Monthly Archives: October 2011

Were Customer Accounts Pilfered at Jon Corzine’s MF Global? (Updated)

Truth be told, I hadn’t paid much attention to the implosion of MF Global, because so many hedge funds went under during the crisis that yet another levered trading firm death seems less than newsworthy unless it is big enough to constitute a possible systemic event. The collapse of MF Global didn’t seem all that unusual, save for the titilating angle that the firm was headed by former Goldman CEO and New Jersey state governor Jon Corzine (I’d treated the failure of hedge funds by other storied names, such as Jon Meriwether and Myron Scholes as comment-in-passing incidents).

But the picture changes considerably with the report that hundreds of millions of customer assets may be “missing”.

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Europe’s Economy is Falling Apart

Yves here. Note the comment at the end, that Sarkozy’s sales pitch to China on the levered up EFSF did not go so well. If the Chinese don’t relent, this greatly reduces of this scheme working, even in the short term. And further note that the flagging European growth is the result of the austerity hairshirt being imposed on highly indebted economies. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a pointed article on the consequences of the beggar-thy-neighbor German stance.

By Delusional Economics, who is horrified at the state of economic commentary in Australia and is determined to cleanse the daily flow of vested interests propaganda to produce a balanced counterpoint. Cross posted from MacroBusiness

Angela Merkel has been warning for quite some time that Europe’s economic woes will take up to a decade to fix and that it is time for Europe to rethink its economic strategy after years of living “beyond its means”. It seems fairly obvious from those statements that the rest of the world is going to have to get use to Europe moving into a slow growth phase while it attempts to adjust away from what it considers to be unsustainable debt.

In an attempt support the transition while keeping Europe together the European leaders have put together 3 part package to save Greece, re-capitalise the banks and provide a stability mechanism for countries that run into trouble. The problem is that once you understand the technicalities behind what they have come up with you come to realise that real economic growth is the only thing that actually matters. The latest news out of Europe for many of the 17 member nations is not good at all in that regard.

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Gene Frieda: Europe’s Dying Bank Model

Yves here. Frieda makes a very important point in this Project Syndicate column, that of the role of the banking system in the European debt crisis. On one level, it may seem trivial to say that the sovereign debt crisis is the result of financial crisis. But the Eurozone leadership has not drilled into the next layer: how did this come about? The superficial explanation, that they all ate too much US subprime debt and got really sick, is superficial and shifts attention away from the real issues. European banks have huge balance sheets with a lot of low-return investments. I did some consulting work for some European banks over a decade ago (one of the remarkable things about banking is how little things change over time) and they tended to target commodity areas of banking in the US, not simply because that was where they could break in, but also because the returns were tolerable (although they did hope to move up the food chain into more lucrative business).

Frieda argues that merely having banks raise capital ratios to the 9% level stipulated in the current version of the Eurozone rescue is inadequate. Absent more aggressive measures, “no amount of capital will restore investors’ faith in eurozone banks.”

By Gene Frieda, a global strategist for Moore Europe Capital Management. Cross posted with author permission from Project Syndicate.

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Satyajit Das: Central Counter Party Risk Taming

By Satyajit Das, derivatives expert and the author of Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives – Revised Edition (2006 and 2010)

This four part paper deals with a key element of derivative market reform – the CCP (Central Counter Party). The first part looked at the idea behind the CCP. This second part looked at the design of the CCP. The third part looks at the risk of the CCP itself and how that is managed.

The key element of derivative market reform is a central clearinghouse, the central counter party (“CCP”). The CCP is designed to reduce and help manage credit risk in derivative transactions – the risk that each participant takes on the other side to perform their obligations (known as “counterparty risk”). The CCP also simplifies and reduces the complex chains of risk that link market participants in derivative markets. However, the proposal relies on the ability of the CCP itself to manage risk.

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Latest Leak on State Attorney General Mortgage Settlement: A Shameless Sellout to the Banks

There have been so many rumors about the so-called 50 state attorney general settlement (which now is more like a 43 state settlement) being on the verge of having a deal that we’ve discounted them. We’ve said from the beginning that this was a cash for release deal. Basically, because the Federal regulators and state AGs, by design, had done no meaningful investigations, they didn’t have any threats to bring the banks to heel. So they’d have to offer a bribe, and the bribe has always been a “get out of jail free” card.

Put it more simply: The banks got bailed out, and the rest of us got left out.

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The Natural Chaos of Markets

By Sell on News, a global macro equities analyst. Cross posted from MacroBusiness

Having just watched the second episode of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace by my favourite documentary maker Adam Curtis, in which he tells the “story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, as a self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy”, I am once again struck by what an absurd body of ideas, or more accurately, self delusions, much of modern economic prejudice-masquerading-as-theory is.

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Goldman Bullies Teeny Credit Union that #OccupyWallStreet Uses

I suppose there is no point in being part of the 1% unless you can throw your weight around.

Greg Palast writes in the Guardian of how Goldman took a wee bit of revenge on Occupy Wall Street via the itty bitty credit union ($30 million in assets) that OWS chose for its bank account, Peoples Bank.

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Grand European Rescue Already Starting to Come Unglued?

This site has had plenty of company in expressing doubts about the latest episode in the continuing “save the banks, devil take the hindmost” Eurodrama. The same issues came up over and over: too small size of rescue fund, heavy reliance on smoke and gimmickry to get it even to that size, insufficient relief to the Greek economy (the haircuts will apply to only a portion of the bonds), no assurance that enough banks will go along with the “voluntary” rescue, and way way too many details left to be sorted out.

But it is a particularly bad sign to see disagreement within the officialdom about the just-annnounced deal.

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