Tag Archives | Plunder

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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Matt Taibbi Explains The LIBOR Bankster Scam

Disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer just might have a future as a talk show host if he keeps booking amazing guests like Matt Taibbi for Current TV:

…Barclays CEO Bob Diamond recently resigned after the bank was fined $453 million for its part in the scandal, which involved manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), a key global benchmark for interest rates, by essentially “faking their credit scores,” according to Taibbi. And as Taibbi explains, Barclays couldn’t have acted alone.

“It can’t just be Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland. In fact, it can’t even be four banks or even five banks,” he says. “Really, in the end it’s probably going to come out that it’s going to be all of them … involved in this. And that’s what’s critical for people to understand: that this is a cartel-style corruption.”…

[continues at Current TV]

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Barclays CEO Resigns Under a Cloud of Criminal Allegations

World Economic Forum (CC)

Uh-oh.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a rolling sh*tstorm breaking out across the pond related to the admitted gaming of LIBOR by big investment banks like Barclays.  You know LIBOR, right?  The rate referenced in practically every major financial contract since 1985.

I wonder how much of that $450 million will go to folks who got the short end of the stick on contracts paid out under a fradulently low LIBOR rate.

From Mark Scott at the NY Times:

LONDON – Barclays is quickly trying to stem the fallout from a rate-manipulation scandal, as its chief executive Robert E. Diamond Jr. [at right] abruptly resigned on Tuesday.

Less than a week ago, the big bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had tried to influence key interest rates for its own benefit, sparking a political firestorm in Britain.

Now, the scandal has claimed three casualties, including Mr.

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Wall Street Criminal Rajat Gupta Convicted

Photo: World Economic Forum (CC)

A symbolic strike for the good guys, for once, as ex-Goldman Sachs bankster Raj Gupta is convicted of insider trading. For an explanation of why Wall Street is a crime scene check out this week’s Disinfo Deal: Danny Schecter’s Plunder: The Crime of our Time. Report from the Los Angeles Times:

A jury has convicted former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta in his high-profile insider-trading case in New York.

A federal jury had been weighing Gupta’s fate for two days. The jury of eight women and four men found Gupta guilty of four criminal counts in a wide government push against insider trading. Gupta was found guilty of three counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy for leaking stock tips to Raj Rajaratnam, head of the Galleon Group hedge fund. He was acquitted on two counts of securities fraud.

Each fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison; the conspiracy charge could result in up to five years.

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Western Banks ‘Reaping Billions From Colombian Cocaine Trade’

Reports Ed Vulliamy in the Guardian:

The vast profits made from drug production and trafficking are overwhelmingly reaped in rich “consuming” countries – principally across Europe and in the US – rather than war-torn “producing” nations such as Colombia and Mexico, new research has revealed. And its authors claim that financial regulators in the west are reluctant to go after western banks in pursuit of the massive amount of drug money being laundered through their systems.

The most far-reaching and detailed analysis to date of the drug economy in any country – in this case, Colombia – shows that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries.

“The story of who makes the money from Colombian cocaine is a metaphor for the disproportionate burden placed in every way on ‘producing’ nations like Colombia as a result of the prohibition of drugs,” said one of the authors of the study, Alejandro Gaviria. “Colombian society has suffered to almost no economic advantage from the drugs trade, while huge profits are made by criminal distribution networks in consuming countries, and recycled by banks which operate with nothing like the restrictions that Colombia’s own banking system is subject to.”…

Read More: Guardian

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