Category Archives: ECONNED

The Specious Logic of Wall Street Pay

It’s remarkable how Masters of the Universe, the new financial elite first identified by Tom Wolfe in 1986, remember nothing and regret nothing. And why should they? Their position remains remarkably secure 25 years later.

We see the “Who us, take responsibility for our actions?” stance in full view courtesy one of their most effective spokesman, Steve Eckhaus, an attorney who has negotiated many big ticket Wall Street compensation contracts. From the Wall Street Journal:

“It was understandable why there was anger,” says Mr. Eckhaus, but “the crisis was not caused by Wall Street fat cats. It was caused by a confluence of economic, political and historical factors.”..

In general, he said his clients are “pure as the driven snow” and doing work that supports the economy and justifies their pay….

“You have to know what the profits are” to know what someone should make, said Mr. Eckhaus, noting Wall Street’s top performers usually gobble up 80% of the bonus pool. “Those who are responsible for profits should share in the profits in a way that rewards them.””

This is the usual “heads I win, tails you lose” logic. The rationale for bulging pay packets is that the producers created it, therefore they deserved their cut. But Eckhaus says any bad events are due only to bad luck. Sorry to tell you, but only narcissists and their agents take credit for good stuff and lay the blame on everyone else. Unfortunately, we breed for that in Corporate America, it happens to be a very effective career strategy in large organizations.


FCIC Report Misses Central Issue: Why Was There Demand for Bad Mortgage Loans?

By Tom Adams, an attorney and former monoline executive, and Yves Smith

In common with other accounts of the financial crisis, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report notes that mortgage underwriting standards were abandoned, allowing many more loans to be made. It blames the regulators for not standing pat while this occurred. However, the report fails to ask, let alone answer, why standards were abandoned.

In our view, blaming the regulators is a weak argument.

A much more sensible explanation can be found by asking: what were the financial incentives for such poorly underwritten loans? Why would “the market” want bad loans?

All the report offers as explanation is that the “machine” drove it or “investors” wanted these loans. This is lazy and fails to illuminate anything, particularly when there are other red flags in the report, such as numerous mortgage market participants pointing to growing problems starting as early as 2003. Signs of recklessness were more visible in 2004 and 2005, to the point were Sabeth Siddique of the Federal Reserve Board, who conducted a survey of mortgage loan quality in late 2005, found the results to be “very alarming”.

So why, with the trouble obvious in the 2005 time frame, did the market create even worse loans in late 2005 through the beginning of the meltdown, in mid 2007, even as demand for better mortgage loans was waning?


Jesse Hearts ECONNED

Jesse gave us a generous comment on his blog yesterday:

Why people care about these sorts of things puzzles me but here goes…

I do keep a select set of books next to my chair for reading in the late and quiet hours of the evening after all the family is put to bed, the doors locked, and the windows closed.

From this I am re-reading sections of Econned by Yves Smith which is an awesome work about the financial crisis and its roots. If you do nothing else read the introduction thoroughly and you will know more about the financial crisis than most. I rarely read the same book twice unless it has real substance.


Barclays’ Bob Diamond to Non-Bankers: Drop Dead

Bob Diamond, Barclays’ chief executive officer, no more said something as inflammatory as “drop dead” to the UK Treasury select committee yesterday than Gerald Ford did in a 1975 speech refusing to extend financial assistance to save New York City from bankruptcy. But the substance was every bit as uncooperative.

Despite its artful packaging, Diamond’s presentation was yet another reminder of the banking industry’s continued extortion game, namely, that they can take outsized, leveraged risks and when they work out, pay themselves handsome rewards, and when they don’t, dump them on the taxpayer. And they’ve only been encouraged to up the ante. Not only did they get to keep their winnings from their last “wreck the economy” exercise, no senior executive was fired, no boards were replaced, and UBS was the only major bank required to give a detailed account of how its screwed up so badly as to need government support. And before you tell me Barclays was never bailed out, tell me exactly how well it would have fared had any other major UK or international bank failed, or had the officialdom not provided extraordinary liquidity support when interbank funding dried up.


Republican Members of FCIC to Promote Crisis Urban Legends, Shift Blame From Banks

Lordie, the Big Lie is with us in force.

The New York Times reports that the Republican members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission are going to pre-empt the report (due in mid-January) and issue their own 13 page screed later today focusing blame for the crisis on…Fannie and Freddie, and no doubt the CRA too.

Let’s look at a few inconvenient facts.


Iowa AG Miller Commits to Prosecution of Bank Execs, Seeking Principal Mods

We asked readers to sign a letter to Iowa attorney general Tom Miller, who is leading the 50 state probe into foreclosure and mortgage abuses. Here is the official report from National People’s Action, which was part of the group that met with Miller earlier today: Leader of 50 State Foreclosure Probe Tells Struggling Homeowners: […]


Debunking the Myth That Bigger Banks are More Efficient and Necessary

A very good op ed by Thomas Hoenig in the New York Times, “Too Big to Succeed” provides a solid recap of why the business of reining in the too big too fail banks is crucial. It isn’t simply that this is yet another version of “Mission Accomplished”; the bailouts actually made industry concentration worse, […]


Were US Auditors Told to Fudge Opinions of TBTF Banks?

Francine McKenna is shocked that investigations in the UK have revealed that major auditors were told to make wobbly banks look healthier than they were. Specifically, they issue “going concern” opinions because they were told the banks would be backstopped. One can only assume the accountants were brought in the loop with the aim of […]


Rave Review for ECONNED

This is from the October issue of Choice, the library market’s largest publication: Smith, Yves. ECONned: how unenlightened self interest undermined democracy and corrupted capitalism. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 362p bibl index afp ISBN 9780230620513, $30.00 ECONned is a remarkable book. The first part is a devastating criticism of the simplistic approach to finance standard economics […]


Why Backstopping Repo is a Bad Idea

The normally sound Gillian Tett of the Financial Times endorses an idea that is both dangerous and unnecessary, namely, government backstopping of the system of short-term collateralized lending called repo, for “sale with agreement to repurchase.” The problem with her analysis is that her proposal treats symptoms rather than the underlying ailment. It would amount […]


Michael Hirsh on Wall Street and the Roots of the Crisis

Michael Hirsh, until very recently of Newsweek, now at the National Journal, is doing a star turn in connection with his new book, Capital Offense: How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street I must confess I blurbed his book (I find it a bit weird that I am now considered a […]


Radio Interview at WBAI

I probably should have a default photo for this sort of post, like me in a headset looking intent. But till then, you will have to be content with a mere link to this interview with Susan Lee. The focus was ECONNED, in particular, the failings of mainstream economics. Enjoy!


Will We Finally See Some Prosecutions for Lehman’s Dubious Accounting?

I know some readers may think that Lehman is 2008’s news. That sort of learned attention deficit disorder works to the advantage of those who participated in or enabled the looting of the average person to the benefit of the banksters. And the degree of questionable behavior of Lehman was so pronounced that if regulators […]