said, referring to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

 

Boehner wants to keep one hostage, briefly let the other go

                                                                               Associated Press

The Maddow Blog

Have you looked at the major Wall Street indexes this morning? As I type, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 200 points, and as a matter of percentage, the S&P and Nasdaq indexes are doing even better. After weeks in which stocks were on a downward trend, what caused the sudden spike?

Wall Street is now under the impression that congressional Republicans are not going to use the debt ceiling to crash the economy on purpose. This leads to a variety of questions, not the least of which is whether Wall Street’s exuberance is rational.

It may not be. Jane Timm reports from Capitol Hill:

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner proposed a short-term debt ceiling increase — if President Obama will negotiate on opening the government.

That plan may be presented to Obama this afternoon, when a delegation of Republican negotiators will meet at the White House.

And this is where things start to get messy.

We talked earlier about the subtle shifts in the Republicans’ posture, as it slowly dawns on them that they’re losing the public; they won’t achieve their goals through extortion; and they need to find a way out of the trap they set and then promptly fell into.

So, Boehner and his team came up with a plan. They’ll let the government shutdown continue, but raise the debt ceiling for six weeks. In exchange for not crashing the economy on purpose, Democrats will have to agree to participate in budget negotiations.

Will Republicans agree to let the government reopen during the budget talks? No.

Will Republicans take the prospect of a debt-ceiling crisis off the table? No.

Is there any chance in the world Democrats will consider this a credible solution? No.

Indeed, it’s already been rejected.

The White House indicated that while the president might sign a short-term bill to avert default, it rejected the proposal as insufficient to begin negotiations over his health care law or further long-term deficit reductions because the plan does not address the measure passed by the Senate to finance and reopen the government.

“The president has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Democratic appeal to Republicans can basically be summarized in a few words: Just do your job. The government needs to be funded, so fund it — without strings attached or a series of demands. The debt ceiling needs to be raised, so raise it — without demanding treats or taking hostages. At that point, the parties can enter negotiations on just about anything and everything.

But the GOP’s new “offer” is predicated on the same assumptions as the other “offers”: Republicans won’t talk unless the threat of deliberate harm hangs over the discussion. It’s effectively become the GOP’s prerequisite to every process: only plans involving hostages will be considered.

Indeed, why raise the debt ceiling for just six weeks? Either Republicans are prepared to hurt Americans on purpose or they’re not. This is either a threat or it isn’t. Boehner is willing to put the pin back in the grenade, but he wants Democrats to know he’s prepared to pull it again around Thanksgiving?

I suppose it’s evidence of some modicum of progress that GOP officials are looking for a new way out of this mess, but this new “plan” is hardly any more credible than the others.

I wish I could share in Wall Street’s excitement, but I don’t.

NRCC Chair Reportedly Says GOP Waged Shutdown Fight To Placate Tea Party

Jvbzkgvgcmughkl6a9wg

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

This comes as no surprise.  The only surprise is that a Republican let  it go public…

TPM LiveWire

When pressed by Republican donors last month to explain why the party seemed willing to flirt with a government shutdown, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) reportedly said that the tea party left the GOP with no choice.

The Daily Beast’s David Freedlander reported on the comments by Walden, who serves as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which came during a lunch event in New York City.

From Freedlander’s report:

Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

Walden then credited the tea party for its involvement in grassroots efforts.

“I hear this complaint all the time,” Walden reportedly said. “But no one gets involved at the local level. The Tea Party gets involved at the local level.”

The NRCC disputed Walden’s quote, prompting Freedlander to add a note in the body of his piece. NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek told TPM that Walden never mentioned the tea party during his remarks.

Freedlander made clear to TPM in an email that he was not running a correction.

“Although NRCC did not previously dispute the account laid out in the story, they are now, and the story has been updated to reflect that,” he wrote.

Elizabeth Warren Calls Supreme Court Right-Wing, ‘Pro-Corporate’

elizabeth warren supreme court

BOSTON – SEPTEMBER 2: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at the annual Labor Council breakfast in Boston, Sept. 2, 2013. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In  my opinion Senator Warren is the smartest and bravest politician in Washington…

The Huffington Post

In a speech at an AFL-CIO convention on Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the Supreme Court for being too right-wing and serving the interests of Big Business over the needs of Americans.

In voicing her support for the labor movement and promoting an agenda aimed at defending working families, Warren warned of conservative-leaning justices and a “corporate capture of the federal courts.”

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of big business,” Warren said.

Warren said that Wall Street and major corporations are making it difficult for labor leaders to enact financial reform.

“The big banks and their army of lobbyists have fought every step of the way to delay, water down, block or strike down regulations,” Warren said. “When a new approach is proposed -– like my bill with John McCain, Angus King and Maria Cantwell to bring back Glass-Steagall -– you know what happens. They throw everything they’ve got against it.”

“I believe that if people would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen,” she said.

Warren was citing a bipartisan bill aimed at separating lending and trading.

“Despite the progress we’ve made since 2008, the biggest banks continue to threaten the economy,” Warren said in a written statement defending the bill. “The four biggest banks are now 30 percent larger than they were just five years ago, and they have continued to engage in dangerous, high-risk practices that could once again put our economy at risk.”

After Warren concluded her speech, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised the senator, saying, “Ah, if we could only clone her.”

GOP Rep: Wall Street doesn’t commit crimes because they don’t use guns

Are these people really this ignorant?

The Examiner

During a recent town-hall meeting, a Republican congressman claimed that there was no criminal activity happening on Wall Street because they don’t use guns.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) spoke to constituents during a town-hall event in El Dorado Hills, California and was asked many questions. A member in the audience asked what the congressman thought about “Wall Street criminal practice” and where he stood on the Glass Steagall act, a piece a legislation that was repealed in the 1990s that had previously separated commercial banks and investment banks after the stock market crash of 1929. Rep. McClintock responded, but an an interesting reason for why he didn’t believe there was any criminal activity occurring on Wall Street.

“You can get somebody to do just about anything with a gun. I hear about predatory lending, for example, my first question is that is just terrible. You shouldn’t be able to force somebody to take out a loan they don’t want. With respect to Glass Steagall, that is the measure that had been in place, it was a depression era measure, that essentially forbids banks from making a wide range of investments. My attitude is someone different on that. Instead of applying additional government forces into the process, in this gets back to your critical question, lets stop bailing out peoples bad decisions.”

When the financial crisis came into full swing in the fall of 2008, the American people looked on in horror as the economy was dealt its hardest blow since the Great Depression. Decades of looking the other way while big banks where able to run wild, continuing tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations and trade practices that only hurt the middle class, the economy finally fell flat on its face. For any member of congress to use an excuse of lack of fire arms for the reason there is no criminal activity on wall street is almost as delusional as the party he is apart of.

Journalist explains how utter lack of expertise in Congress is ruining America

screenshot

Robert Kaiser

I’ve wondered how so many politicians could be as uninformed in just a general knowledge of high-school civics and economics.

The Raw Story

For his new book, journalist Robert Kaiser intensely researched the political maneuvering surrounding the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. His conclusion? Most members of Congress don’t understand what they’re arguing about.

Speaking on PBS, Kaiser said Wall Street reform only occurred in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse thanks to the unique talents of former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

Unlike the rest of Congress, Frank and Dodds had an actual grasp on the financial situation and understood the need to act. Frank provided the brainpower, while Dodds’ political skill was necessary for financial reform to pass.

“But it was upsetting to me as a citizen to realize how few members understood the issues they were dealing with,” Kaiser remarked. “These are, of course, extremely complicated financial matters, how banks work, how they’re regulated, so on.”

“Not everybody can know this, but at the end, I concluded that you could fit the number of experts in Congress on financial issues easily onto the roster of a Major League Baseball team,” he added. “That’s 25 people. I think that is the max.”

Kaiser also said the lack of expertise was resulting in a deadlocked Congress. Rather than trying to craft meaningful legislation to aid the country, most lawmakers were more interested in scoring partisan political points.

“You don’t really engage on issues in this Congress,” he explained. “What you engage in is political warfare, partisan bashing, one or the other. And the result is that serious policy issues, as we have seen again and again, get very short shrift.”

Watch video, courtesy of PBS, below:

 

Obama is clearly the worst socialist ever

Wrong again GOP and sycophants…

Maddow Blog

Wall Street’s major indexes soared this morning after U.S. home prices saw their best annual rise in seven years, and consumer confidence got another boost. But even before today’s stock-market gains, President Obama is in rare company when it comes to Wall Street returns.

In the 84 years that the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has been calculated, it doubled during the terms of only four presidents before Barack Obama’s election in 2008. This month that number rose to five as the index climbed to more than twice what it was when he took office.

Through Friday, more than 52 months after he took office, the index was up 105 percent during his term in office, for a compound annual gain of 18 percent.

In terms of the percentage gain, it’s worth taking some of this with a grain of salt. If I open a widget factory and sell two widgets a year, I’ll find 100% growth if I sell four widgets the following year. In Obama’s case, it was easier to double the value of the major Wall Street indexes given the scope of the catastrophe he inherited from Bush/Cheney.

Nevertheless, Obama had to get the economy back on track, and he did. As the above New York Times chart helps demonstrate, when it comes to stock-market growth, Obama is already among the most successful modern president of either party, and if the economy continues to steadily improve over the next three years, Obama will fare even better from a historical perspective.

From a purely political perspective, it’s worth remembering that the president’s critics on the right predicted the opposite.

As we talked about several months ago, the real fun begins when we reminisce about what Obama’s Republican critics were saying in early 2009. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal ran anentire editorial in early March 2009 arguing that the weak stock market was a direct result of investors evaluating “Mr. Obama’s agenda and his approach to governance.”

Karl Rove and Lou Dobbs made the same case. So did Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fred Barnes. For a short while, it was one of Mitt Romney’s favorite talking points, too. EvenJ ohn Boehner got in on the larger attack.

For the record, I don’t think a strong stock market is necessarily proof of a robust economy. On the contrary, I care far more about unemployment, median wages, and economic growth than Wall Street returns. But the right shouldn’t try to have it both ways — if a bear market in 2009 is, in the minds of conservatives, clear proof that Obama’s agenda is misguided and dangerous, then by the same reasoning, should we interpret soaring Wall Street indexes as proof of Obama’s genius?