Category Archives: Banking industry

Pending Suit Against Countrywide’s Angelo Mozilo: Yet More Politically-Driven Selective Enforcement

Let’s be clear: we are fans of going after bank execs who bear significant responsibility for damage to borrowers and the economy, rather than just the footsoldiers. We also prefer criminal prosecutions. But in this era when the elites just don’t think of white collar crime as criminal, at least if performed by people who have big titles are large institutions, we have to highlight whatever progress we do see on the “get tough with the bad guys” front.

One deserving target is Angelo Mozilo, head of Countrywide, the biggest and most efficient subprime originator.

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Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal

Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash.

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NYT’s William Cohan Blasts “Holder Doctrine” of Headfake Bank “Settlements” With No Prosecutions

Even though there is tacit acceptance, or perhaps more accurately, sullen resignation, about regulators’ failure to make serious investigations into financial firm misconduct (probes on specific issues don’t cut it), occasionally a pundit steps up to remind the public of the farce that passes for bank enforcement.

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Top White Shoe Law Firms Cited as Enablers of Bank Misconduct

One of the tacit agreements among those at the very top of the power pecking order is not to criticize each other in public (with a few ritualized exceptions, like roughings up in Congressional hearings).

So while this account, from Susan Beck at Litigation Daily, might not seem all that bad, given the mind-numbing range and variety of bank misdeeds, what is critical to recognize here is the way that these top blue-chip law firms have abandoned their traditional role of helping clients stay on the right side of the knife edge of misconduct.

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Benjamin Lawsky Shows Other Bank Regulators How to Do Their Jobs

It’s really easy to default to cynicism these days, since you are almost always certain to be right. And that goes double as far as bank regulators are concerned.

So that makes it even more important to call attention to exceptions to that sorry rule. One big one is the New York Superintendent of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky. As we’ll discuss later in this post, he’s again the subject of a top story in the Financial Times for doing what the banks treat as horrifically unwarranted behavior: punishing them for failing to live up to agreements to reform their conduct. Didn’t he get the memo that that was all theater for the rubes, and no one takes those commitments seriously?

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Philip Pilkington: Taxation, Government Spending, the National Debt and MMT

The other day my friend Rohan Grey — a lawyer and one of the key organisers behind the excellent Modern Money Network (bringing Post-Keynesian economics to Columbia Law School, yes please!) — directed me to an absolutely fascinating piece of writing. It is called ‘Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete’ and it was written in 1945 by Beardsley Ruml. Ruml was the director of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from 1937-1947 and also worked on issues of taxation at the Treasury during the war.

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Regulators Punting on “Too Big to Fail” Problem of Repo, Looking to Install Yet Another Bailout Vehicle

The post-crisis era is rife with band-aid-over-gunshot-wound approaches to deep-seated weakness in the financial system. Perversely, because the authorities were able to keep the system from falling apart, albeit via a raft of overt and covert subsidies to the perps, they’ve reacted as if all that needs to be done is a series of fixes rather than more fundamental interventions. One glaring example is a critically important funding mechanism, repo, for firms that hold large inventories of securities and/or enter into derivative positions, such as major capital markets firms like Goldman, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays, as well as hedge funds. Here, the authorities have been giving way to industry demands that will assure that repo, which was bailed out in the crisis, will be bailed out again.

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Does the Central Bank Control Long-Term Interest Rates? A Glance at Operation Twist

Although less prevalently talked about today many economists assume that while the central bank has control over the short-term rate of interest, the long-term rate of interest is set by the market. When Post-Keynesians make the case that when a country issues its own sovereign currency the rate of interest is controlled by the central bank and that the government never faces a financing constraint some economists deny this and point to the long-term rate of interest which they claim is under the control of the market. They say that if market participants decide to put the squeeze on the government they can raise the long-term rate of interest.

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Is the West Risking Financial Blowback From Sanctions on Russia?

The spectacle of insanely authoritarian policing in Ferguson, as well as media jitters over ISIS and ongoing reports of action in Gaza and Ukraine, has shifted attention a bit away from simply lousy economic results from Europe. That fragility could play in a nasty way into blowback from sanctions against Russia.

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Don Quijones: Spain Cranks Up Political Repression

Yves here. In contrast with the way that political repression is gradually becoming the new normal in America, Don Quijones chronicles how rapidly it is being put in place in Spain to curb protests against austerity and bank-favoring policies. The extreme form of shredding democracy to protect commercial interests was Chile, where as a writer put it, “People died so markets could be free.”

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Summer 2007 Deja Vu: Banks and Short Sellers Dump Risk on Chumps Via Complex Products

NC contributor Michael Crimmins flagged a Bloomberg article yesterday that described the proliferation of complex synthetic structures, depicting it as return to some of the bad risk-shifting of the blowout phase of the last credit bubble.

The amusing bit is the headline was toned down after the post was launched (you can tell by looking at the URL, which almost certainly tracks the original). The current version is the anodyne “JPMorgan Joins Goldman in Designing Derivatives for a New Generation.” But the very first paragraph flags the troubling resemblance to the last hurrah of the pre-crisis credit mania:

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Rather Than Prosecutions, Fed Pressuring Banks to Pay Miscreants Less

Your humble blogger must confess to being partly wrong about the Fed’s recent realization that banksters had learned the right lesson from the crisis: crime pays. We were incredulous that the central bank had missed the fact that financial firm employees were unrepentant and their executives saw no reason to make real changes (hence all the howling about reform measures that are pretty minor relative to the damage done). From a recent post:

This story would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

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“A Financial Casino Would Be a Step Up From What We Have”

This is a terrific and very accessible interview with Boston College professor Ed Kane, who is a long-standing critic of the failure to rein in financial firms that feed at the taxpayer trough. At one point in the talk, Kane and his interviewer Marshall Auerback discuss how casinos are well aware of the fact that the house can lose and they monitor gamblers intensively to make sure that no one is engaging is sleight of hand. Thus if we treated our banking system like the financial casino that it has become, we’d be much better off than we are now.

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Only Now Does Influential Bank Group Complain That Low Volatility is Producing Too Much Risk-Taking

The spectacle of banks wring their hands about how low volatility is leading them as well as investors to take on too much risk bears an awfully strong resemblance to a child who has killed his parents asking for sympathy for being an orphan.

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