Category Archives: Regulations and regulators

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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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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Bank Super Lawyer, Rodgin Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell, Says Regulatory Capture is a Myth

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a credulity-straining account of how Rodgin Cohen, the dominant bank regulatory lawyer in the US, was trying with a straight face to convey a line that legitimates his role: move along, there is no such thing as regulatory capture.

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John Helmer: IMF Makes Ukraine War-Fighting Loan, Allows US to Fund Military Operations Against Russia, May Repay Gazprom Bill

For the first time, an IMF loan is funding a country at war, and one that is an impossible basket case economically. It’s hard not to conclude that the IMF largesse served to solve the wee problem of getting Congress to approve funding for US adventurism in Ukraine.

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The Fed Impedes GAO Audits by Destroying Source Documents

Robert Auerbach, an economist to the Committee on Banking and Financial Services during the Arthur Burns, Paul Volcker, and Alan Greenspan chairmanships at the Fed, as well as being a Fed economist and now a professor at the University of Texas (Austin) has a bombshell revelation in his recent book Deception and Abuse at the […]

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Did Ireland’s 12.5 Percent Corporate Tax Rate Create the Celtic Tiger?

Offshore banking and tax haven expert Nicholas Shaxson has launched a new blog, Fools’ Gold, to look at issues of ‘competitiveness’ and so-called ‘competition’ between nations. We’ve often taken issue with that policy goal, since it gives precedence to crushing labor as a way of lowering product prices to stoke exports. This approach is dubious for anything other than small economies, since all countries cannot be net exporters. Undue focus on exports as a driver of growth results in increasing international friction, such as the currency wars that are underway now. Moreover, as we have discussed separately, trade liberalization has gone hand in hand with liberalization of capital flows, in no small measure due to US efforts to make the world safe for what were then US investment banks. Yet Carmen Reinhardt and Ken Rogoff pointed out in their study of financial crises, higher levels of international capital flows are associated with more frequent and severe financial crises.

In addition, lowering wage rates reduces domestic demand. In countries like the US, where the domestic economy is much larger than the export sector, lowering internal demand to stoke exports is misguided.

Here we look at a first case study, the real reasons behind the growth and meltdown of the famed Celtic tiger, Ireland.

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In Rebuke to Cronyistic New York Fed, TBTF Bank Supervision Shifted to Fed Board of Governors

The Wall Street Journal has published an important account of a behind-the-scenes power struggle at the Federal Reserve over authority for regulation. The result that the New York Fed has had significant amounts of its authority shifted to the Board of Governors in Washington, DC. This is a major win for Fed governor Dan Tarullo, who has emerged as one of the toughest critics of big financial firms at the Fed in the wake of the crisis. It is also a loss for the banks, since the New York Fed is widely recognized as close to Wall Street. Moreover, the Board of Governors is more accountable to citizens (its governors are Federal employees, the Board of Governors is subject to FOIA, although confidential supervisory of all financial regulators is exempt), while the regional Feds can best be thought of as public/private partnerships with weak governance structures,* so this move in theory is also a gain in terms of accountability to the public. However, since Greenspan holdover, deregulation enthusiast and Dodd Frank opponent Scott Alvarez remains as the general counsel of the Board of Governors, it’s unlikely that any newfound serious intent by the Board of Governors will go all that far in practice, given the powerful role that Alvarez exerts over matters regulatory.

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