05 November 2013

Taibbi: JPM Chase Is Not the Only Bank In Trouble - Credibility Trap - Pigmen Agonistes

If you want to take the unadjusted temperature of the ongoing financial crisis, you don't go to the financial talking heads and spokesmodels at CNBC or Bloomberg TV, but rather to the sportswriter at Rolling Stone magazine.

I particularly liked this piece because it is a nice vignette of the credibility trap in action.

I am not optimistic.  The powers that be have far too much of their own skin in the game to engage in meaningful reform.    Both parties are in the tank for the monied interests.  It will not be easy, but change will come.

And Taibbi does not even touch on the developing gold bullion scandal, which will shake the Western central banks to their foundations when their perfidious collusion with the bullion banks to steal the wealth of nations is finally revealed.


Chase Isn't the Only Bank in Trouble
By Matt Taibbi
November 5, 12:55 PM ET

"There are multiple scandals blowing up right now, including a whole set of ominous legal cases that could result in punishments so extreme that they might significantly alter the long-term future of the financial services sector.

As one friend of mine put it, 'Whatever those morons put aside for settlements, they'd better double it...'

Firstly, there's a huge mess involving possible manipulation of the world currency markets. This scandal is already drawing comparisons to the last biggest-financial-scandal-in-history (the Financial Times wondered about a "repeat Libor scandal"), the manipulation of interest rates via the gaming of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. The foreign exchange or FX market is the largest financial market in the world, with a daily trading volume of nearly $5 trillion...

The Forex story broke at a time when the industry was already coping with price-fixing messes involving oil (the European commission is investigating manipulation of yet another Libor-like price-setting process here) and manipulation cases involving benchmark rates for precious metals and interest rate swaps. As Quartz put it after the FX story broke:
For those keeping score: That means the world's key price benchmarks for interest rates, energy and currencies may now all be compromised.
Perhaps most importantly, however, there's a major drama brewing over legal case in London tied to the Libor scandal.

Guardian Care Homes, a British "residential home care operator," is suing the British bank Barclays for over $100 million for allegedly selling the company interest rate swaps based on Libor, which numerous companies have now admitted to manipulating, in a series of high-profile settlements. The theory of the case is that if Libor was not a real number, and was being manipulated for years as numerous companies have admitted, then the Libor-based swaps banks sold to companies like Guardian Care are inherently unenforceable.

A ruling against the banks in this case, which goes to trial in April of next year in England, could have serious international ramifications...

And virtually simultaneous to that, JP Morgan Chase disclosed that it is currently the target of no fewer than eight federal investigations, for activities ranging from possible bribery of foreign officials in Asia to allegations of improper mortgage-bond sales to . . . the Libor mess. "The scope and breadth of risky practices at JPMorgan are mind-boggling," Mark Williams, a former Federal Reserve bank examiner, told Bloomberg.

The point of all of this is that any thought that the potential Chase settlement might begin a period of regulatory healing for it and other Wall Street banks appears to be wildly mistaken. If anything, the scope of potential liability for all the major banks, particularly in these market-rigging furors, appears to be growing in all directions...

One gets the feeling that governments in all the major Western democracies would like to sweep these manipulation scandals under the rug. The only problem is that the scale of the misdeeds in these various markets is so enormous that even the most half-assed attempt at regulation will cause a million-car pileup. (This is the credibility trap in action, and how it impedes the reforms necessary to achieve sustainability. A lot of those cars are limos filled with politicians taking a free ride. - Jesse)

There's simply no way to do a damage calculation that won't wipe out the entire finance sector when you're talking about pervasive, ongoing manipulation of $5-trillion-a-day markets. That's the problem – there's no way to do a slap on the wrist in these cases. If they're guilty, they're done."

Read the entire article here.