Tag Archives | Plunder

Liberty Reserve, “Bank of Choice for the Criminal Underworld”

Liberty reserveKurt Eichenwald likens the latest massively fraudulent bank scandal at Liberty Reserve to BCCI (remember them, the terrorist bankers of choice?), at Vanity Fair:

Another day, another alleged fraud. But this one—brought to light by the federal indictment of Liberty Reserve, which prosecutors said was one of the world’s largest online money operations—sounded a little bit too familiar.

According to the charges, the operators of Liberty Reserve constructed an extremely complex international network for financial transactions that allowed its customers to transmit vast sums of money around the globe, all while operating under layers of anonymity. As a result, the indictment says, “Liberty Reserve was in fact used extensively for illegal purposes, functioning in effect as the bank of choice for the criminal underworld.”

If that rings a bell for any of you fraud aficionados, think back to 1991 and the virtual financial explosion of a shadowy international institution called the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, best known as B.C.C.I.

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Obama in Plunderland: Down the Corporate Rabbit Hole

Zuckerberg meets ObamaThe president’s new choices for Commerce secretary and FCC chair underscore how far down the rabbit hole his populist conceits have tumbled. Yet the Obama rhetoric about standing up for working people against “special interests” is as profuse as ever. Would you care for a spot of Kool-Aid at the Mad Hatter’s tea party?

Of course the Republican economic program is worse, and President Romney’s policies would have been even more corporate-driven. That doesn’t in the slightest make acceptable what Obama is doing. His latest high-level appointments — boosting corporate power and shafting the public — are despicable.

To nominate Penny Pritzker for secretary of Commerce is to throw in the towel for any pretense of integrity that could pass a laugh test. Pritzker is “a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser,” the Chicago Tribune reported with notable understatement last week, adding: “She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.… Read the rest

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The Illuminati Were Amateurs: The Second Huge Financial Scandal of the Year Reveals the Real International Conspiracy

Occupy Wall Street March 2012 foreclosure bannerThe biggest price fixing scandal ever is how Matt Taibbi describes it for Rolling Stone:

Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments.

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Wall Street Whistleblower Gets Reamed

When the odds are stacked this heavily against whistleblowers, there's not much incentive to rat out wrongdoers. Matt Taibbi looks at how even the courts are in on it, for Rolling Stone:
A great many people around the county were rightfully shocked and horrified by the recent excellent and hard-hitting PBS documentary, The Untouchables, which looked at the problem of high-ranking Wall Street crooks going unpunished in the wake of the financial crisis. The PBS piece certainly rattled some cages, particularly in Washington, in a way that few media efforts succeed in doing. Now, two very interesting and upsetting footnotes to that groundbreaking documentary have emerged in the last weeks. The first involves one of the people interviewed for the story, a former high-ranking executive from Countrywide financial who turned whistleblower named Michael Winston...
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The Middle Class Has Been Saved – Or Has It?

Long live the middle class now that it has survived the fiscal cliff and been “saved.” President Obama is basking in the glory of having averted the deepening of a crisis that is more structural than political and hardly resolved. The markets are cheering, it is said, because markets love stability, unless there is money to be made off of volatility of their own making. Forget the working class. The term is passé, as is the so-called and usually undefined great mushy middle class moves into its rightful place at the center of everyone’s concerns. (When asked what class they are in—or aspire to be in—workers, and even the poor say Middle Class. Unless survey questions include the choice of working class that they usually don’t.) Analysts who looked closely at the big deal so hysterically pushed through Congress as the dramatic end-piece of a year of political warfare, say that there will be very little gain for the middle class with income taxes down but payroll taxes up, insuring that it will be more, at best, of a wash than a redistribution of wealth on any level. Many Americans, not just the rich, will be shelling out more, not less. Economist Lambert Strether calls it the “fecal cliff,” noting, “cuts and tax increases (especially on the rich) are not commensurate. A “sacrifice” where some give up luxuries and others give up necessities is in no way “shared. A marginal sacrifice for the rich is not commensurate to core sacrifices for the rest...
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Eunuchs of the Universe: Tom Wolfe on Wall Street Today

Well Newsweek may be dead, but its Daily Beast reincarnation is actually publishing some interesting articles, not least this one in which “Tom Wolfe draws up a sterling indictment of our unscrupulous financial culture. Twenty-five years after Bonfire of the Vanities, the author returns to Wall Street to see what happened to the Masters of the Universe”:

Come join us as we go back seven months to the apex of the history of American capitalism in the 21st century. We find ourselves in a swarm of fellow starstruck souls outside the Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, churning, squirming.

To slip past a battalion of cops and a platoon of security operatives in gray suits with small white techno-polyps in their ears attached to coils of white intercom cord trying to keep us under control… as we all but trample the raggedy, homeless-looking ranks of the television crews and every other laggard in our way.

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Finally, A Few Bankers Face Criminal Prosecutions For Conspiracies

When most mainstream media outlets discuss conspiracy theories, it is usually to debunk the views of dissenting and critical thinkers who are routinely denounced as simplistic, paranoid or worse.

You have frequently seen the mantra questioning their motives and conclusions as if the idea of people or officials acting together covertly to advance their interests in illegal ways is something new in history.

Until recently, US press outlets characterized conspiracy arguments as rants that lacked any factual basis, engaged in guilt by association and stretched the facts.

The only conspiracy charges they tended to look at uncritically were criminal complaints against the Mafia under anti-racketeering statutes like the RICO statutes. Prosecutors loved these cases because normal concerns with protecting  the rights of defendants didn’t apply when hearsay evidence was permitted.

But now, four years after the financial crisis, prosecutors have finally discovered what critics have been alleging repeatedly:  that big banks were crooks, engaging, engaging among other illicit practices,  in secretive, illegal and conspiratorial schemes to rig baseline interest rates and manipulate credit markets,

It has now been admitted that traders at two major financial institutions were fixing LIBOR—the London Interbank Offered Rate, used to set the interest rates of $800 trillion worth of financial products, including credit cards and mortgages.… Read the rest

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Occupy Movement Buys Up Debts…And Forgives Them!

'Occupy' Zürich Lindenhof 2011-10-30 15-56-28Douglas Rushkoff describes a positive turn in the life of the Occupy movement, for CNN via his blog:

Much like President Obama, the Occupy movement is alive and well and entering its second term, thank you very much. It’s no longer about squatting in public parks, getting on the news, or — in some cases — getting arrested. No, instead this decentralized, bottom-up, anti-Wall Street effort is taking aim at your medical, student and other loans: It aims to relieve your debt.

Just as Obama appears to have left the lofty rhetoric of “being the change” behind him as he confronts the more practical realities of working a financial plan through an intransigent Congress, the occupiers have given up on winning media mindshare or public support and have turned instead to direct action that helps real people. In its Act 2, Occupy is just occupying the space where it’s needed.

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Bankers Gone Wild

Adam Smith (CC)

The erudite James Surowiecki brings his journalistic skills to the problem of a banking system that has subsumed the its own watchdogs, in The New Yorker:

In order to work well, markets need a basic level of trust. As Alan Greenspan said, in 1999, “In virtually all transactions we rely on the word of those with whom we do business.” So what happens to a market in which the most fundamental assumptions turn out to be lies? That is the question in a scandal that has roiled the banking industry all summer. The LIBOR (London Inter-bank Offered Rate) index is the most important set of numbers in the global financial system. Used as a benchmark for interest rates around the world, it’s assembled by asking a panel of big banks to estimate what it would cost them to borrow money today, if they had to. Hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives, corporate loans, and mortgages are pegged to these rates.

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LIBOR Pains: Why Do These Stories Always Seem to Break in Britain?

Probably not because their regulators are any smarter or scrupulous than those in the U.S. – more likely because they’re relatively powerless to conceal them. From Caroline Salas Gage and Joshua Zumbrun at Bloomberg:

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York was aware of potential issues involving Barclays Plc (BARC) and the London interbank offered rate after the financial crisis began in 2007, according to a statement from the district bank.

“In the context of our market monitoring following the onset of the financial crisis in late 2007, involving thousands of calls and e-mails with market participants over a period of many months, we received occasional anecdotal reports from Barclays of problems with Libor,” New York Fed spokeswoman Andrea Priest said in an e-mailed statement.

“In the spring of 2008, following the failure of Bear Stearns and shortly before the first media report on the subject, we made further inquiry of Barclays as to how Libor submissions were being conducted,” the statement said.

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