shaping the new financial architecture…

Eleven principles of financial reform

Posted in progress, TBTF by Kitty on February 17, 2010

Repost from Jesse’s Cafe

~~~ “Personally I doubt that the US is capable of self-reform at this time.

The corruption of the socio-political system runs deep, and is embedded in the national consciousness as a reflexive set of slogans (the big lies) that substitute for practical thought and effective policy formation.

The examples of thinkspeak are numerous. People become parrots for their favorite corporate news/opinion channel, to which they become emotionally addicted, because otherwise, reality is too painful and complex to face. And so they are blinded and cut off from productive and even civil discourse, trapped within deep wells of subjectivity.

The major media in the States are owned by a few corporations. The Congress listens to its large contributors and ignores the public except at election time, when it inundates them with expensive media campaigns, political spin, false promises, and propaganda. And then it is back to business as usual.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” Frederic Bastiat

What will it take? It took the Japanese about twenty years of economic privation to finally get rid of the LDP political party that had ruled the country since the Second World War. It may take ten years of stagflation and economic hardship for the American people to wake up and put an end to the crony capitalism that has captured its two party political system. A good start would be to continue to defeat incumbents from both parties, and to start electing viable third party candidates.

But that demands a more thoughtful venue than is currently the norm. It really does seem that bad to a relatively objective observer.

Vox
Eleven Lessons From Iceland
Thorvaldur Gylfason
13 February 2010

…What can be done to reduce the likelihood of a repeat performance – in Iceland and elsewhere? Here are eleven main lessons from the Iceland story, lessons that are likely to be relevant in other, less extreme cases as well.

Lesson 1. We need effective legal protection against predatory lending just as we have long had laws against quack doctors. The problem is asymmetric information. Doctors and bankers typically know more about complicated medical procedures and complex financial instruments than their patients and clients. The asymmetry creates a need for legal protection through judicious licensing and other means against financial (as well as medical) malpractice to protect the weak against the strong.

Lesson 2. We should not allow rating agencies to be paid by the banks they have been set up to assess. The present arrangement creates an obvious and fundamental conflict of interest and needs to be revised. Likewise, banks should not be allowed to hire employees of regulatory agencies, thereby signalling that by looking the other way, remaining regulators may also expect to receive lucrative job offers from banks. (I would add a prohibition of movement between regulators and the banks without a significant hiatus of at least four years. – Jesse)

Lesson 3. We need more effective regulation of banks and other financial institutions; presently, this is work in progress in Europe and the US (Volcker 2010). (Too slow, too driven by the banks themselves in the US – Jesse)

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Teapot Dome 2.0?

Posted in Federal Reserve, Senate Banking Committee by Kitty on January 31, 2010

April 15, 1922 Senate Investigates the "Teapot Dome" Scandal

Repost from Jesse’s Cafe

“I have to think this train is probably going to leave the station soon and we need to focus our efforts on explaining the story as best we can. There were too many people involved in the deals — too many counterparties, too many lawyers and advisors, too many people from AIG — to keep a determined Congress from the information.” James P. Bergin, NY Fed, in an email to his Fed colleagues.

‘Though it is hard to divine much understanding from the unredacted filing, it has become clear that Goldman had more involvement than previously believed: In addition to the credit default swaps it bought from AIG, the filing shows that Goldman Sachs also originated many of the underlying assets that AIG and the New York Fed bought back from Société Générale.

The American people have the right to know how their tax dollars were spent and who benefited most from this back-door bailout,” said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Issa. “Now that it’s public, let’s see if the sky really does fall as the New York Fed said it would to justify its coverup.”

Other lawmakers believed that the New York Fed was trying to hide its ties to Goldman Sachs.’ AIG Reveals the Story – CNN

“Wednesday’s hearing described a secretive group deploying billions of dollars to favored banks, operating with little oversight by the public or elected officials.

We’re talking about the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, whose role as the most influential part of the federal-reserve system — apart from the matter of AIG’s bailout — deserves further congressional scrutiny…

By pursuing this line of inquiry, the hearing revealed some of the inner workings of the New York Fed and the outsized role it plays in banking. This insight is especially valuable given that the New York Fed is a quasi-governmental institution that isn’t subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of information requests, unlike the Federal Reserve

This impenetrability comes in handy since the bank is the preferred vehicle for many of the Fed’s bailout programs. It’s as though the New York Fed was a black-ops outfit for the nation’s central bank

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Time to open up the AIG documents

Posted in Federal Reserve, Senate Banking Committee by Kitty on December 20, 2009

Show Us the E-Mail

The New York Times
December 20, 2009
OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS

By ELIOT SPITZER, FRANK PARTNOY and WILLIAM BLACK

WE end this extraordinary financial year with news that the Treasury is in discussions with American International Group about selling the taxpayers’ 80 percent ownership stake in that company. The government recently permitted several banks to break free of its potential oversight by repaying loans made during the rescue. But with respect to A.I.G., the Treasury should not move so fast. There is one job left to do.

A.I.G. was at the center of the web of bad business judgments, opaque financial derivatives, failed economics and questionable political relationships that set off the economic cataclysm of the past two years. When A.I.G.’s financial products division collapsed — ultimately requiring a federal bailout of $180 billion — those who had been prospering from A.I.G.’s schemes scurried for taxpayer cover. Yet, more than a year after the rescue began, crucial questions remain unanswered. Who knew what, and when? Who benefited, and by exactly how much? Would A.I.G.’s counterparties have failed without taxpayer support?

The three of us, as experienced investigators and prosecutors of financial fraud, cannot answer these questions now. But we know where the answers are. They are in the trove of e-mail messages still backed up on A.I.G. servers, as well as in the key internal accounting documents and financial models generated by A.I.G. during the past decade. Before releasing its regulatory clutches, the government should insist that the company immediately make these materials public. By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of “open source” investigation.

Once the documents are available for everyone to inspect, a thousand journalistic flowers can bloom, as reporters, victims and angry citizens have a chance to piece together the story. In past cases of financial fraud — from the complex swaps that Bankers Trust sold to Procter & Gamble in the early 1990s to the I.P.O. kickback schemes of the late 1990s to the fall of Enron — e-mail messages and internal documents became the central exhibits in our collective understanding of what happened, and why.

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