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David Stockman: We’ve Been Lied To, Robbed, And Misled

And we’re still at risk of it happening all over again

by Adam Taggart
Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:42 PM

Then, when the Fed’s fire hoses started spraying an elephant soup of liquidity injections in every direction and its balance sheet grew by $1.3 trillion in just thirteen weeks compared to $850 billion during its first ninety-four years, I became convinced that the Fed was flying by the seat of its pants, making it up as it went along. It was evident that its aim was to stop the hissy fit on Wall Street and that the thread of a Great Depression 2.0 was just a cover story for a panicked spree of money printing that exceeded any other episode in recorded human history.

David Stockman, The Great Deformation

David Stockman, former director of the OMB under President Reagan, former US Representative, and veteran financier is an insider’s insider. Few people understand the ways in which both Washington DC and Wall Street work and intersect better than he does.

In his upcoming book, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, Stockman lays out how we have devolved from a free market economy into a managed one that operates for the benefit of a privileged few. And when trouble arises, these few are bailed out at the expense of the public good.

By manipulating the price of money through sustained and historically low interest rates, Greenspan and Bernanke created an era of asset mis-pricing that inevitably would need to correct.  And when market forces attempted to do so in 2008, Paulson et al hoodwinked the world into believing the repercussions would be so calamitous for all that the institutions responsible for the bad actions that instigated the problem needed to be rescued — in full — at all costs.

Of course, history shows that our markets and economy would have been better off had the system been allowed to correct. Most of the “too big to fail” institutions would have survived or been broken into smaller, more resilient, entities. For those that would have failed, smaller, more responsible banks would have stepped up to replace them – as happens as part of the natural course of a free market system:

Essentially there was a cleansing run on the wholesale funding market in the canyons of Wall Street going on. It would have worked its will, just like JP Morgan allowed it to happen in 1907 when we did not have the Fed getting in the way. Because they stopped it in its tracks after the AIG bailout and then all the alphabet soup of different lines that the Fed threw out, and then the enactment of TARP, the last two investment banks standing were rescued, Goldman and Morgan [Stanley], and they should not have been. As a result of being rescued and having the cleansing liquidation of rotten balance sheets stopped, within a few weeks and certainly months they were back to the same old games, such that Goldman Sachs got $10 billion dollars for the fiscal year that started three months later after that check went out, which was October 2008. For the fiscal 2009 year, Goldman Sachs generated what I call a $29 billion surplus – $13 billion of net income after tax, and on top of that $16 billion of salaries and bonuses, 95% of it which was bonuses.

Therefore, the idea that they were on death’s door does not stack up. Even if they had been, it would not make any difference to the health of the financial system. These firms are supposed to come and go, and if people make really bad bets, if they have a trillion dollar balance sheet with six, seven, eight hundred billion dollars worth of hot-money short-term funding, then they ought to take their just reward, because it would create lessons, it would create discipline. So all the new firms that would have been formed out of the remnants of Goldman Sachs where everybody lost their stock values – which for most of these partners is tens of millions, hundreds of millions – when they formed a new firm, I doubt whether they would have gone back to the old game. What happened was the Fed stopped everything in its tracks, kept Goldman Sachs intact, the reckless Goldman Sachs and the reckless Morgan Stanley, everyone quickly recovered their stock value and the game continues. This is one of the evils that comes from this kind of deep intervention in the capital and money markets.

Stockman’s anger at the unnecessary and unfair capital transfer from taxpayer to TBTF bank is matched only by his concern that, even with those bailouts, the banking system is still unacceptably vulnerable to a repeat of the same crime:

The banks quickly worked out their solvency issues because the Fed basically took it out of the hides of Main Street savers and depositors throughout America. When the Fed panicked, it basically destroyed the free-market interest rate – you cannot have capitalism, you cannot have healthy financial markets without an interest rate, which is the price of money, the price of capital that can freely measure and reflect risk and true economic prospects.

Well, once you basically unplug the pricing mechanism of a capital market and make it entirely an administered rate by the Fed, you are going to cause all kinds of deformations as I call them, or mal-investments as some of the Austrians used to call them, that basically pollutes and corrupts the system. Look at the deposit rate right now, it is 50 basis points, maybe 40, for six months. As a result of that, probably $400-500 billion a year is being transferred as a fiscal maneuver by the Fed from savers to the banks. They are collecting the spread, they’ve then booked the profits, they’ve rebuilt their book net worth, and they paid back the TARP basically out of what was thieved from the savers of America.

Now they go down and pound the table and whine and pout like JP Morgan and the rest of them, you have to let us do stock buy backs, you have to let us pay out dividends so we can ramp our stock and collect our stock option winnings. It is outrageous that the authorities, after the so-called “near death experience” of 2008 and this massive fiscal safety net and monetary safety net was put out there, is allowing them to pay dividends and to go into the market and buy back their stock. They should be under house arrest in a sense that every dime they are making from this artificial yield group being delivered by the Fed out of the hides of savers should be put on their balance sheet to build up retained earnings, to build up a cushion. I do not care whether it is fifteen or twenty or twenty-five percent common equity and retained earnings-to-assets or not, that is what we should be doing if we are going to protect the system from another raid by these people the next time we get a meltdown, which can happen at any time.

You can see why I talk about corruption, why crony capitalism is so bad. I mean, the Basel capital standards, they are a joke. We are just allowing the banks to go back into the same old game they were playing before. Everybody said the banks in late 2007 were the greatest thing since sliced bread. The market cap of the ten largest banks in America, including from Bear Stearns all the way to Citibank and JP Morgan and Goldman and so forth, was $1.25 trillion. That was up thirty times from where the predecessors of those institutions had been. Only in 1987, when Greenspan took over and began the era of bubble finance – slowly at first then rapidly, eventually, to have the market cap grow thirty times – and then on the eve of the great meltdown see the $1.25 trillion to market cap disappear, vanish, vaporize in panic in September 2008. Only a few months later, $1 trillion of that market cap disappeared in to the abyss and panic, and Bear Stearns is going down, and all the rest.

This tells you the system is dramatically unstable. In a healthy financial system and a free capital market, if I can put it that way, you are not going to have stuff going from nowhere to @1.2 trillion and then back to a trillion practically at the drop of a hat. That is instability; that is a case of a medicated market that is essentially very dangerous and is one of the many adverse consequences and deformations that result from the central-bank dominated, corrupt monetary system that has slowly built up ever since Nixon closed the gold window, but really as I say in my book, going back to 1933 in April when Roosevelt took all the private gold. So we are in a big dead-end trap, and they are digging deeper every time you get a new maneuver.

Source

Insiders: SAS banker quits after market abuse fine

A JP Morgan senior banker has quit his job after being fined for abuse of insider information about Heritage Oil.

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by Michelle McGagh on Apr 03, 2012 at 10:35

A JP Morgan chairman has quit after being find £450,000 by the City regulator over abuse of insider information relating to a new oil find by Heritage Oil and an offer for the company.

Ian Hannam, chairman of capital markets at JP Morgan Cazenove, has been fined by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) after it discovered he had disclosed inside information in two emails sent in September and October 2008 to a prospective client.

Hannam will appeal the FSA’s decision but has resigned because it would be ‘an unfair distraction to my clients and colleagues’, according to the Guardian.

The information related to Heritage Oil (HOX.L), which was an existing JP Morgan client for which Hannam was the lead adviser.

In the September email, Hannam said of a potential acquisition: ‘I thought I would update you on discussions that have been going on with a potential acquirer of [Heritage Oil chief executive] Tony Buckingham’s business.

‘Tony, advised by myself, has deferred engaging with the client until Thursday of next weeks although we know they are very excited about the recent drilling results of Heritage Oil…I believe that the offer will come in in the current difficult market conditions at £3.50-£4.00 per share. I am not trying to force your hand, just wanted to make sure you aware of what is happening.’

In the second email, Hannam discloses information about a potential oil find, he said: ‘PS – Tony has just found oil and it’s looking good.’

A Fortune article last year described Hannam as a working-class South Londoner, the son of a council worker. He joined the Territorial Special Air Service (SAS) at 17 – one of the youngest men to pass the selection process. Hannam went on to gain a civil engineering degree at Imperial College before going into construction where his first assignment was building roads in Oman.

Hannam then went to business school and embarked on a training programme at Saloman Brothers in New York and worked his way up the corporate ladder – getting caught in the Robert Maxwell fiasco along the way.

The Fortune article said: ‘From Congo to Columbia, from Iraq to Sierra Leone, Hannam and his small team of soldiers-turned-bankers and advisers did business with oligarchs, gem deals, and former mercenaries.’

The FSA said it accepted that Hannam did not deliberately set out to commit market abuse. Hannam has referred the decision to the Upper Tribunal where he and the regulator will state their cases. The Tribunal will determine whether to uphold, vary or cancel the FSA ruling.

Tracey McDermott, acting FSA director of enforcement and financial crime, said: ‘Inside information is extremely valuable and must be handled with care to ensure that it is properly controlled and that appropriate safeguards are observed.

‘This applies to all market participants but is particularly important for senior practitioners who will regularly interact with a wide circle of contacts.’

Source

JP Morgan Managed to Get Its MF Global Money Before Bankruptcy

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Dino Grandoni

Those farmers, traders, and other assorted customers of busted trading firm MF Global probably won’t like hearing the news that JP Morgan got money it was owed, on the day before it filed for bankruptcy, The New York Times reports. And even worse in the hunt for the missing $1 billion in customer funds after the collapse of former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine‘s trading firm, The Times reports that the  “roughly $200 million that JPMorgan Chase received is said to be entirely customer money.” There were other transfers to other, unspecified trading partners on October 28, the day before MF Global filed its bankruptcy papers, as well, the paper reports. Meanwhile, customers have only gotten back a third of their money and are short roughly $1.2 billion. For its part, JP Morgan apparently questioned the source of the money itself, asking for assurances that it wasn’t coming from customers (which it didn’t get).

Source

The Fed’s Black Sky Scenario Revealed

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by Eric Platt

The dark clouds in the Federal Reserve’s 2012 annual stress test are keeping bankers up at night, as banks are being asked to imagine their balance sheet situation under some horrible economic scenarios.

Under the Fed’s bleakest black sky scenario, financial institutions will have to weather 13.1% unemployment, the Dow at 5,600, and Europe in severe recession.

The test, known as the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, includes 12 other metrics for the U.S. market including GDP and inflation, with another 11 points for global economies.

Here are some of the key metrics, complete with headline numbers, for what would happen in the Fed’s worst scenario:

U.S. Real GDP:

  • 4Q11: -4.84%
  • 1Q12: -7.98%
  • 2Q12: -4.23%
  • 3Q12: -3.51%
  • 4Q12: +0.00%
  • 1Q13: +0.72%
  • 2Q13: +2.21%
  • 3Q13: +2.32%
  • 4Q13: +3.45%

U.S. Unemployment:

  • 4Q11: 9.68%
  • 1Q12: 10.58%
  • 2Q12: 11.40%
  • 3Q12: 12.16%
  • 4Q12: 12.76%
  • 1Q13: 13.00%
  • 2Q13: 13.05%
  • 3Q13: 12.96%
  • 4Q13: 12.76%

U.S. 10-Year Treasury Yield:

  • 4Q11: 2.07%
  • 1Q12: 1.94%
  • 2Q12: 1.76%
  • 3Q12: 1.67%
  • 4Q12: 1.76%
  • 1Q13: 1.74%
  • 2Q13: 1.84%
  • 3Q13: 1.98%
  • 4Q13: 1.97%

Dow Jones Industrial Average Price:

  • 4Q11: 9,504.48
  • 1Q12: 7,576.38
  • 2Q12: 7,089.87
  • 3Q12: 5,705.55
  • 4Q12: 5,668.34
  • 1Q13: 6,082.47
  • 2Q13: 6,384.32
  • 3Q13: 7,084.65
  • 4Q13: 7,618.89

EU Real GDP:

  • 4Q11: -1.03%
  • 1Q12: -3.49%
  • 2Q12: -5.40%
  • 3Q12: -6.91%
  • 4Q12: -4.92%
  • 1Q13: -0.88%
  • 2Q13: +0.35%
  • 3Q13: +1.11%
  • 4Q13: +1.50%

Remember, banks have less than two months to stress test their portfolios against these, and 21 other metrics. For a full list of scenario inputs visit the Federal Reserve’s site.

Source

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