Romney Campaign, Spoiled Billionaire Donors Actually Believed They Would Win

Mitt Romney with billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson

I’ve been reading some of post-election articles in which the Village pundits try to explain why Mitt Romney lost the election. Apparently Romney and his campaign staff really did think they were going to win. They were even planning an 8-minute fireworks display over Boston Harbor after Romney won!

While the rest of us were absorbing Nate Silver’s predictions and his logical, math-based explanations of the polls, Republicans were making fun of Silver and convincing themselves that Romney voters were more enthusiastic than Obama voters, that polls were sampling the wrong kinds of voters, and that some magical “Romney wave” would sweep them into power.

At the same time, they didn’t understand that their constant race-baiting, their campaign to suppress Democratic voters, and their war on women’s reproductive rights might arouse some anger among the groups they disrespected–anger that could turn into a steely determination to get out and vote no matter how difficult it turned out to be.

In Politico’s summing up, “Romneyworld reckoning begins,” I read these striking paragraphs:

Multiple Romney sources buzzed about one number in particular: 15 percent. According to exit polls, that’s the share of African-Americans who voted in Ohio this year. In 2008, the black percentage of the electorate was 11 percent. In Virginia and Florida, exit polls showed the same share of African-Americans turned out as four years ago, something that GOP turnout models did not anticipate.

“We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base vote than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” said one Romney operative. “It’s unbelievable that that they turned out more from the African-American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ‘em to vote.

Gee, maybe African Americans aren’t as dumb, lazy, and shiftless as John Sununu thinks! Maybe they didn’t appreciate Mitt Romney’s repeated dog whistles and his disrespect toward President Obama.

Andrew Cohen at the Atlantic thinks the voter suppression campaign is the main reason Romney lost. Cohen writes:

May I suggest instead a simple, elegant overriding theory on why we won’t have a Romney Administration in 2013? No serious political party in America — no legitimate party in any viable democracy — can win an election by suppressing votes. So long as the Republican Party endorses (and enacts) voting laws designed to make it harder for registered voters to vote, so long as Republican officials like Ohio’s Jon Husted contort themselves to interpret those laws in a restrictive fashion, the Republicans will continue to play a loser’s game.

That’s my theory, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Having covered for the past two years the voting rights front in this epic election cycle, I have come to believe that the Republicans will begin to win presidential elections again only when they start competing for votes with the substance of their ideas.

At Balloon Juice, Dennis G. reacted to the same section of the Politico article that struck me as so stupid; and he offers anecdotal evidence to support voter suppression reaction argument:

Here is the thing that Team Mitt and Team Wingnut failed to understand: that when you insult folks and dismiss them, they tend to get mad and they tend to want to kick your ass.

Mitt and the Wingnuts have run a four-year campaign that is only a blond hair’s width away from calling the President a nigger every single day. They are focused like a laser beam on promoting white rage and using every dog whistle they can think of to get the message across. White folks heard them and so did people of color. Team Mitt is surprised that African-American turnout increased over 2008, but that is only because they are incapable of thinking of these folks as people.

As I knocked on door after door in a black neighborhood in Columbus, it was clear that folks heard the Mitt/wingnut code-talking and that it pissed them off. They heard the endless disrespect of the President and the general contempt for anybody who is not white that has become the core message of the modern conservative movement. They heard it and they decided to kick Mitt’s ass in the voting booth.

Hey, I’m an old white woman and I was so angered by the race baiting that I was determined to vote against the guy who did it and encouraged it!

 Take a look at what happened in Philadelphia:

In a city where President Obama received more than 85 percent of the votes, in some places he received almost every one. In 13 Philadelphia wards, Obama received 99 percent of the vote or more.

Those wards, many with large African American populations, also swung heavily for Obama over John McCain in 2008. But the difficult economy seemed destined to dampen that enthusiasm four years later.

Not to worry. Ward leaders and voters said they were just as motivated this time.

“In this election, you had to point out to the people what was at stake. And in many cases, they felt that the Romney doctrine was not going to favor the working man,” said Edgar “Sonny” Campbell.

No kidding. But I’d be shocked if a lot of the motivation didn’t come from the poorly disguised racism emanating from Romney and Ryan and their surrogates.

And now let’s turn to those whiny billionaires who thought they could buy the White House and failed miserably. Kevin Roose writes at New York Magazine about a conversation he overheard:

Two months ago, in a dimly lit corner banquette at an exclusive club in the meatpacking district, two well-known billionaires sat down — at a table well within earshot of mine — to have a good bitch about the state of the union.

“The last four years have been a disaster,” said one man, a hedge fund manager who supported President Obama’s 2008 campaign but decided to sit this election out. The primary reason for his disillusionment, he said, was that the country under Obama had grown hostile to wealth, and to those who had accumulated vast amounts of it.

“People work their asses off to get where they are, and they get punished,” he said. “I wanted to fly my friend to Davos this year, and people were like, you’re not going to fly the jet to Davos, are you? How will that look to the Occupy people? I’m like, what the fuck are you talking about? I worked hard for this!”

“It’s a scary reality,” said the other billionaire, once a prominent Democratic donor.

Of course President Obama was extremely friendly to Wall Street during his first term, and the banksters did extremely well while most Americans bore the brunt of the Great Recession that Wall Street caused. But the banksters’ tender feelings were hurt when the President referred to them as “fat cats” and held them responsible for hurting middle- and working-class people.

According to Roose,

Wall Street turned very quickly against Obama, and it made a massive bet that they could put a private equity guy in the White House. The bet turned out to be risky and unhedged — the equivalent of wagering a billion dollars on an exotic derivative that would either triple in value or become totally worthless, with no possible results in the middle….

Backing Romney was a tactical decision, but it was also a psychological one. Under a Romney administration, these donors believed, no longer would they need to hang their heads, hide their jets, and apologize for their success. The social order would be restored, and they could walk proud once more.

What could be more pathetic? These Wall Street titans gambled billions on Romney and got absolutely nothing back. In fact they’ve now lost their leverage over Obama, leaving him free to be even more dismissive of their concerns. Bwaaaaahahahahahahaha!!

Do you ever wonder what effect these self-pitying and self-involved billionaires have on their ultra-privileged offspring? One of them, Peter Brandt II, put on quite a display on election night. The Grio reports that Brandt,

the 18-year-old son of billionaire publisher Peter Brant Sr. and former Victoria’s Secret supermodel Stephanie Seymour [reacted to Obama's reelection by threatening to kill President Obama].

In a series of text messages to his friend Andrew Warren, which were reprinted by Jezebel, Warren whined about how a second Obama term would make him “poor.” Brant II then claimed, “I have a contingency plan. Kill Obama hahaha.”

Brandt was so proud of his “joke,” that he posted the entire text exchange on Instagram.

Here’s a little more of Brandt’s brand [pun intended] of humor, including this delightful tweet:

Harry & Peter Brant@HarryPeterBrant
H:yay Obama and all, but am i the only person who is DYING for Hill DOG to run in 2016! that stylish mullet needs to be in the oval office.
7 Nov 12

Thank goodness the assholes lost this time.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

There are a couple of finance stories that I’ve been following that I’m getting ready to write more bout.  One is the story about the manipulation of LIBOR by Barclays with possible involvement of JPM and others.  Here’s an article from The Economist to get us started on the topic. Its title includes the word “banksters”.  That should be telling.

At present, the scandal rages in one country and around one bank. Barclays has been fined $450m by American and British regulators for its attempts to manipulate LIBOR. The bank’s first attempt to ride out the storm failed miserably; Bob Diamond, Barclays’ chief executive, resigned this week. The British government has ordered a parliamentary review into its banks. The reputation of the City of London, where LIBOR is set by collating estimates of their own borrowing costs from a panel of banks, has been further dented.

But this story stretches far beyond Britain. Barclays is the first bank in the spotlight because it offered to co-operate fully with regulators. It will not be the last. Investigations into the fixing of LIBOR and other rates are also under way in America, Canada and the EU. Between them, these probes cover many of the biggest names in finance: the likes of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Deutsche Bank and HSBC. Employees, from New York to Tokyo, are implicated (see article).

I’m just delving into the details now.  It will take me awhile to get to the point of being able to describe it nontechnically so please be patient.  This is huge.  It will likely show us why the moves to remove Dodd-Frank and the Volker Rule are as criminal as the intent.

Well, I certainly wouldn’t wish Bobby Jindal on the country but it appears that our Governor has made the short list in the Romney VP stake.  Frankly, anything he does is only to further his professional political career having done nothing else.  Judging from my LA twitter feed, he might just have fled the state because every one is mad at him over his move to end public education as we know it. The man has a weird personality and he excels at ambition and lying.  He’d be perfect for the job, frankly.  Romney and Jindal are a matched set of amoral liars.  Unfortunately, he won’t quit even if he gets the nod which only puts my state in worse condition than it is since he took over. Ask me about our more than double unemployment rate since he took over. He’s got his eye on 4 years from now.

On readiness for office, conversations with Romney insiders and allies suggest that they have no qualms about Portman or Pawlenty. One of Romney’s biggest complaints about President Obama is that he is in over his head and had “never run anything before.” Pawlenty governed the state of Minnesota for two terms; Portman ran the Office of Management and Budget as well as the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Jindal is in his second term as governor of Louisiana. Paul Ryan, however, falls short in this regard; he was a Capitol Hill staffer and a marketing consultant before becoming a congressman at age 28.

As for chemistry with the candidate, Pawlenty, Portman and Ryan have all campaigned alongside him multiple times. Each endorsed him at critical moments in the primary process and appeared with him on the stump when they did. And each got a turn as his key surrogate on Romney’s June bus tour, which ran through their states. Jindal has not yet campaigned with the presumptive nominee, so look for that to happen soon in a swing state near you.

Does this picture remind you of something from the John Kerry Files?  Notice the dressage horses are missing.  Romney going one way on the lake.  Then, the other way on the lake … then back again the other way on the lake …

I’ll just say it: I don’t think the political pundit class understands just how toxic the Swiss/Caymans/Bermuda accounts issue is for Romney. Not that they don’t know it’s a liability at all. But I don’t think they realize the extent of it.

Here’s a report just out from ABC News on how Ted Strickland introduced Obama in Ohio …

“Oh, what a contrast, my friends, between these two men who would be president!” Strickland said, standing outside the Wolcott House Museum. “President Obama is betting on America and American workers, and Mitt Romney is betting his resources in the Cayman Islands, in Bermuda, in Switzerland and God only knows where else he is putting his resources.”Fair or not, it just rolls off the tongue. Immediately understandable. And assuming you’re not talking to the deeply ideological committed or hyper-partisans, how exactly do you understand that a man running for president has parked a lot of his money in offshore tax havens?

Whatever harsh message you’re trying to prove — out of touch with lives of ordinary Americans, plays by a different set of rules, isn’t focused on America and American workers — it fits right in.

Set aside all questions of legality. And I think Romney’s probably too smart and close to the vest to break any laws. But how do you explain it? What’s the good explanation?

Do you seek the safe harbor of Romney’s 15% tax rate?

How many of you know any one that hides assets in off shore banking havens? Better yet, how many savvy politicians would do it?

The attacks on Mississipi’s sole abortion clinic seem to be aimed at sending a court case to SCOTUS to test Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Roe v. WadeCreeping theocracy threatens the health of American women.

Earlier this week a district court issued an eleventh-hour stay to block a Mississippi law designed to shut down the state’s last surviving abortion clinic. It’s the only one that has muscled through a spate of regulations aimed at making Mississippi “abortion-free,” in the words of Gov. Phil Bryant (R).

“The Court has considered the parties’ arguments and finds Plaintiffs satisfy the requirements for temporary injunctive relief to maintain the status quo until the newly framed issues can be more thoroughly examined,” wrote U.S. district judge Daniel P. Jordan III.

Bryant’s intentions are clear: make Mississippi the first state without access to abortion. But that’s a tricky legal proposition as a result of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two key Supreme Court rulings that protect abortion rights.

The question before the courts is whether the new state law is legitimate under Roe and Casey. If so, pro-choice advocates fear it would threaten abortion rights protections nationwide

“In this case, Plaintiffs have offered evidence — including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers — that the Act’s purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi,” wrote Jordan. “They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage. This evidence has not yet been rebutted.”

A hearing is scheduled for July 11 to determine if a preliminary injunction should follow. That’s a reasonably likely scenario since the Bush-appointed Judge Jordan issued the stay on the basis that the plaintiffs have “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”

Whether or not the case climbs up to the Supreme Court and puts Roe at risk of being overturned depends on the breadth of the lower courts’ ruling. But neither side is particularly keen on going down that road — at least for now.

“From a pro-choice perspective, the less the current Court does to define Casey, the better. From a pro-life perspective, they want to wait until there’s a clear shot at Roe v. Wade,” said Scott Lemieux, a political science professor at the College of Saint Rose.

Meanwhile, back in Rush Limbaugh’s warped reality, ALL the problems of the country are due to women getting the vote.

Rush Limbaugh has a major problem when it comes to women. In the past, the conservative talk radio host has accused them of being sluts for using birth control and called those who support feminism “feminazis.” (Media Matters has compiled a pretty good list of Limbaugh’s sexist and misogynistic remarks over the years.) Now, the caustic commentator has come up with a new calumny: “When women got the right to vote is when it all went down hill.”

He made the remark on his radio program Tuesday, adding: “Because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and maternal instincts. …”

That’s right. According to Limbaugh, America messed up big-time when it allowed all of its citizens—not just men—to vote.

I have no idea what makes people vote Republican any more but I don’t think it has anything to do with sanity.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Greed is Good Redux

The real life Gordon Gekko set went to an investor’s conference in Gotham City to defend wealth this month.  I dare you to find much difference between some of the quotes I read in this Bloomberg article and the Greed is Good speech.  Remember most of these are guys are bankers.  These aren’t guys that make cars, produce wheat, or build houses.  These are functionaries of overhead and gambling.  They still don’t seem to get that people don’t hate rich people that come by their money without manipulation of laws, favorable tax treatment, and government subsidies and bailouts.  It’s people that get wealthy by gaming the system, raiding the US treasury, and extracting huge salaries for running failed casino operations that are the targets of anger these days.  I guess all that money doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be able to use your brain or your common sense to solve a problem.

Here’s a pretty good example of some whining that deserves no sympathy.

The organization assisted John A. Allison IV, a director of BB&T Corp. (BBT), the ninth-largest U.S. bank, and Staples Inc. co- founder Thomas Stemberg with media appearances this month.

“It still feels lonely, but the chorus is definitely increased,” Allison, 63, a former CEO of the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank and now a professor at Wake Forest University’s business school, said in an interview.

At a lunch in New York, Stemberg and Allison shared their disdain for Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires public companies to disclose the ratio between the compensation of their CEOs and employee medians, according to Allison. The rule, still being fine-tuned by the Securities and Exchange Commission, is “incredibly wasteful” because it takes up time and resources, he said. Stemberg called the rule “insane” in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.

“Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive,” Allison said. “This attack is destructive.”

Oh, wait.  There’s more.

Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP (BX) CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

Some of Schwarzman’s capital gains at Blackstone, the world’s largest private-equity firm, are taxed at 15 percent, not the 35 percent top marginal income-tax rate. Attacking the banking system is a mistake because it contributes to “a healthier economy,” he said in the interview.

Paulson, the New York hedge-fund manager who became a billionaire by betting against the U.S. housing market, has also said the rich benefit society.

“The top 1 percent of New Yorkers pay over 40 percent of all income taxes,” Paulson & Co. said in an e-mailed statement on Oct. 11, the day Occupy Wall Street protesters left a mock tax-refund check at its president’s Upper East Side townhouse.

I’ll quote just one more and then you can read the others on your own.

Tom Golisano, billionaire founder of payroll processer Paychex Inc. (PAYX) and a former New York gubernatorial candidate, said in an interview this month that while there are examples of excess, it’s “ridiculous” to blame everyone who is rich.

“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

There’s an entire rogue’s list of the persecuted 1 percent there along with some eye popping quotes.  I can’t decide if I should close with a reference to the Julio-Claudian period in Rome or the Bourbon monarchy in France.  Do these guys really think their contributions to civilization are all that?  Since when did destroying the savings and home values of most of the country become something to brag about?

Pitchforks or Guillotines?


Free markets are for losers

You don’t have to believe me. The S&P says so. At the very heart of the supposedly free market, right there on Wall St., they’ve got no use for it. Standard & Poors announced a mass of ratings cuts for the biggest names in banking.

Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, … Barclays, HSBC, … Citigroup, … Morgan Stanley, Commerzbank, and UBS, [all] had ratings cut by one notch. …

But. But, but, but, and however,

it upgraded ratings on two Chinese banks, Bank of China Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corp. …

The upgrade for the Chinese banks has come at a time when there have been increased concerns about the health of the country’s banking sector. …

Analysts said while the Chinese banks were prone to the risk of accumulating bad debt, they still remain a safe bet.

“The key factor is that they are largely government owned, that means the risk to shareholders of these banks is quite low.”

Too funny. The joke is on me, thinking they believed all that free market eyewash.


Can Banksters be Shamed–or at Least Influenced–by Public Opinion?

It sure looks that way. From the Wall Street Journal:

Bank of America Corp. is dropping its plan to charge customers $5 a month for making purchases with their debit cards, a person familiar with the situation said.

The move is a dramatic retreat following decisions by several rivals in recent days to drop customer tests of the new fees. SunTrust Banks Inc. and Regions Financial Corp. also said Monday that they will stop charging customers for debit-card transactions.

Bank of America decided against the fees due to negative customer feedback on the plan and the moves by rivals, which left the Charlotte, N.C., lender as the only big bank planning to levy the fee on some customers next year.

According to Bloomberg, BofA CEO David Darnell claims the bank just “listened” to customers.

“We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” David Darnell, co-chief operating officer, said in a statement from the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender today. “As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”

Darnell wants us to believe that he had no clue that customers would be angry at being charged for accessing their own money. But actually, he apparently paid more attention to what his competitors were doing.

Bank of America reversed course after competitors including Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the No. 2 debit-card issuer, decided not to charge similar fees. Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI) and Regions Financial Corp., based in Birmingham, Alabama, said yesterday they will eliminate their check-card fees after customers rebelled.

At least it’s a small win for the 99%. And I’m sure the banks were paying close attention to the Occupy Movement too, even if they’ll never admit it.


Newsflash folks: This isn’t Market Capitalism, it’s Monopoly

I entered the world of commercial banking the same year that the Monetary Control Act of 1980 (MCA) got passed and signed by Jimmy Carter.  President Jimmy Carter was responsible for the first onslaught of deregulation of all kinds of industries which is important to think about.  It was a Democratic President that pulled the first card from the laws that were put into place to stop the banking crises that had plagued our country in the early years of capitalism.  I should also remind you that the country was founded on a system of economics called mercantilism.  Capitalism didn’t come into being until the early-to-mid-19th-century. (Note to Rick Perry: The US Revolutionary war was not in the 16th or  17th century.) We had series of financial crises in  the 1840s and then in 1870s .  The first one was in 1792 and a politician/financier caused it. 

We didn’t call them recessions bank then.  We called them Panics and they were sourced in banking and nascent financial markets.  They were the result of excessive speculation and/or some Bernie-Madoff-like figure and scheme.  In 1792, the panic was set off by William Duer who used his appointment to the US Treasury by Alexander Hamilton to use insider information in a similar way to Hedge Fund Manager Raj Rajaratnam who was just sentenced to 11 years in jail yesterday.  This is a very old story and really dates back to the birth of capitalism as we know it.

Hamilton was pretty appalled by Duer’s speculative activities.  He wrote this at the time.

“Tis time, there must be a line of separation between honest Men & knaves, between respectable Stockholders and dealers in the funds, and mere unprincipled Gamblers.”

If you start typing Financial Panic into Google, you’ll start seeing a huge number of dates pop up.  From 1792 down to the present time, most of these panics have been clearly rooted in that same problem: speculative bubbles and banking malfeasance.

There’s a clear difference between the good old fashioned community banking that gave me my first job out of my masters program and what we have today.   Much of it is due to that first card pulled from the bottom of the financial market card house by Jimmy Carter in 1980.  You can read about the law at FRB Boston.  There were a lot of responsibilities placed on the FED for oversight at the time but the banks got a lot of benefits including increased access to borrowing money from the FED.  When I was working in Nebraska,  a bank was allowed one branch and a main office. There were restrictions on how far away the branch could be.  I worked for a small bank with a branch across the street at a big shopping center.   That local law was pulled down shortly thereafter because the banks wanted to branch every where into communities they did not know.  There are very few community banks left in the country where your banker knows if you’ll be good for your loan or not based on years of knowing you.

Most small and regional banks have been gobbled up by the top 4 or 5 financial institutions. The majority of financial assets sit in a handful of institutions.  That’s called monopoly, folks.  Monopolies require regulation, not free reign.  That’s basic classical economic theory and has nothing to do with Keynes and politics.  Any microeconomics 101 students should be able to explain why.  They are incredibly inefficient. We say they are not Pareto Efficient, which means some very specific things.  They overprice their products.  They restrict access to these products. They earn profits above and beyond what they should because the revenue far exceeds the productivity of the factors used to produce the service. They create a deadweight loss which is bad for every corner of the economy except for the monopolist.

We have gone from a system where lending risk is personalized and spread around a number of institutions to a situation where it’s all concentrated and automated in the hands of a few big banks. They also can invest in a lot of specious assets.  The banks continued to seek complete interstate banking and eventually got it. The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 gave them exactly what they wanted.  It also allowed bank holding companies to do things that they had previously been disallowed like hold subsidiaries that offered speculative investments.  Interestingly enough, it is much easier to become a bank holding company than it is to become a bank.  Many investment banks became bank holding companies to access borrowing through the Fed Window in 2008 when they had gambled away a good deal of their own capital.

This law was signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton. That’s only the commercial banking side.  The so-called shadow banking industry got freed to speculate at will and be closely aligned with banks and their guaranteed deposit when the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act  (GLBA) was signed by President William Clinton in 1999.  It repealed huge sections of the Glass Steagall Act that were put into place during the Great Depression to deal with all those financial panics that finally led up to the 1929 Bank Run.  If you’re unemployed and you’ve seen your housing equity and your retirement funds depleted, I’d suggest going to Phil Gramm’s house with placards and rotten eggs.  He’s the one mover and shaker that brought all this on to our heads and a symbolic tar and feathering would make me feel good, frankly. (Here’s an academic site with some brief notes on a Mishkin textbook on the history of the repeal of important banking laws for your reference.)

So, it goes with out saying that the minute these things were put into play from 1980 forward, it was only a matter of time before we started to repeating panics and would eventually get another Great Depression.  The panics started in the 1980s. I’d moved out of commercial banking and into the S&L business right before our first panic came.  When S&L’s started giving market rates of interest on their liabilities, they had to start giving new mortgage loans out at exorbitant prices.  My first one–in 1982–was for around 17%.  I got the banker discount which brought it down to 12%.  The problem was that all the liabilities were repricing to market and all the assets (loans) were still stuck at those 1950-1960 home loan interest rates of about 5%.  My dad was barely paying 4% because the bank he used also was funding his floor plan (that’s the cars he had on his inventory sheet as a new car dealer).  His floor plan interest was through the roof in those days because the usury laws had been suspended.  It was in the 20% levels just like credit card debt was at the time.  The commercial banks were seeing incredibly high prime rates of interest and the Savings and Loans were hemorrhaging money.  This is a problem of term mismatch when you rely on arbitrage profits, but I’ll avoid the lecture on that one!  The S&L crisis should’ve been the first cautionary tale from that Monetary Control Act.  I have some pretty wild stories from those days including the Treasurer that I worked for using GNMA futures to day trade to try to up our cash balances.  Illegal yes!  That’s if you’re caught! However, we were the least of the FSLIC’s problems at the time and he got away with it!

The second cautionary tale came with a  Long Term Capital Management that lost tons of money after the Russian Financial Crisis in 1998. That didn’t stop the GLBA at all however.  There was an earlier canary too.  That was Franklin Savings and Loan.  There’s actually a more recent example of the same.  That would be Granite Funds. LTCM made convergence trades that required huge sums of money and enormous leverage to be profitable.  They were eventually bailed out and wound down at a huge cost.  There is absolutely something wrong when we repeatedly have huge organizations collapse because of margin calls.   I point back up to the quote from Alexander Hamilton who got it the first time out.  We still haven’t learned the lessons from any of this because we’re ready and primed for the next financial crisis with European Sovereign Debt too.  The speculators are pulling the same tricks and we’re suffering from the same results.

So, the deal is that after about 100 years of horrible problems, we put a box around the speculators called Glass Steagall.  There is a new box proposed called the Volcker Rule.  The banks are kicking and screaming about even the smallest regulations to stick them back into their boxes.  We cannot afford to repeatedly coddle an industry that systematically creates huge social and economic costs on a regular basis when set free to do as it will. The Volcker Rule–in its current form–is pretty mild.  It’s no where near what ex Fed Chairman Paul Volcker originally offered but it’s a step in the right direction.  That’s why it’s first on my list of demands for OCCUPY activists.

Fitch Ratings on Friday said it sees potential for a delay in the adoption of a newly proposed rule barring banks from trading for their own profits, due to industry opposition that could lead to a political fight.

Banks’ opposition “will likely fuel a lengthy debate in Washington regarding the ultimate scope and precise implementation” of the Volcker Rule, Fitch said in a report released four days after federal banking regulators proposed the rules.

“There is a real possibility that controversy surrounding the proposal could delay the precise definition of restricted trading, particularly in a presidential election year when partisan debate over financial regulation will be intense,” Fitch said.

The rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, was required under the financial overhaul that became law last year. The rule would bar banks from trading for their own profit instead of on their clients’ behalf. Banks must hold investments for more than 60 days, and bank managers must make sure employees comply with restrictions.

The day after banking regulators and the Federal Reserve backed the rule, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4-0 to send the proposal out for public comment. The public has until Jan. 13 to comment on a rule that’s expected to take effect by July after a final vote by all the regulators. Banks would have until July 2014 to comply.

The industry has said that the proposal would put them at a disadvantage to banks in other countries.

Let me reiterate something I’ve said earlier.  The Scandinavian countries learned from their last disastrous banking crisis in the early 1990s and put their banks back into the box.  This was roughly the same time of our own S&L crisis and came from speculative bubbles.  They all come from speculative bubbles, excess risk taking, and extremely immoral behavior on the part of many bankers/brokers because the extraordinary profits that can be extracted on the ride up are incredible. The Canadians never let them out so they’ve basically been sitting pretty well during this last crisis.  None of these countries had the problems that we and other countries have had since then.  The Volcker Rule is the least we could do to start down the path to sanity.

I want to end this post by pointing out a new voice in the blogging community called Reformed Broker.  His real name is Joshua Brown.  He has written a Dear Wall Street letter that’s worth a read.  He now feels like I felt after living through the S&L crisis and then watching the insanity repeat with LTCM and the others in the late 1990s.  All this fol de rol tanked my 403(B) retirement account as badly as this last bit of craziness has tanked it again. Only this time I am 10 years closer to retirement. Oh, and this time they got my home equity in the process and my job.  The S&L crisis got my job and killed my ability to sell my house.  It also caused incredible damage to my father’s small business.  He sold it at a huge loss just to get out from under the stress that was killing him.  I’ve just about had it now with this nonsense, the bankers, and the politicians that enable them.  As I’ve said it’s been going on for some time and they need to be put back into the box.

I’m going way beyond fair use here, Josh but I wanted your voice to be read by our readers.  Please take this as a compliment and not a copy right violation!

In 2008, the American people were told that if they didn’t bail out the banks, there way of life would never be the same. In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it!

At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done.

The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen. But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The banks didn’t seize this opportunity, this second chance to re-enter society as a constructive agent of commerce. Instead, they went back to business as usual. With $20 billion in bonuses paid during 2009. Another $20 billion in bonuses paid in 2010. And they did this with the profits they earned from zero percent interest rates that actually acted as a tax on the rest of the economy.

Instead of coming back and working with this economy to get back on its feet, they hired lobbyists by the dozen to fight tooth and nail against any efforts whatsoever to bring common sense regulation to the financial industry. Instead of coming back and working with the people, they hired an army of robosigners to process millions of foreclosures. In many cases, without even having the proper paperwork to evict the homeowners. Instead, the banks announced layoffs in the tens of thousands, so that executives at the top of the pile could maintain their outrageous levels of compensation.

We bailed out Wall Street to avoid Depression, but three years later, millions of Americans are in a living hell. This is why they’re enraged, this why they’re assembling, this is why they hate you. Why for the first time in 50 years, the people are coming out in the streets and they’re saying, “Enough.”

And one more time, let’s hear from Alexander Hamilton because it bears repeating!!!

“‘Tis time, there must be a line of separation between honest Men & knaves, between respectable Stockholders and dealers in the funds, and mere unprincipled Gamblers.”

I’ve added a link to Josh’s blog so you can go sample his writing any time you want.  He’s also on twitter as @ReformedBroker.  Okay, this is a little long, and a little like one of my lectures for financial institutions, but I thought you might appreciate how this thing came down and what needs to be done.  Like I said, we need to put them back into a box.  If they are to be free from the chance of bankruptcy, able to access US tax dollars at zero cost, and are still able to create Financial Panics by bad lending and investment practices we have no other chance.  This will repeat ad infinitum and will cost us our personal and national treasures.


Will the Banksters Finally Pay?

Federal regulators have finally decided to go after seventeen  big banks for bad mortgage lending practices.  In question are $200 billion in toxic mortgages sold to now bankrupt Fannie and Freddie.  The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is the regulator suing BOA, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and others. You may recall I wrote on a FED investigation last month.  This comes way too late to help many people who were put into loans they couldn’t possibly handle who were later evicted, but it may give these folks standing in future court suits to recoups some of their losses.  Financial sector-related equities and bonds lost in what was a dismal Friday market already given the unemployment figures.

The litigation represents a more intense effort by the federal government to go after the financial services industry for its supposed mortgage failures.

Indeed, the cases were brought on the basis of 64 subpoenas issued a year ago, giving the government an edge in its investigation that private investors suing the banks lack.

The Obama administration as well as regulators like the Federal Reserve have been criticized for going too easy on the banks, which benefited from a $700 billion bailout package shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the autumn 2008.

Much of that money has been repaid by the banks — but the rescue of the mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie has already cost taxpayers $153 billion, and the federal government estimates the effort could cost $363 billion through 2013.

Even though the banks already face high legal bills from actions brought by other plaintiffs, including private investors, the suits filed Friday could cost the banks far more. In the case against Bank of America, for example, the suit claims that Fannie and Freddie bought more than $57 billion worth of risky mortgage securities from the bank and two companies it also acquired, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial.

In addition to suing the companies, the complaints also identified individuals at many institutions responsible for the machinery of turning subprime mortgages into securities that somehow earned a AAA grade from the rating agencies.

The filing did not cite a figure for the total losses the government wanted to recover, but in a similar case brought in July against UBS, the F.H.F.A. is trying to recover $900 million in losses on $4.5 billion in securities. A similar 20 percent claim against Bank of America could equal a $10 billion hit.

In a suit that identifies 23 securities that Bank of America sold for $6 billion, the company “caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an amount to be determined at trial.”

The most interesting thing about these new lawsuits is that it is obvious that some of the most egregious practices like backdating  and robosigning are still being practiced even as these banks are making tons of fees from foreclosure. It’s hard to sympathize with an industry unable to correct it’s own bad practices.  This is especially true since so much tax payer money has gone to stabilize the results of these practices already.  This is from the American Banker and it’s damning.

Some of the largest mortgage servicers are still fabricating documents that should have been signed years ago and submitting them as evidence to foreclose on homeowners.

The practice continues nearly a year after the companies were caught cutting corners in the robo-signing scandal and about six months after the industry began negotiating a settlement with state attorneys general investigating loan-servicing abuses.

Several dozen documents reviewed by American Banker show that as recently as August some of the largest U.S. banks, including Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Ally Financial Inc., and OneWest Financial Inc., were essentially backdating paperwork necessary to support their right to foreclose.

Some of documents reviewed by American Banker included signatures by current bank employees claiming to represent lenders that no longer exist.

Many banks are missing the original papers from when they securitized the mortgages, in some cases as long ago as 2005 and 2006, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers. They and some industry members say the related mortgage assignments, showing transfers from one lender to another, should have been completed and filed with document custodians at the time of transfer.

“It’s one thing to not have the documents you’re supposed to have even though you told investors and the SEC you had them,” says Lynn E. Szymoniak, a plaintiff’s lawyer in West Palm Beach, Fla. “But they’re making up new documents.”

The banks argue that creating such documents is a routine business practice that simply “memorializes” actions that should have occurred years before. Some courts have endorsed that view, but others, such as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, have found that this amounts to a lack of sufficient evidence and renders foreclosures invalid.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has been following this issue closely and continues to have harsh words for banks and banker apologists.

It’s disturbing at this juncture that Felix Salmon more or less falls in with the bogus bank party line on “memorializing” (he finesses it by saying they need to do it “transparently”). I suggest he try talking to an attorney who is expert in securitizations and does not have opinion letter liability on this matter. The contracts that governed these deals were immutable and set forth in precise detail the steps various parties to the deal were required to perform. That included strict cutoff dates for getting the properly prepared notes and mortgages to the securitization trusts. Long-standing precedents for New York trusts (virtually all RMBS trusts are New York trust) call for delivery to the trust to be as perfect as possible. Since all securitization through at least the late 1990s did deliver all the notes and mortgages to the trusts as stipulated, there is no excuse for later changes in practice (as in if the parties wanted to simplify procedures for reasons of cost or convenience, they needed to change the governing agreements to reflect that).

Put it another way: what about the Statute of Frauds don’t you understand? And while some judges have sided with banks, the robosigning scandal and greater media coverage of mortgage abuses has led many jurists to be much less bank friendly than they were a mere year ago. The trend is moving decisively against, not for, the banks.

The American Banker article, disappointingly, fails to discuss what these continued abuses mean. As we have stressed in repeated past posts, the failure to get the notes to the securitization trusts by the cutoff date is not fixable by any legitimate means. Do you think banks and law firms would continue to fabricate documents, particularly in the wake of so much harsh media and Congressional scrutiny, if they had any other way out?

The failure to get the notes to the securitization trust correctly does NOT mean that no one has the right to foreclose. It does mean that the party that can foreclose is someone earlier in the securitization chain who was paid for the note but in effect, no one bothered to collect it from him. No one wants that party to foreclose because, first, it would prove that the securitization did not have the note and investors were misled, and second, there is no way to get the proceeds into the trust for the benefit of the investors.

The FHFA actions against the banks rush to originate loans to package and dump is based in lack of due diligence which is central to the role of any lending institution. I’ve written a lot about this having been straight out of grad school and part of the secondary mortgage process back in the 1980s when the S&L crisis exploded.  My huge S&L was desperate to grab fee income any way it could to stay afloat.  Practices this time were based on giving people bonuses just to give high numbers.  That’s always a disaster policy from a quality stand point.

Buried in the filings themselves, however, is a damning portrait of the excesses of the housing bubble, when borrowers were able to obtain home loans without basic proof of income or creditworthiness, and banks appeared only too happy to mine profits taking the risky loans and assembling them into securities that could be sold to investors.

In the complaint against Goldman Sachs, for example, the suit says that “Goldman was not content to simply let poor loans pass into its securitizations.” In addition, the giant investment bank “took the fraud further, affirmatively seeking to profit from this knowledge.”

When an outside analytics firm, Clayton, identified potential problems in the underlying mortgages Goldman was turning into securities, the suit said, “Goldman simply ignored and did not disclose the red flags revealed by Clayton’s review.” Goldman Sachs declined to comment, as did JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Citigroup.

Similar behavior in terms of warnings provided by Clayton transpired at Bank of America, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, RBS and UBS, according to the complaints.

My hope is that this leads to some policy to compensate homeowners taken in by these schemes but I’m not holding my breath.  Speculators and gamblers should not be rewarded for causing homeless and lost wealth for honest people looking to live the American Dream.  My worry is that Timothy Geithner’s presence as Treasury Secretary will force policy that continues to prop up the wrong people. This entire spectacle is another example of the opposites reality we know seem to inhabit.  In this version of “It’s a wonderful life”, the cautionary tale is the ending.