The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.
Whereas the news-media have been concentrating heavily on one item of evidence that Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is a racist (his policy as NYC Mayor, to “Stop and Frisk,” and to jail, Blacks and Hispanics but not Whites) the media have been almost ignoring another important item of evidence that’s just as damning an indication of his racism — and of his bigotry also against the poor — and it is his support for banks’ red-lining, discriminating against Black-majority neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods. At the Nevada debate, he also lied about his condemnation of Obamacare, but that lie will be left till the very end of this report to document.
At the February 19th Democratic candidates’ debate in Nevada, the following assertion by Michael Bloomberg was made, and not questioned or challenged by anyone present, though it was all a lie, as will here be fully documented:
BLOOMBERG: I’ve been well on the record against red-lining since I worked on Wall Street. I was against during the financial crisis. I’ve been against it since.
The financial crisis came about because the people that took the mortgages, packaged them, and other people bought them, those were — that’s where all the disaster was. Red-lining is still a practice some places, and we’ve got to cut it out. But it’s just not true.
What I was going to say, maybe we want to talk about businesses. I’m the only one here that I think that’s ever started a business. Is that fair? OK.
What we need is — I can tell you in New York City, we had programs, they’re mentoring programs for young businesspeople so they can learn how to start a business. We had programs that could get them seed capital. We had programs to get branch banking in their neighborhoods, because if you don’t have a branch bank there, you can’t get a checking account. You can’t get a checking account, you can’t get a loan. You can’t get a loan, you can’t get a mortgage. Then you don’t have any wealth. There’s ways to fix this. And it doesn’t take trillions of dollars. It takes us to focus on the problems of small businesses.
The fact is: Bloomberg championed red-lining, and blamed the 2008 economic collapse on the Government’s efforts to prohibit red-lining.
Bloomberg didn’t blame the 2008 economic collapse on Wall Street banks misrepresenting to investors collateralized mortgage obligations as being safer than they actually knew them to be and were — too often financial frauds against investors — but instead he blamed the crash upon Blacks and poor people. Those people were actually far over-represented among the victims, the individuals who were ‘buying’ a house (actually buying a loan to buy a house) on the basis of mortgage-brokers’ misrepresentations to them of the risks that were involved in the debts that they would thereby be incurring. Those rampant and unregulated misrepresentations and outright frauds by banks and mortgage brokers created a flood of foreclosures. Bloomberg said that, instead, “redlining” against poor neighborhoods was what had kept the U.S. economy booming before the crash, and that the imposition of federal laws prohibiting “red-lining” is what had caused the crash. He said that CitiBank, JPMorgan/Chase, etc., just became victims of meddling by the Government that aimed to get them to eliminate “red-lining” and to increase lending to the poor. Bloomberg’s view of Americans who aren’t enormously wealthy as he is, is that they aren’t as intelligent as he is: he has even said “I could teach anyone to be a farmer,” and he said that “healthcare’s going to bankrupt us” because Americans aren’t willing to accept that some people need to be excluded from healthcare (the solution, he implies, is to deny healthcare to them, so as to avoid “bankrupting” America). (Almost as ignored by the media as Bloomberg’s bigotry against minorities and the poor, and for Wall Street, is his bigotry against women, his sexism; he’s actually loaded with bigotries against the weak and for the strong; he is, in other words, a fascist, a believer in “Might makes right.” But his bigotry for Wall Street is what’s being hidden the most by America’s news-media, because all of the major media and most of the minor media, in America, are owned by and actually represent billionaires — the very same individuals whom Wall Street itself actually represents.)
(Bloomberg also wants Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, cut, in order to increase ‘defense’ spending:
Bloomberg 29 March 2012 on “CBS Morning” w. Charlie Rose:
“Now let’s talk about intelligent cuts, rather than this sequestering thing which would devastate defense. These are ways to slowly decrease the benefits or raise the eligibility age for Medicare and for Social Security, those are ways to have more co-pay on Medicaid, which will do two things, one the users of the service will pay a little more but two they’ll think twice before they use services, so the services they use will be the ones they really need and not stuff that would be nice to have.”)
Here was Bloomberg’s full argument on the cause behind the 2008 economic crash, and I shall follow it up with documentation that banksterism was actually rampant and caused the melt-down; yet taxpayers bailed-out the banks, while both the cheated investors, and home-‘owners’, remained uncompensated, after the crash, and the beneficiaries of the frauds became super-wealthy, some even billionaires — but Bloomberg championed this callousness toward the victims, as being the way the system should function:
24,084 views•Sep 23, 2008
23 September 2008, 0:00-5:45 on the video:
It all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone. Redlining, you remember was the term, where banks took whole neighborhoods and said people in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas, and then Congress got involved, local elected officials as well, and said that’s not fair, these people should be able to get credit, and once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans, where the credit of the person buying the house wasn’t as good as you would like. Now, it’s not so bad when the market for houses keeps going up, because the nice thing about making a mortgage is it’s very secure. After all, if the borrower defaults, you simply sell the house, and you have something that’s worth more than the value of the mortgage. That assumes that real estate prices never go down, and we just discovered that they could.
The way a bank works in making mortgages is exactly the same way an insurance company works, you assume that a handful of people will default, but most people won’t, and you share the pain with other mortgage issuers, so that if a big house goes under, you only have a part of it. What insurance companies assume will never happen is a plague where everybody dies, and what mortgage bankers assume will never happen is a downturn where everybody wants to sell their house. And, in fact, housing is a bit worse because one default, one vacant house on a street can bring down the property values of the whole neighborhood, whereas one person dying probably doesn’t have any effect on other people who have life insurance policies.
Anyways, there was pressure to open up the spigot, and to sell mortgages to everyone, there was very cheap money, the Fed pumped a lot of money into the economy. That was when you used to read about all these private equity guys, that’s where they got the money, well the mortgage bankers got the money too, we had Freddie and Fanny and we facilitated banks constantly making more and more mortgages. And the first thing that happened was we over-built. And one day, we just woke up and some people wanted to sell, and once that starts going down, real estate property values in the sunbelt and vacation places where you’d have two homes and spec homes and when some of these developers built whole tracts of homes at the same time, overbuilt, prices go down, and then the people who held the mortgages all of a sudden had a problem.
The second problem was that Wall Street, because it’s a very competitive industry and a lot of the products that they have have been automated so they can’t make money anymore, had looked for a long time for new ways to make money and the mortgage business was a good business. You could be very creative, some people want to buy a group of mortgages, but they want a group of mortgages that have low return but very low risk. Other people, more willing to take risk, they don’t mind if there’s more volatility, and so the bankers started taking the different components of a mortgage and the different types of mortgages, and packaging them in innovative ways. For example, second mortgages on homes would be the most risky compared to first mortgages, but they also get higher interest-rate, so you could buy a package of second mortgages and have high risk high reward, you could buy a package of low — or you could buy mortgages that were already halfway through their cycle, those toward 30 years, you’d think would be very secure.
Anyways, Wall Street got into the position where they had created so many sophisticated products, my theory is that most people couldn’t understand them, people that worked in the firms. I don’t know that the management of these companies really understood the risks and the volatility. If you need a computer to value it, it’s hard to go through every single mortgage every day. We’re all guilty of this. When things go up, nobody pays attention, we’re Americans, we always think that every day is going to be better. And so Wall Street got itself in a position where they owned a bunch of things that they didn’t understand, and they were much too highly leveraged. And some of the firms were much more aggressive, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG; and they got themselves so far out there that when the mortgage market collapsed, they couldn’t value the things that they owned. The computer models worked but they didn’t know how many of the things at the very bottom were going to be good, and so all of a sudden they had a balance sheet where they knew their liabilities, but they didn’t know the value of their assets. And so they got in trouble. Then you had another level in that the public marketplace takes a look at these companies and they pile on. …
While most of what he said there was accurate, none of it was actually relevant to what actually caused the crash. Here is the reality about what caused the crash — and it’s a bit lengthy, but you’ll be able to get the general idea just in the opening paragraphs, if you don’t want to know more than simply that Bloomberg is a plain bigot (as you’ll quickly see that he is). (However, you might also want to see, at the very end of the present article, the comparison of what Bloomberg’s policies on Wall Street would be, as compared with what Barack Obama’s policies on Wall Street actually were. And then, to close here, we’ll deal briefly with Bloomberg’s lie at the Nevada debate regarding Obamacare)
Shahien Nasiripour of huffingtonpost.com headlined on 13 May 2011, “Confidential Federal Audits Accuse Five Biggest Mortgage Firms Of Defrauding Taxpayers” and he reported that Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial were found by FHA auditors to have been “defrauding taxpayers in their handling of homes purchased with government-backed loans.” Moreover, “The … reports read like veritable indictments of major lenders.”
TIME posted online 20 May 2011, “NY AG Investigation: Why Haven’t Wall Streeters Gone to Jail?” and Stephen Gandel described items of evidence which conclusively proved that top Wall Street firms knowingly cheated investors when selling bum mortgage-backed securities and lying about what they were selling, and declining to reveal information to investors that they were legally obliged to reveal. Gandel noted that even Eliot Spitzer hadn’t gone after Merrill Lynch’s top brass (such as Stanley O’Neal) but instead merely nailed their lowly minion Henry Blodget, who didn’t go to prison – Merrill Lynch merely paid a fine. The profoundness of America’s top-level corruption was undeniable. No country could be more corrupt than this, at the top.
Barry Ritholtz at his ritholtz.com bannered the same day, “Rule of Law: Banker Criminality Demands Prosecution” and Ritholtz, a lawyer himself, listed ten separate types of criminality that had already been documented to have occurred that was sufficient for prosecutions to begin. Perhaps Obama would use these matters over the heads of banksters in order to extract from them cash for his re-election campaign, because Obama actually prosecuted financial crimes even less than George W. Bush did.
The next day, on the 21st, another lawyer (and one who specializes in prosecuting bankster-crimes), William K. Black, headlined at New Economics “Why We Need Regulatory Cops on the Beat”, and he explained why “the best way to help bankers and banks is to virtually never think in terms of helping banks and bankers,” because banks are most easily looted from the top, and because honest bank executives compete at a disadvantage against dishonest ones, who cut corners. This competition – the real-world type, instead of the widely lauded “invisible hand” type (which is no regulation) – virtually forces honest bankers to adopt some of the exploitative techniques of the criminal ones, in order to be able to impress their own boards with their “favorable” competitive results, so as to boost their own compensation. It’s actually a race to the moral bottom. The most ruthless and psychopathic tend to win the biggest performance-bonuses, even if the long-term results turns out poor for the bank. Then, if, in the long-term, taxpayers come in and bail out the bank (bail out actually its stockholders and bondholders), those criminal executives might end up facing no condemnation at all, not even from investors they’ve actually cheated. Black concluded: “A vigorous regulatory cop on the beat … is exactly what honest banks and bankers need.” The problem in America was that this belief contradicted at least thirty years of aristocratic propaganda against having any regulatory cops at all on the elite-street beat, and much of the U.S. population had been deluded by those distortions and lies about the “invisible hand.”
The Wall Street financial firms which were bailed out by the Fed and Treasury — the inside traders who were at the top of the big banks and who had been bondholders in the big banks (and who were bailed out 100 cents on the dollar, by Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner) — became subjects of a blistering exposé in The New York Times, on Christmas Eve, December 24th of 2009. Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story bannered “Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won”, and provided incriminating evidence specifically against Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and “Tricadia, a management company that was a unit of Mariner Investment Group. Until he became a senior adviser to the Treasury secretary early this year, Lewis Sachs was Mariner’s vice chairman. Mr. Sachs oversaw about 20 portfolios there, including Tricadia, and its documents also show that Mr. Sachs sat atop the firm’s C.D.O. management committee. … Mr. Sachs, through a spokesman at the Treasury Department, declined to comment.” Instances were cited in which these investment banks had advised outside investors to buy CDO’s, and were at the same time advising inside investors such as George Soros and John Paulson to sell the same CDO’s short, or to bet against these investments which were being promoted and marketed to those outside investors. Meanwhile, of course, the given bank would itself be betting against those very same trashy CDO’s. The same day, Barry Ritholz at ritholz.com headlined “Should Investment Firms Bet Against Their Clients?” and he quoted a comment by a structured-finance expert: “The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen. When you buy protection against an event that you have had a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.” So, not only would future U.S. taxpayers be liable (courtesy of the U.S. Treasury and the Fed) for the losses on those CDO’s, but the big financial firms which had been so incompetently run as to have been among the losers when the crash finally came (such as Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and AIG) became propped up by George W. Bush and now by Barack Obama, so as to transfer onto outside investors (in this new bubble stock market) those “toxic assets.” Moreover, fraud, real deception, was involved in the creation and marketing of these CDO’s. On December 30th, Yves Smith at nakedcapitalism.com headlined “On Goldman’s (and Now Morgan Stanley’s) Deceptive CDO Practices (aka Screwing Their Customers)” and knocked down Goldman’s public defense of what they had done, “caveat emptor” or “let the buyer beware”: “One of the things that has been frustrating in watching this debate is the peculiar propensity of quite a few observers to defend Goldman and its brethren, and to argue, effectively, caveat emptor. Contrary to the fantasies of libertarians, that is not in fact how markets, particularly securities markets, [except in fascist regimes] operate. In virtually every market in the world, when someone represents his wares as being sound and safe and they turn out to be ‘bad’ and dangerous, the seller is considered to have some responsibility for the damage. Remember those Pintos that turned into fireballs when rear-ended? The pets that died from pet food laced with melamine from China? No one suggested that the buyers of those products were at fault.” Moreover, the situation here was even worse than those examples: “Those products did not fail by design. … By contrast, Goldman wanted” these CDO’s “to fail.” Another part of Goldman’s self-justification was that only “sophisticated investors” were offered these toxic securities, but Yves Smith noted that most of the entities purchasing them were hardly that, and that almost all were unsophisticated in this type of investment. “Pretty much every investment bank in the second half of 2007 was trying to offload its subprime exposures into CDOs. But look at the party suing, the employees’ retirement system of the Virgin Islands. Do you think they have lots of fancy models and skilled experts to assess these deals?” The Bush Administration, and now the Obama Administration, were complicit in those crimes by holding harmless the perpetrators, and by topping that off by forcing future generations of U.S. taxpayers to bail out the biggest banks that had gotten suckered by these scams — even banks which were themselves deceiving other investors to purchase this trash.
McClatchy Newspapers headlined on 2 January 2010, “Goldman’s Offshore Deals Deepened Global Financial Crisis” and Greg Gordon reported: “When financial titan Goldman Sachs joined some of its Wall Street rivals in late 2005 in secretly packaging a new breed of offshore securities, it gave prospective investors little hint that many of the deals were so risky that they could end up losing hundreds of millions of dollars on them. McClatchy has obtained previously undisclosed documents that provide a closer look at the shadowy $1.3 trillion market since 2002 for complex offshore deals, which Chicago financial consultant and frequent Goldman critic Janet Tavakoli said at times met ‘every definition of a Ponzi scheme.’” These deals were done through the tax-haven Cayman Islands, and Tavakoli was able to penetrate through some of the carefully crafted non-disclosure in the documents, to determine that these deals “were riddled with potential conflicts of interest” and were structured by Goldman in a “heads, I win, tails, you lose” way, which meant big profits for Goldman no matter whether the deals turned out to be profitable for their investors. “Tavakoli, an expert in these types of deals, said it’s time to start discussing ‘massive fraud in the financial markets’ that she said stemmed from these deals.” Goldman said that these securities were sold “only to sophisticated investors,” but few of those investors (such as Merrill Lynch) read through the fine print in the multi-hundred-page offering statements; and taxpayers ended up bailing out not only these “sophisticated investors,” but also the bondholders or investors in those investment firms. Banksters were ripping off both other banksters, and investors in those other banksters; but none of these direct and indirect victims were complaining, because future generations of U.S. taxpayers now held these overflowing bags of trash. What occurred here was a crime by that generation of aristocrats, against the future U.S. public, who had no voice during this generation. Their parents, who lived today, were too much suckered by “invisible hand” of God faith, for them to care, or even to know. All they cared about was to avoid “socialism” (such as regulation of banks) and to “protect the free market” against “regulation and meddling.” Even the relatively weak measures which President Obama was recommending in order to regulate against such frauds were blocked in the Senate by unanimous Republican opposition, joined by conservative Democrats. The enormous profits of the huge financial firms that the government had bailed out, were at the disposal of the re-“election” campaigns of elected members of the U.S. Government, so that committed ideological conservatives (aka Republicans and plain corrupt Democrats) were joined there by enough bought members, in order to hold banksters harmless, and protect their turf (aka exploitation of the serfs).
On 3 January 2010, the New York Times Magazine bannered “What’s a Bailed-Out Banker Really Worth?” and Steven Brill reported how the Obama Administration was calculating the pay for executives of the 7 bailed-out TARP recipients. At AIG and at General Motors, executives balked at receiving any of their pay in their own company’s shares, because those shares were “worthless.” On January 7th, Jonathan Weil, a columnist at Bloomberg News, headlined “‘Worthless’ AIG Shares Belie Company’s Books” and he noted Brill’s report that AIG’s and GM’s keeping two sets of books — one set, which was realistic, which the company and the Obama Administration kept secret; and the other set for the company’s investors, outside stockholders. Weil observed: “The latest twist in the AIG saga provides a reminder of one of the fundamental flaws in the government’s bailout efforts. Rather than insisting that failing banks and insurance companies come clean about the rot on their balance sheets as a condition of accepting taxpayer money, the government plied them with cash first and let them keep their true financial condition hidden. While many financial companies’ stocks and bonds have soared since last spring, that’s not necessarily because their fundamentals are so great or their numbers are so credible. The main thing propping them up is the promise that the government will backstop companies it deems too important to fail. Take away that support and market confidence would go with it, because investors still wouldn’t know which companies’ books to trust.” Clearly, now, the books of the TARP recipients were untrustworthy; but all corporations could legally do the same thing. Enron and George W. Bush had started such grossness, but Obama — who could have abandoned it very publicly when entering the White House, and prosecuted Bush and his cronies and really set America onto a different path immediately following the worst Presidency in U.S. history — chose to continue it. He chose to be Bush-lite. Obama was every bit as opposed to accountability as Bush had been; and, therefore, Obama chose to hide Bush’s consequences to the country, rather than to expose those consequences as soon as he entered the Presidency. The consequence personally for Obama was that, instead of his becoming the President who cleaned up Bush’s cesspool, Obama made it his own, and so he shared the blame for it. This response by Obama was exactly the opposite of what FDR had done when he came into office immediately following Herbert Hoover. Obama thus chose to become the anti-FDR, instead of FDR II. Instead of Obama’s taking advantage of the opportunity to expose and shame the Republicans and so to beat them into submission (as FDR had done), Obama sought to compromise with them, by competing with them on corruption.
An important part of the Bush/Obama guilt in the whole affair was removal of mark-to-market accounting valuations: this was essential to these scams’ ongoing success for the perpetrators. It was all part of an elaborate shell-game to get the public to bail aristocrats out of their bad bets. Barack Obama played this game for the aristocracy against the public, just as George W. Bush had done. Evidently, the reason that Obama blocked any prosecution of Bush for any of his many crimes was that Obama, at root, had the same value-system that Bush did. Both men were part of (and Bush was by birth a member of) the aristocracy, and each admired aristocrats. Arrogant regarding their scummy selves, they refused to prosecute their similarly scummy buddies. A national culture in which faith is admired and scientific skepticism is frowned upon does not provide any means for such politicians to be scientifically held to account. Even when their harmfulness to the nation becomes increasingly clear in hindsight, assignment of blame is based upon faith, not upon science.
On 3 June 2009, the Wall Street Journal headlined “Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule,” and documented the corruption behind Congress’s having pressured the FASB — Financial Accounting Standards Board — to relax mark-to-market so as to enable Wall Street’s heist of the government to go unnoticed and thus a quick “economic recovery” to ensue. It was a banksters’ lobbying victory:
The American Bankers Association, a trade group, acknowledges that it exerted pressure to change the rules. The ABA was the biggest donor to the campaign funds of committee members in the weeks before the hearing. It gave a total of $74,500 to 33 members of the committee in the first quarter, according to the Journal analysis of public filings. An ABA spokesman says that is its normal level of support for lawmakers, and that the initiative was part of a broader effort to change accounting rules. “We worked that hearing,” says ABA President Edward Yingling. “We told people that the hearing should be used to talk about the big problems with ‘mark to market,’ and you had 20 straight members of Congress, one after another, turn to FASB and say, ‘Fix it.'”
On 28 July 2009, The New York Times bannered “Politicians Accused Of Meddling In Bank Rules” and Floyd Norris reported that a recent international study “deplored successful efforts by politicians to force changes in accounting rules” in the United States.) On 28 June 2012, Jonathan Weil at Bloomberg News bannered “Banker to the Bankers Knows the Numbers Are Lying” and he reported that in its latest annual report, the Bank for International Settlements acknowledged, “The financial sector needs to recognize losses and recapitalize,” and “banks must adjust balance sheets to accurately reflect the value of assets.” The BIS went further, to condemn policies that “undermine the perceived need to deal with banks’ impaired assets.” In other words, even in 2012, the mega-banks’ financial reports were still lying and overstating the value of their “assets.” And even so late in Obama’s first term, he was still allowing this and pursuing policies that “undermine the perceived need to deal with banks’ impaired assets,” instead of pursuing policies “to deal with banks’ impaired assets.” Obama was participating in massive bank-fraud, helping insiders hide their rot so as to sell it to outsiders.
Finally, ABC News stopped censoring out “Occupy Wall Street” and headlined on 1 October 2011, “‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protests Spread Across the Country.” NYC’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg (whose personal net worth was around $20 billion at that time) was quoted there as saying, “The protesters are protesting against people who make $40,000 to $50,000 a year who are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the bottom line.” He was so ‘compassionate’ — toward banksters. Did he get his talking points from Fox, or rather from the same source as Fox? Either way, both Bloomberg and Murdoch were pumping the same line from Big Brother – who was collectively the aristocracy of which both were part. Remarkably, many of the “User Comments” that were posted at this conservative TV network’s report commented on ABC’s right-wing news slant, and on the major “news” media’s “not covering the protests and doing their best to minimalize and marginalize” its participants, as “Jim C.” said.
On 5 November 2011, Barry Ritholtz headlined a commentary in the Washington Post, “What Caused the Financial Crisis? The Big Lie Goes Viral” and he expressed amazement that Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg News, had “exonerated Wall Street [by saying]: ‘It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp.” This was the theory that Rupert Murdoch’s people (starting in his Wall Street Journal editorial on 22 September 2008) had begun, and that the NYT’s Gretchen Morgenson (and her overtly Wall Street co-author Joshua Rosner) built their narrative around in their best-selling hoax, Reckless Endangerment. Ritholtz summarized here the true causes of the collapse, which he had documented in his 2009 classic Bailout Nation. He listed 11 events, which sequentially produced the collapse.
They’re paraphrased here:
1: Fed Chair Alan Greenspan dropped rates to 1% and kept them there.
2: Investors thus craved mortgage-backed securities, since those were the only AAA bonds that paid high yields regardless of the Fed’s low rates.
3: Those derivative securities were rated AAA because the bond salesmen (Wall Street) paid the rating agencies (Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch), and because – due to the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 – no regulations restricted frauds against investors in derivative-based securities.
4: Taxpayers were put on the hook for Wall Street’s losses because the 1999 Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act eliminated FDR’s 1933 Glass-Steagall Act.
5: The SEC in 2004 allowed unlimited leverage for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman, and Bear Stearns.
6: Wall Street adopted for executives and traders a compensation system with vast upsides for winners and zero downside for losers (all risks to be borne by defrauded investors, and by taxpayers when those investors were other Wall Street firms).
7: Though the Fed was authorized to supervise non-bank MBS originators (such as Countrywide), Greenspan refused.
8: This allowed non-bank MBS originators to commit massive frauds.
9: Adjustable-rate, interest-only, and other come-on mortgages, drew millions of ignorant people to the mortgage slaughter, to be sliced and diced by Wall Street, for investors.
10: Wall Street’s incentive system was based only on loan volume, not at all on loan quality, because government had been corrupted: top executives thus didn’t need to worry about the actual quality of the loans they generated and sold.
11: In 2004, the Office of Comptroller of the Currency federally pre-empted and nullified state laws regulating mortgage credit, thus completing what the 1999 and 2000 federal laws had begun: total deregulation of MBS.
Ritholtz explained that Michael Bloomberg made his fortune by selling the world’s investment firms 400,000 terminals at $1,500/month and that thus Bloomberg was patting his own customers on the back by saying they weren’t at all to blame for the financial collapse; so, the Republican Bloomberg alleged that Democrats had “forced” banks to lend to the poor. Bloomberg was playing the public for suckers, as Wall Street had done.
A subsequent installment from Ritholtz, on November 19th, was titled “Examining the Big Lie: How the Facts of the Economic Crisis Stack Up” and he noted that, despite the Republicans’ theory (which was epitomized by the Morgenson/Rosner bestseller), “The boom and bust was global,” and so, “It is highly unlikely that a simultaneous boom and bust everywhere else in the world was caused by one set of factors (ultra-low interest rates, securitized AAA-rated subprime, derivatives) but had a different set of causes in the United States.” Furthermore, he noted that within the particular case of the U.S., “Nonbank mortgage underwriting exploded from 2001 to 2007, along with the private label securitization market, which eclipsed Fannie and Freddie during the boom.” And, he also noted: “Private lenders not subject to congressional regulations collapsed lending standards.”
An accompanying blog post by Ritholtz was titled “Charts for the ‘Facts of the Economic Crisis’ Column” providing links to the sources.
The end of March 2012 saw both Ritholtz and Nassim Nicholas Taleb (with George A. Martin) separately describing the same historical narrative for how the 2008 crash came about. On March 30th, Business Insider bannered “BARRY RITHOLTZ: This Is What Caused The Financial Crisis And This Is How We Fix It”, and Ritholtz described it by reference to a number of good books that had recently been published on the matter. One passage in his explanation was especially damning of Obama, but without mentioning him. Ritholtz didn’t note that Obama, on 10 February 2009, had admitted to ABC’s Terry Moran, “There are two countries who have gone through some big financial crises over the last decade or two. One was Japan, which never really acknowledged the scale and magnitude of the problems in their banking system, and that resulted in what’s called ‘the lost decade.’ They kept on trying to paper over the problems. The markets sort of stayed up, because the government kept on pumping [taxpayer] money in. But, eventually, nothing happened and they didn’t see any growth whatsoever. Sweden, on the other hand, had a problem like this. They took over the banks, nationalized them, got rid of the bad assets, resold the banks and, a couple of years later, they were going again.” Ritholtz said: “There are two approaches to respond to a banking crisis. There’s the Japanese way, or the Swedish way. The Swedish approach … is ‘To hell with the banks, save the banking system.’ If any given bank is insolvent, you fire the senior management, you wipe out the shareholders, you take the assets, you sell them to the highest bidder and whatever is left over goes to the bondholders. What you’re left with is godo assets and preserved accounts. … The system is saved. … Japan’s approach was, ‘To hell with the banking system, save the banks.’ … Unfortunately, we took a page from the Japanese approach.” He noted: “Now, it’s 30 years later, and Japan is still in a long-term recession.”
Taleb and Martin, in SAIS Review, Winter-Spring 2012, on March 28th, headlined “How to Prevent Other Financial Crises” and they explained why the Japanese approach was bound to fail: “Nobody should be in a position to have the upside without sharing the downside.” Transferring all of the aristocratic losses onto the taxpaying public produces economic failure. But that’s what George W. Bush started, and what Barack Obama completed. At least Bush was being an authentic Republican. Unless the Democratic Party is the same as the Republican, Obama wasn’t being an authentic Democrat; and this means that as a politician he was actually denying the American public of authentic democratic choice in an authentic two-Party democracy; he was imposing fascist dictatorship upon voters in a way that even George W. Bush did not and could not.
Republicans were simply crackpots. Documentation, facts, truth, did not matter to them.
The Republican theory, which was fundamentally different from those of such people as Ritholtz and Taleb, was that the 2008 collapse occurred because Big Government forced banks to give loans to poor people who were unqualified, is simply a hoax. However, the reality is that this collapse reflected a regulatory failure throughout all of the countries where it occurred. In the U.S., it was due specifically to deregulation of Wall Street: and Wall Street still doesn’t want people to know this; so, the Republican Party creates a myth blaming Fannie and Freddie and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which certainly did not cause the 2008 crash.
This Republican hoax continued being spread in the major “news” media. For example, on 25 November 2011, Dean Baker, who had been one of the world’s 30 economists who predicted and explained in advance the economic collapse of 2008, headlined at firedoglake.com, “Washington Post Helps Senator Corker Spread the Big Lie on Fannie and Freddie” and he opened: “When a newspaper abandons journalistic standards in its news pages one hardly expects to find much commitment to truth in its opinion pages. Therefore it is not surprising that the Washington Post opened its pages to [Republican] Tennessee Senator Bob Corker to spread the story that government support for homeownership through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was the cause of the housing bubble. … But surely the Post knows about private issue mortgage backed securities and their role in the bubble. It even published a very good column by Barry Ritholtz a couple of weeks back outlining the story. So why does it allow Corker to publish something that it knows is not true?” This was the wrong question, however: A U.S. Senator’s lying should be news, but the Washington Post failed to report on it, and chose instead to help that liar spread his lie; and why the WP chose to help Corker spread his lie instead of exposed him as being a liar there, was the right question to ask. The WP had a terrific opportunity here to perform real investigative journalism by publishing Corker’s screed and accompanying it with documentation of its falseness. A national press that routinely does that sort of monitoring of the lies that occur in the press and from politicians and think tanks, educates and informs instead of helps to deceive the voting public. That’s not the type of press that exists. The aristocracy owns the press and intentionally avoids doing that.
On 23 November 2011, Ritholtz bannered “Banks Pressing for Foreclosure Settlement Before Investigation” and he reported that, “The banks are hoping to head off further investigations by writing a check in amounts between $18-25 billion.” U.S. taxpayers would pay that; the bailed-out banksters would not. Ritholtz rhetorically asked “Why do I suspect that the hand of former NY Fed president and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is behind this?” Ritholtz also reported that Florida’s “new AG, Pam Bondi, has apparently sold her soul to the notorious Lender Processing Service [which had ravaged her state]. She fired the Fraudclosure investigators.”
America was, now more than ever, the land of opportunity, for children of parents who were in the richest 1%. But for the bottom 99%, it was a land of shrinking opportunity, sinking wages, soaring healthcare costs, and shortening lifespans. And the political choices that the top 1% were offering to the bottom 99% were increasingly between conservatives, on the one hand; and fascists, on the other.
Wall Street marketers of bonds were the paymasters of Moody’s and S&P and Fitch, the bond-rating firms. The bond-rating firms did what their patrons paid them to do. One of the things that Wall Street wanted was for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be pushed to buy the trashy new types of mortgage-backed securities that Wall Street was selling, and the bond-rating firms could help Wall Street in that push. Wall Street still would get the hefty sales-commissions on these high-commission products, but wanted Fannie & Freddie to be freed up by its executives and by Congress to allow F&F to take on, and to provide the taxpayer’s backing of, this riskier new class of bonds that Wall Street was selling. A HUD study in 2009 said, “Large declines in house prices began in December 2006”), and, in December 2006, a Moody’s report was headlined, “Analysis: Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).” This report gave Freddie Mac a generally favorable rating, but urged it to take on this garbage: “Moody’s believes that Freddie Mac’s ongoing internal controls and systems difficulties will inhibit the GSE’s ability to increase market share. In order to maintain relevance, Freddie Mac needs to develop depth in hybrid products, as well as participate to a greater degree in the Alt-A and A- markets. If Freddie Mac is able to establish leadership in these markets it will not only deepen its franchise, but also improve overall profitability as these are higher-margin products.” Moody’s was indirectly telling the top executives at Freddie Mac that in order to be favorably promoted to investors and so to increase those executives’ paychecks, Freddie Mac needed to scoop up Wall Street’s trash, big time. The alternative for those executives would be to fail to “maintain relevance,” and fail to “increase market share,” in the investment products that Wall Street was now pushing.
Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics presented to the Global Interdependence Center, on 30 January 2008, a slide talk, with the slides posted online, which was titled “The Global Risk of Subprime” in which he outlined the cause of the global economic meltdown to come. He was frank that the cause was “the unregulated, $3 trillion over-the-counter market for complex structured assets, some [but by no means all] of which happen to contain subprime residential mortgages.” In the slide headed “Is the Risk Only About Subprime?” he emphasized this matter: “No. The ‘subprime crisis’ is less about the credit quality of the mortgage loans behind a given bond issue and more about how banks package loans and other assets using complex derivative structures, ratings from Moody’s and S&P, and private mortgage insurances. … More than a simple financial disruption, the subprime crisis is a ‘slow motion’ systemic event which holds enormous long term implications for the global economy, the business models of entire industries and financial institutions, and for consumers.” The slide “Flawed Securitization Model” explained: “In place of the implicit guarantee of the US Treasury with GSE [Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac] paper, Wall Street substituted a paid rating from Moody’s or S&P. … Result is an enormous market comprised of unregistered securities which appear to be deliberately opaque … which has virtually no support from dealers or investors; and for which banks retain de facto liability.” Under “Effect: Banking Industry,” he said that “retention of the asset” would mean “that banks will have limited capacity to extend credit.” Under “Effect: Consumer Spending,” he said: “Immediate. … New credit is likely to be scarce.” He was repeatedly unequivocal that this economic collapse would be a result of federal regulatory failure. During subsequent months, details of this regulatory failure became public. (Oddly, his Republican buddies, at AEI and elsewhere, were pumping the view that regulatory failure didn’t cause the current problems on Wall Street, but that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did. However, even professional economists, an extraordinarily “compromised” lot, couldn’t abide that theory.)
On 2 August 2008, the WSJ bannered “McGraw Scion Grapples With S&P’s Woes” and Aaron Lucchetti reported that McGraw-Hill Chairman Harold McGraw III, “whose family started McGraw-Hill in 1888 and still owns about 20% of its shares,” had said that, by means of the company’s S&P bond-rating service, “What we do is provide access to the capital market,” and he treated the rated companies as the firm’s clients, so that “we’re going to rate whatever,” regardless of whether a bond even deserved an investment-grade rating. “He helped set the tone at the bond-rating firm, which stressed profit-growth and keeping costs relatively low.” An accompanying story by Luchetti was bannered “S&P Email: ‘We Should Not Be Rating It’” and he reported that internal e-mails within S&P (which was the world’s largest bond-rating firm) showed some bond-raters very disturbed at pressures to approve bonds. “In one email, an S&P analytical staffer emailed another that a mortgage or structured-finance deal was ‘ridiculous,’ and that ‘we should not be rating it.’” This opinion was clearly in violation of McGraw’s “we’re going to rate whatever,” and the the company’s owner and not its employees made the decisions; so, they did rate it, irrespective of what some employees thought. Another e-mail said, “We are short on resources,” and analysts working 60-plus hours a week were resigning, due to the under-staffing (which resulted from McGraw’s pressure for “keeping costs relatively low”). A manager’s e-mail referred to “health issues” among analysts, and said “We are burning them out.” Another e-mail said “Our staffing issues, of course, make it difficult to deliver the value that justifies our fees.” Whereas some staffers felt that their clients were bond-purchasers, and these workers had integrity and so wanted to produce honest evaluations for investors, Mr. McGraw ran the place on the principle that the actual clients were instead the bond-issuers. It’s how a kleptocracy works. Harold McGraw III was a Republican, but contributed little to politics. On 29 March 2007, he contributed the legal maximum, $2,300, to the Presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney. McGraw’s pay in 2009 was $5,905,317; his “Accumulated Wealth” listed at eqilar.com was $209,042,235; and he was a member of the Business Roundtable of big-corporate CEO’s, the small group who together decide whom to fool the American public to vote for in national elections. For what he had done, he should be in prison for life, but instead Bush (and then, stunningly, Obama) protected such people.
On 6 September 2009, Zachary Goldfarb and Dina Elboghdady headlined in the Washington Post, “Major U.S. Role in Mortgages Shaping Entire Market” and reported that, “Only one lender of consequence remains: the federal government, which undertook one of its earliest and most dramatic rescues of the financial crisis by seizing control a year ago of … Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. … Taxpayers are on the hook for most of the loans that are still being made if they go bad. And they are also on the line for any losses in the massive portfolios of old loans at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or back more than $5 trillion in mortgages. … Although Fannie and Freddie don’t make loans, they effectively set standards for the mortgage industry by detailing what kinds of loans they will purchase from lenders and at what cost.” This article crucially ignored the key fact that on those “old loans,” Fannie and Freddie had been cheated/defrauded by the banks and their compliant bond-rating firms because the actual creditworthiness of the borrowers on those mortgage loans had systematically been artificially (fraudulently) inflated in order for the mortgage-sellers/lenders to be able to make the sale — close the deal with the individual home-buyer — and also in order for the MBS (mortgage-backed security) to be able to look sufficiently attractive/valuable to investment funds that buy MBSs. Both the homebuyers and the MBS-buying investment funds (including retirement funds) were defrauded by Wall Street. The Washington Post was not portraying the economic collapse as having resulted from business-frauds but instead from government-incompetency: specifically by Fannie and Freddie (which didn’t even want to get into this business until they were lobbied by Congress heavily to do so). The ‘reporters’ closed by quoting a conservative professor of finance asserting this ideology: “Having the government this heavily into the mortgage market is inherently a dangerous thing for taxpayers.” That allegation was rabidly false, sheer libertarian propaganda, because, prior to the crumbling of Glass-Steagall and the deregulation of investment derivatives such as MBSs, this surging of fraudulent debt and fraudulent investments hadn’t even existed in the mortgage selling-and-buying markets — except prior to the 1929 crash that had engendered the very same economic regulations that this finance professor was ideologically committed to opposing. The WP article was just PR for libertarianism, a distortion of reality in order to fit a false theory, which the financial industries constantly espouse. Republicans blamed the economic crash on Fannie and Freddie, not on the termination by Clinton and Bush of the FDR-era financial regulations.
CFO featured, June 2010, “Ratings Disaster: Congress takes another stab at reforming the credit-rating agencies, whose AAA seal of approval helped fuel the subprime crisis. But will any change truly make a difference?” This question was ridiculous, because the thing that absolutely needed to be changed here was so obvious: the sellers paying the raters had to be stopped, but the new President Obama didn’t want that and so he failed to provide the leadership which would have been necessary in order for that essential reform to happen. However, this news article, by Randy Myers, did include a shocking chart: The “% of original AAA-rated RMBS universe currently rated below investment grade” was 90%+, in each of the six categories for 2007-originated bonds — not just for Sub-prime, but also for Option ARM, Alt-A ARM, Alt-A fixed, Prime ARM, and Prime Fixed. For 2006 vintage, it was 80%+. For 2005, it was 39%+. And for 2004, it was 3%+ (but still an astoundingly high 50% for Option ARM’s of that vintage).
The only real solution to the bond-rating-service scandals (besides prosecuting the CEO’s for having demanded such crooked operations, deceptive sales-practices on the part of their employees) would be for those services to function as regulated public utilities, which receive as compensation a tiny percentage of the entire bond market, to make the bond-market (and those bond-rating services) honest. On 5 August 2009, S&P advertised in The New York Times, headlining “Standard & Poor’s Commitment: Quality and Independence” and urged avoidance of this “third option” (vs. ‘the issuer-pay model’ and ‘the subscriber-pay model’) because “it runs the risk of a proliferation of government-run models around the world operating without consistent standards across markets” (like utilities customarily do). In other words: S&P simply preferred the corrupt status-quo; they had no real argument – yet even the supposedly “Democratic” Obama catered to those CEO’s.
The lax law-enforcement that allowed the bankster frauds was George W. Bush’s. The aftermath was Barack Obama’s. And the excuses for the frauds were Wall Street’s.
HOW BLOOMBERG’S WALL STREET POLICIES COMPARE WITH OBAMA’S
As I headlined on 26 March 2014, “Obama Definitely Lied About Having Intent to Prosecute Banksters”. Democrats who are looking for a ‘moderate’ like Obama was, will get nothing better than the conservative that Obama was. Here, that’s described:
The probes into bank fraud leading up to the financial industry’s crash have been quietly closed. Is this justice?
WILLIAM D. COHAN, SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE [of The Atlantic]
On may 27, in her first major prosecutorial act as the new U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch unsealed a 47-count indictment against nine fifa officials and another five corporate executives. She was passionate about their wrongdoing. “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” she said. “Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice.”
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the event was a depressing fact. Lynch and her predecessor, Eric Holder, appear to have turned the page on a more relevant vein of wrongdoing: the profligate and dishonest behavior of Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. How we arrived at a place where Wall Street misdeeds go virtually unpunished while soccer executives in Switzerland get arrested is murky at best. But the legal window for punishing Wall Street bankers for fraudulent actions that contributed to the 2008 crash has just about closed. It seems an apt time to ask: In the biggest picture, what justice has been achieved?
Since 2009, 49 financial institutions have paid various government entities and private plaintiffs nearly $190 billion in fines and settlements, according to an analysis by the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. That may seem like a big number, but the money has come from shareholders, not individual bankers. (Settlements were levied on corporations, not specific employees, and paid out as corporate expenses—in some cases, tax-deductible ones.) In early 2014, just weeks after Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, settled out of court with the Justice Department, the bank’s board of directors gave him a 74 percent raise, bringing his salary to $20 million.
The more meaningful number is how many Wall Street executives have gone to jail for playing a part in the crisis. That number is one. (Kareem Serageldin, a senior trader at Credit Suisse, is serving a 30-month sentence for inflating the value of mortgage bonds in his trading portfolio, allowing them to appear more valuable than they really were.) By way of contrast, following the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, more than 1,000 bankers of all stripes were jailed for their transgressions. …
So: this from Bloomberg was not just the banksters’ fraud, it was Obama’s. And it was Bloomberg’s. And it was especially George W. Bush’s, because he was the enforcer at the time, who allowed the banksters to prey upon both deceived investors and deceived home-‘owners’ who weren’t actually the owners of anything except a mortgage they didn’t understand, and then were evicted from the property.
BLOOMBERG’S OTHER BIG LIE AT THE NEVADA DEBATE
At the Nevada debate on February 19th, Bloomberg denied when Joe Biden said “Mike called it a disgrace,” referring to Bloomberg as having criticized Obamacare as a “disgrace” as soon as the Affordable Care Act was passed into law. Then, there was this exchange between Biden and Bloomberg:
BLOOMBERG: I am a fan of Obamacare. At the beginning…
BIDEN: Since when, Mr. Mayor?
BLOOMBERG: Mr. Vice President, I just checked the record, because you’d said one time that I was not. In ’09, I testified and gave a speech before the mayors’ conference in Washington advocating it and trying to get all the mayors to sign on. And I think at that time I wrote an article praising Obamacare. It was either in the New York Post or the Daily News. So the facts are I was there.
BIDEN: Didn’t you call it a disgrace, though, Mr. Mayor?
BLOOMBERG: Let me finish, thank you. I was in favor of it. I thought it didn’t do — go as far as we should. What Trump has done to this is a disgrace. The first thing we’ve got to do is get the White House and bring back those things that were left and then find a way to expand it, another public option, to having some rules about capping charges. All of those things. We shouldn’t just walk away and start something that is totally new, untried.
TODD: OK, Vice President Biden, go ahead.
BIDEN: The mayor said, when we passed it, the signature piece of this administration, it’s a disgrace. They’re the exact words, it was a disgrace. Look it up, check it out. “It was a disgrace.”
Just days earlier, on February 16th, CNN had headlined “Mike Bloomberg in 2010 called Obamacare legislation ‘a disgrace’ and ‘another program that’s going to cost a lot of money’”, and reported:
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the final Obamacare bill would do “absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems” and also called the program “a disgrace” in comments made in 2010, just months after the law’s passage.
Speaking at Dartmouth College in July of that year, Bloomberg added that law was just “another program that’s going to cost a lot more money.”
It is just one of several comments from Bloomberg identified by CNN’s KFile criticizing the landmark Affordable Care Act in the years following its passage, including saying the bill was “really dysfunctional” and did nothing to solve rising health care costs.
Now, a decade later, as he hopes to become the Democratic presidential nominee, Bloomberg has fully embraced the Affordable Care Act, even proposing an additional “Medicare-like public option” that builds on the law.
Bottom line on Bloomberg: he’s a slick liar, and bigot, who just wants to continue the rackets from which he and his Wall Street customers make their money: he wants to be the next George W. Bush, the next Barack Obama, the next Donald Trump: the supreme master of that corrupt operation.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.