Posts filed under “Regulation”
I’m fascinated by this huge article in the Washington Post called The Beautiful Machine. Its about AIG’s Financial Products divisions, a hugely profitable operation specializing in derivatives, with roots in Drexel Burnham, that traces its AIG affiliation all the back to 1987.
Its the first of three parts, and I’ll pull excerpts from each. Here’s Monday’s:
“Over the past two decades, their enterprise, AIG Financial Products, evolved into an indispensable aid to such investment banks as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, as well as governments, municipalities and corporations around the world. The firm developed innovative solutions for its clients, including new methods to free up cash, get rid of debt and guard against rising interest rates or currency fluctuations.
Financial Products unleashed techniques that others on Wall Street rushed to emulate, creating vast, interlocking deals that bound together financial institutions in ways that no one fully understood and contributed to the demise of its parent company as a private enterprise. In the panic of mid-September’s crash, the Bush administration said that AIG had grown too intertwined with the global economy to fail and made the extraordinary decision to take over the reeling giant. The bailout stands at $152 billion and counting — almost 10 times as large as the rescue for the American auto industry.
Many of the most compelling aspects of the economic cataclysm can be seen through the story of AIG and its Financial Products unit: the failure of credit-rating firms, the absence of meaningful federal regulation, the mistaken belief that private contracts did not pose systemic risk, the veneration of computer models and quantitative analysis.
At the end, though, the story of Financial Products is not about math and financial formulas. It is a parable about people who thought they could outwit competitors and market forces alike, and who behaved as though they were uniquely positioned to sidestep the disasters that had destroyed so many financial dreams before them.”
Go read the full piece . . . More tomorrow.
The Beautiful Machine (part 1 of 3)
Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Brady Dennis
Washington Post, Monday, December 29, 2008; Page A01
Some toothless watchdog: This year, the S.E.C. has brought the fewest number of securities fraud prosecutions since 1991. That’s according to the data that the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research group at Syracuse University, has amassed. Soft on White Collar Crime, by the Numbers: • 2008 had 133 prosecutions for securities fraud (thru…Read More
I am trying to figure out who is the biggest jerk in this story. It is a challenge, given the collection of utter clowns and ne’er-do-wells that run that office.
First, you have some moron who helped cost the taxpayers a hundred large ($100B) back in the 1980s. How this idiot ever ended up in a position of responsibility in any regulatory agency again is beyond my comprehension. There are some who would point to all government regulation as the root cause, but crony capitalism and the disbelief in and and all regulations is what leads to putting someone so unsuitable in this position of authority.
Second, you have to wonder about just how frickin’ dumb the idiots who run the office of Thrift Supervision have been the past 8 years. These were the clowns that blamed Schumer for the collapse of Indy Mac, after backdating their capital levels. As you will see below, if the OTS weren’t incompetant boobs, Indy Mac should have been shut down months before their run!
That the OTS is run by such half-wits and morons, that they blamed a US Senator — for having the temerity to ask how much money the criminally incompetant managers running Indy Mac were going to cost the taxpayer — rather than their own inadequate supervision. (BTW, the answer to Schumer’s question was about $9 billion).
Recall that when James Gilleran took over the Office of Thrift Supervision, he took a chainsaw to a stack of regulations to symbolize how his agency was going to “cut red tape” for thrifts (a.k.a. S&Ls), which were heavily involved in mortgage lending. The ideologue in him declared: “Our goal is to allow thrifts to operate with a wide breadth of freedom from regulatory intrusion,” Gilleran said in a 2004 speech.
This wasn’t mere malfeasance by Gilleran — as we have been repeatedly noting, it was nonfeasance — the intentional failure to perform a required legal duty or obligation.
As for the FBI, the division in charge of enforcement, after sounding the warning bell, subsequently made a “strategic alliance” in 2007 with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) the trade association for (then) major industry players like IndyMac and Countrywide Financial. Imagine if the FBI division in charge of organized crime set up a joint venture with the Cosa Nostra. That’s what this was the equivalent of at the FBI.
It all comes back to the radical deregulatory philosophy we discussed Sunday: Appoint cabinet level people who share that same belief system, who think government can never work — and voila! – this is what you get.
Anyone who thinks that really bad behavior in the corporate world needs no proscribing should not be put in charge of Regulatory agencies.
Excerpts after the jump . . .
Won’t be the last one, either: Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, who ran a fund that invested with Bernard Madoff, was found dead at his Madison Avenue office today, a New York City police officer at the scene said. The death appeared to be a suicide, he said. De la Villehuchet, 65, was a founding…Read More
Here’s one of the simple truisms that gets lost in the political (i.e., bumper sticker) discussions. Don’t regulate the free markets! Don’t interfere with innovation! Don’t stifle incentives! What bullshit. One of the best ways to win a debate is to control the language used. This was one of the elements George Orwell was discussing…Read More
In 2001, reporter Erin Arvedlund wrote an article for the financial weekly Barrons that was skeptical of Bernard Madoff’s strategy and performance on Wall Street. She questioned how Madoff was able to offer good returns. She talks with Steve Inskeep about the impetus for her story and what she learned in the process.
Morning Edition, December 18, 2008
Columbia Journalism Review interviews the Miami Herald reporter whose series we have highlighted here many times. JD: I expected there would be some criminal histories. There’s gonna be a few pot possessions and stuff like that. The law said that they were supposed to screen brokers for crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, and “moral turpitude”, which…Read More
What follows is the Harry Markopolos complaint to the SEC, circa November 2005, identifying 29 red flags that Madoff was a fraud. This highly detailed complaint was filed regarding the apparent Fraud at Madoff Securities. It was ignored by the Christopher Cox SEC, which was too busy concocting schemes to dismantle the SEC rather than…Read More
Consider that one year ago Royal Bank of Scotland paid US$100 billion for ABN Amro. That seemingly impossible amount would now buy: Citibank $22,5 billion (74% down) Morgan Stanley $10,5 billion (-72%) Goldman Sachs $21 billion (-67%) Merril Lynch $12,3 billion (-77%) Deutsche Bank $13 billion (-71%) Barclays $12,7 billion (-71%) And still leave $8…Read More