Monthly Archives: September 2011

Philip Pilkington: Twitterifying Catastrophe

By Philip Pilkington, a writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland

As stock markets continue to fall and the eurocrisis rolls on an independent trader called Alessio Rastani appears on BBC live and gives a candid account of how he, as a trader, views the crisis.

He sees it, he says, as an opportunity to make an awful lot of money. He tells viewers that they too should seek out safe havens – such as US Treasury bills and dollar holdings – to weather the continuing storm.

Not long after the Twitterati are out in droves


Is the SEC Finally Taking Serious Aim at the Ratings Agencies?

If the grumblings in the comments section are any guide, quite a few citizens are perplexed and frustrated that the ratings agencies have suffered virtually no pain despite being one of the major points of failure that helped precipitate the global financial crisis. If there were no such thing as ratings agencies (i.e., investors had to make their own judgments) or the ratings agencies had managed not to be so recklessly incompetent, it’s pretty unlikely that highly leveraged financial institutions would have loaded up on manufactured AAA CDOs for bonus gaming purposes.

But the assumption has been that the ratings agencies are bullet proof. Their role is enshrined in numerous regulations and products that make ratings part of an investment decision. And they get a free pass on mistakes, no matter how egregious. (Note that there have been rulings that have taken issue with the ratings agencies reliance on the invocation of the First Amendment defense, but to date they have been on procedural matters. To my knowledge, no party has been awarded damages against a ratings agency based on a judge deciding that a First Amendment defense was inapplicable)

So why, pray tell, has the SEC sent a Wells notice to Standard and Poors, which is a heads up that the regulator may file civil charges, which could result in penalties and disgorgement of fees, on a 2007 Magnetar CDO called Delphinius?


Tom Ferguson on America for Sale

Tom Ferguson is my favorite curmudgeon and if you listen to this podcast from Radio Free Dylan [Ratigan], you are likely to join his fan club. Ferguson is a political scientist who is both a serious archivist (which means he has found how the official accounts have been doctored to flatter the victors) and is an astute observer of national and state politics.


Can European Politicians Beat the Clock and Stave Off a Crisis?

The Eurocrats finally seem to have realized time is running out. The abrupt market downdraft of last week appears to have focused their minds on the need for a much larger scale rescue mechanism of some form, with numbers like trillions attached, and that will move the Eurozone further towards fiscal integration, another badly needed outcome.


Jamie Dimon Now Trying to Beat Up on Heads of Central Banks

We’ve mentioned in older posts that Dimon’s history as a bully goes back at least to business school. Former section mates report that even by Harvard Business School standards, Dimon was a standout in the aggression category.

Readers may also recall that Dimon’s latest effort to get out of having international capital standards imposed on JP Morgan was to call them “anti-American”. It appears that, for a big bank, “American” = “not having to obey any rules”.


“Why Pay for Performance Should Get the Sack”

Yves here. Before reacting reflexively to the thesis of the article, consider this corroborating view from the former chairman of Goldman, John Whitehead, back in 2007:

“I’m appalled at the salaries,” the retired co-chairman of the securities industry’s most profitable firm said in an interview this week. At Goldman, which paid Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein $54 million last year, compensation levels are “shocking,” Whitehead said. “They’re the leaders in this outrageous increase.”

Whitehead went even further, recommending the unthinkable, that Goldman cut pay:

Whitehead, who left the firm in 1984 and now chairs its charitable foundation, said Goldman should be courageous enough to curb bonuses, even if the effort to return a sense of restraint to Wall Street costs it some valued employees. No securities firm can match the pay available in a good year at the top hedge funds.

“I would take the chance of losing a lot of them and let them see what happens when the hedge fund bubble, as I see it, ends,” Whitehead, 85, said….

By Bruno S. Frey, Professor of Economics at the University of Zurich and Margit Osterloh, Professor (em.) for Business Administration and Management of Technology and Innovation, University of Zürich; and Professor, Warwick Business School. Cross posted from VoxEU


Welcome to the Police State: NYC Cops Mace Peaceful Protestors Against Wall Street

I’m beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US. No one who is a wage slave (which is the overwhelming majority of the population) can afford to have an arrest record, even a misdemeanor, in this age of short job tenures and rising use of background checks.


Europe Readying Yet Another “This Really Will Do the Trick” Bailout Package

Well, we are clearly in crisis mode. We are back to weekends being a period when you need to watch the news in a serious way.

And in another bit of deja vu all over again, the powers that be in Europe are readying yet another bailout plan, this one supposedly big enough to do the trick once and for all.