Tag Archives | Finance

There’s No Such Thing As “The Market”

425px-London_Stock_Exchange_LogoDan Roberts, writing earlier this year for the Guardian:

Margaret Thatcher famously outraged the left by asserting there was no such thing as society. Perhaps today would be a good moment for David Cameron to flummox rightwing orthodoxy by declaring there is no such thing as “the market”. This mythical creature has been credited with playing a key role in events of the last few days. The market was unhappy with uncertainty. The market doesn’t like coalition government. The market didn’t want to hang around and wait.

Television news crews were even dispatched down to the City of London to try to doorstep this grumpy beast, standing outside empty office blocks hoping to catch a glimpse.

The reality, as ever, is more complicated. There are markets, but many of them, all with buyers and sellers expressing necessarily contradictory opinions on where things are going.

Some of these markets have indeed shown clear reactions to the political turmoil.

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Wall Street To Break Record Again With $144 Billion In Pay This Year

015traders_468x387Having déjà vu? Top Wall Street firms will once again break their own salary record this year. If that’s not a sign we’re in economic boom times, I don’t know what is! MSNBC reports:

Wall Street pay is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, according to a report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Some three dozen top banks and securities firms will pay $144 billion in salary and benefits this year, the paper said. That’s a 4 percent increase from the $139 billion paid out in 2009, according to a survey conducted by the Journal. Compensation is expected to rise at 26 of the 35 firms surveyed, including banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money-management firms and securities exchanges.

Large Wall Street banks are unlikely to accelerate bonus payouts, however, to help their employees avoid the higher tax rates that may be coming when tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration expire on January 1.

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Hedge Funds Accused of Gambling with Lives of the Poorest as Food Prices Soar

Hunger Casino

Image: World Development Movement (WDM)

Katie Allen writes in the Guardian:

Financial speculators have come under renewed fire from anti-poverty campaigners for their bets on food prices, blamed for raising the costs of goods such as coffee and chocolate and threatening the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries.

The World Development Movement (WDM) will issue a damning report on the growing role of hedge funds and banks in the commodities markets in recent years, during which time cocoa prices have more than doubled, energy prices have soared and coffee has fluctuated dramatically.

The charity’s demands for the British financial watchdog to follow the US in cracking down on such speculation comes against a backdrop of cocoa prices jumping to a 33-year high as it emerged that a London hedge fund had snapped up a large part of the world’s stock of beans. On Friday, traders say, Armajaro took delivery of 240,100 tonnes of cocoa — the biggest from London’s Liffe exchange in 14 years and equal to about 7% of annual global production, according to the Financial Times.

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American Banks Laundering Hundreds Of Billions Dollars For Mexican Drug Cartels

mexican drug cartelWho are the Mexican drug cartels’ biggest allies north of the border? Major banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, who blatantly break U.S. anti-money-laundering laws by laundering hundreds of billions of dollars for the cartels, Bloomberg reports. That’s a pretty huge “stimulus package” our banks are getting from Mexican drug traffickers:

Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history — a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s current gross domestic product.

“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,” says Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor who handled the case.

“It’s the banks laundering money for the cartels that finances the tragedy,” says Martin Woods, director of Wachovia’s anti-money-laundering unit in London from 2006 to 2009.

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Top Bank Executives In Iceland Jailed, Sued For Billions

jon-asgeir-johannesson2Yet another instance in which the United States could learn something from our Scandinavian brethren: In Iceland, bank executives who helped bring about the nation’s financial meltdown are being rounded up and jailed, issued international arrest warrants, and sued for billions of dollars. AFP reports:

More than a year and a half after Iceland’s major banks failed, all but sinking the country’s economy, police have begun rounding up a number of top bankers while other former executives and owners face a two-billion-dollar lawsuit.

On Wednesday, the administrators of Glitnir’s liquidation announced they had filed a two-billion-dollar (1.6-billion-euro) lawsuit in a New York court against former large shareholders and executives for alleged fraud.

Four former Kaupthing executives, who all live in Luxembourg, have meanwhile been arrested in Iceland in the past week and Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for that bank’s ex-chairman, Sigurdur Einarsson.

Former head of the bank’s domestic operations, Ingolfur Helgason, and former chief risk officer Steingrimur Karason were arrested late Monday on arrival from Luxembourg, just days after former Kaupthing boss Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, along with Magnus Gudmunsson, who headed the bank’s unit in Luxembourg, were taken into custody.

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Oz Banker Caught Porn-Surfing on Live TV

It's about a minute into the clip on one of the background computers. That's definitely not a financial spreadsheet : ) Lester Haines writes on the Register:
An employee of Sydney's Macquarie Bank probably isn't in line for a fat payrise after he was caught on live TV closely analysing something a bit more scintillating than the Lucky Country's interest rates: According to net experts, at least one of the photos in question is Orlando Bloom's squeeze Miranda Kerr. The Victoria's Secret Angel is a local lass made good, and is rarely seen dressed in more than her underwear, which makes her the pin-up of choice among Sydney's hardened bankers.
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Credit Reform and My New 703.8% Card

MacysKathy Kristof writes on CBS Moneywatch:

Consumer reporters were all crowing about a 79.99% rate credit card that was launched in response to credit reform a few months ago–collectively horrified that a law designed to cut rates and eliminate sneaky fees was inspiring increasingly abusive bank behavior.

I thought that was about as bad as it gets until I took a close look at the statement for my new Macy’s card, which I had opened with “instant credit” while Christmas shopping. It made that 79% card look like a bargain.

Department Stores National Bank, which issues the card, charges a “minimum interest charge.” On my average daily balance of $3.41, that minimum charge worked out to “an actual annual percentage rate” of 703.80%. (Part of the impact of last year’s credit reform is that the issuer had to disclose that shocker on the statement, while also noting that the card’s normal APR is 24.5%.)

Such are sneaky new fees that are now springing up in response to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act passed last May, said Bill Hardekopf, president of LowCards.com, a rate-shopping web site.

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The Credit Card’s Newest Trick: 79.9 Percent Interest

PremiereBankCandice Choi writes on the AP via Yahoo News:

It’s no mistake. This credit card’s interest rate is 79.9 percent.

The bloated APR is how First Premier Bank, a subprime credit card issuer, is skirting new regulations intended to curb abusive practices in the industry. It’s a strategy other subprime card issuers could start adopting to get around the new rules.

Typically, the First Premier card comes with a minimum of $256 in fees in the first year for a credit line of $250. Starting in February, however, a new law will cap such fees at 25 percent of a card’s credit line.

In a recent mailing for a preapproved card, First Premier lowers fees to just that limit — $75 in the first year for a credit line of $300. But the new law doesn’t set a cap on interest rates. Hence the 79.9 APR, up from the previous 9.9 percent.

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Goldman Sachs Official Says Jesus Embraced Greed

Matt Taibbi writes:

I didn’t believe this story was true at first — thought it had to be a spoof. But it turns out to be true. The great banks of the world have gone on a p.r. counteroffensive in Europe, and are sending spokescrooks in shiny suits into churches to persuade the masses that Christ would have approved of the latest round of obscene bonuses.

Goldman Sachs international adviser Brian Griffiths explains it this way: that Christ’s famous injunction to love others as one would love oneself actually means that one should love oneself as one would love oneself. This seemingly baffling outburst by a Goldman executive in what appears to have been a prepared speech — someone actually wrote this, and thought about it, before saying it out loud — gets even weirder when one tries to figure out what could possibly have motivated this person, and by extension his employer Goldman Sachs, to make such statements in such a place as St.

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Pay Your Bills on Time? There’s a Fee for That.

In an attempt to squeeze more revenue out of consumers who don’t rack up much debt, Citigroup, Bank of America, and other credit card companies are adding new fees. According to USA Today credit card users are being hit with new “inactivity fees” and fees for not putting enough debt on your credit cards. Consumers thinking about canceling their cards face taking a hit to their credit scores for closing an account.

Other consumers may have no choice – Citibank has been closing some credit card accounts without reason or warning, damaging their customers credit ratings.

I cut-up my credit cards last night.

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