Author Archives: Yves Smith

Matt Taibbi Takes Up SEC’s Andrew Bowden Regulatory Capture Scandal

Matt Taibbi has written a characteristically informative, incisive piece about the embarrassing spectacle of the SEC’s Director of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, Andrew Bowden, making sycophantic remarks about the private equity industry at a recent conference, a story we broke early last week.

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The Retirement Crisis

This interview, with Teresa Ghilarducci, who the Wall Street Journal called “the most dangerous woman in America,” discusses how and why pensions are under stress, and what can be done to fix them. While she agrees that the retirement crisis is real, she also argues that it is eminently fixable, particularly since there really is no free lunch. The alternative, of widespread poverty among the aged, also imposes costs on government and society.

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Bill Black: The DOJ and the SEC Spurn their Ace in the Hole – Richard Bowen

This is the second post in a devastating series on why major banks and their executives got away with large-scale, systematic fraud in the runup to the crisis. Bill Black uses Citigroup whistleblower Richard Bowen as a case example of how derelict the DOJ and SEC were in the performance of their duties.

Here, Black describes how historically frauds and criminal conduct were pursued primarily by regulators and the FBI. However, not only were regulations were weakened, but the Bush Administration ended criminal referrals: “References to the criminal referral coordinators disappeared or were removed from the bank examiners’ manuals.” FBI staffing for white collar crime was cut drastically as the war on terror was given precedence.

That meant, as Black describes, whistleblowers became more important than ever as not just a source of information for civil and criminal prosecutions, but as key witnesses. Yet in many cases they are problematic. They are often disaffected former employees who call out the bad conduct they saw after they were terminated, or were so badly roughed up by their former employer for becoming an internal dissident that they were traumatized and don’t hold up well on the stand. Hence, as Black explains, the failure to take advantage of a stellar whistleblower like Richard Bowen. As Bowen put it, “Not only did they bury my testimony, they locked it up.”

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John Helmer: Auction House Bonhams, Sued Over Frauds and Forgeries, Casts Pall Over Russian Art Market

We’ve said that fraud is the fastest growing business in the US, but the US is far from having a lock on that market. One of the proofs is the way our Richard Smith has turned chasing international scammers into a full-time activity.

Scamming has strong links to money laundering. That seems to have exploded as more and more of the global rich seek to move cash across borders in ways not readily tracked by tax men and border officials. The New York Times, for instance, did a major expose on high end real estate as a money laundering vehicle, focusing on one building, the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

John Helmer looks at another nexus, that of art and very high end collectables, through the lens of auction house Bonhams. However, there are intriguing extra wrinkles with Bonhams which puts it closer to the Graham Greene world of shadowy dealing than is the norm for the art world. And since Bonhams is a major dealer in Russian art, the collateral damage extends to the Russian art market, as well as Bonham’s efforts to sell itself.

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Billl Black: The Lessons Richard Bowen’s FCIC Testimony Should Have Taught the Nation

Get a cup of coffee. This important post gives an in-depth analysis that helps explain how bad conduct was covered up or glossed over by the FCIC, and how much of the media fell in line with the official, sanitized story.

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