I’m only starting to dig into the AIG bailout trial by reading the transcripts and related exhibits. That means I am behind where the trial is now. However, that gives me the advantage of contrasting what is in the documents with the media reporting to date. And what is really striking is the near silence on the core argument in this case.
As we said in our companion post today on the AIG bailout trial, former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg may have a case after all. Mind you, we are not fans of Greenberg. But far too much of what happened during the crisis has been swept under the rug, in the interest of preserving the officialdom-flattering story that the way the bailouts were handled was necessary, or at least reasonable, and any errors were good faith mistakes, resulting from the enormity of the deluge.
Needless to say, the picture that emerges from the Greenberg camp, as presented in the “Corrected Plaintiff’s Proposed Findings of Fact,” filed in Federal Court on August 22, is radically different. I strongly urge readers, particularly those with transaction experience, to read the document, attached at the end, in full. It makes a surprisingly credible and detailed case that AIG’s board was muscled into a rescue that was punitive, when that was neither necessary nor warranted. And the tactics used to corner the board were remarkably heavy-handed.
Bill Black gives one of his best recaps ever of the “too big to jail” syndrome on Bill Moyers. For readers who missed the story, Black gave critical testimony in a Federal prosecution of small fry mortgage fraudsters. He helped persuaded the jury that in fact no fraud took place because the banks were willing to underwrite any predatory, poorly underwritten loan in the runup to the crisis. Black savages the posture of the Department of Justice in this case and in general.
If nothing else, the legal slugfest over whether the US government did former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg a dirty by imposing tough terms on the failed insurer and giving the kid gloves treatment to the teetering-on-the-brink banks who were certain to be engulfed by an AIG collapse will be highly entertaining. Ben Bernanke, Hank Greenberg, and Timothy Geithner are all scheduled to go on the stand next week, to be grilled by America’s top trial lawyer, David Boies.
Yves here. As much as we we’ve been vocal supporters of many of the initiatives of the Occupy Wall Street movement, such as the excellent work of Occupy the SEC, the impressive relief efforts of Occupy Sandy, the success of local Occupy Homes groups in combatting foreclosures, the many projects of the Alternative Banking Group (including both a book explaining the crisis and its 52 Shades of Greed card deck, and last but not least, Strike Debt’s Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual.
Yves here. In this post, Bill Black does the yeoman’s work of stepping through one revelation in Fed whistleblower Carmen Segarra’s tapes from some of her discussions with more senior colleagues at the New York Fed. A critical section involves how Fed officials became aware of the fact that Goldman had slipped language into an already-closed transaction with the Spanish bank Santander that indicated that the Fed had been informed of the deal and had not objected, neither of which was the case. The staffers tried to rouse themselves to challenge Goldman on this misrepresentation, and lost their nerve.
But as bad as letting Goldman roll the Fed on the matter of non-existant non-objections is concerned, Black stresses the much more serious underlying failure: Goldman had created the impression that the Fed was kosher with Goldman helping Santander fool European bank regulators by pretending it was more solvent than it was. The effort to game banking regulations is an even bigger deal than the effort to pretend the Fed was all on board. Black blasts the clearly captured New York Fed “relationship manager” Mikel Silva in gratifying detail.
Yves here. This post describes the “new normal” of the role bank reserves play in hitting short-term policy rate targets in the US. The author ends on a cheery note about how the abnormal-looking situation we have, in particular super-low interest rates, could persist for a very long time. The author contends that the way one reacts to these new procedures and their results will reflect your monetary aesthetics, as in your beliefs about the way central bank balance sheets and reserves should look. However, given the way that negative short-term real interest rates are stoking financial speculation at the expense of real economy investment (a trend that was already well underway even before the crisis containment program turbo-charged it), one can hardly see a continuation of the new normal of low growth and redistribution to top earners as a positive development.
Now you might say, isn’t this media firestorm a great thing? It’s roused Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown to demand hearing. The Fed has been toadying up to Wall Street for years. Shouldn’t we be pleased that the problem is finally being taken seriously?
Iceland demonstrates that prosecuting banksters does not hurt, and likely aids in real economy recovery from a financial crisis. But since when has the US been run as if making the real economy work was of paramount concern?
A corrosive development is the ease with which lenders steal extract income which is not properly theirs from borrowers through what is at best incompetence and in far too many cases is fraud. This pattern has repeats itself again and again: in mortgage servicing, with debt collection, and more and more with student loan servicing.
Yves here. Please note that Don’t Start from Here: We Need a Banking Revolution has been released in the UK and was scheduled for publication in the US in early September but apparently is not yet for sale. I hope readers will keep an eye out for it, because it appears to fill a void, that of describing in high-level accurate terms why the banking system no longer works for society at large, how post-crisis banking reforms missed the mark, and what measures need to be put in place.
A remarkable (in a bad way) New York Times op-ed shows that Roger Cohen is so deep in the banksters’ pockets that he cannot see that he is a leader in the movement to ensure that no bankster will ever “pay for his sins.”