19 April 2010

The US Financial Media Does Not Disappoint, But Will Obama?

"And this is good old Gotham,
The home of the rich and the odd.
Where Morgan talks only to Goldman,
And Goldman talks only to God."

Andrew Stanton, with compliments to
"Boston Toast" by John Collins Bossidy

The spin was running hot and heavy this morning.

The scandal was a one off, a rogue trader. The charges against Goldman are weak, nothing illegal, perhaps just immoral. But morality is not an issue with qualified investors, who should have known better. This has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again. No one forces anyone to be victimized by a fraud. They did it to themselves.

The outstanding talking head on Bloomberg TV was guest salesman Tom Brown of Second Curve Capital, who never met a Wall Street pustule he didn't wish to feed upon. He was supported eagerly by the bobbing heads of Adam Johnson and some less memorable sycophant. And of course the ineffably endearing news anchor, Betty Liu, who is an understudy for Alicia Silverstone in the Wall Street version of Clueless.

But CNBC's Steve Liesman put out a description of the scandal that was so outrageous that it made Mark Haines cough up a donut. Mark still has a conscience apparently but Steve left his at a pawn shop in Moscow. His economic arguments, along with Cramer and Kudlow, drove me away from CNBC long ago. But there is little refuge at Bloomberg anymore except in the off continent off hours, and Fox, well, it is Fox.

I expected a slime trail to appear early on, and I was not disappointed. And its a shame.

Charley Rose has a special on Goldman tonight and it should be worth watching. Charley is a journalist, and tends to show some integrity, which is an increasingly rare commodity in the American mainstream media.

Most Likely Outcome

Goldman will settle out of court, while admitting no fault, after making a great deal of noise to salvage their reputation and lay out a defense for the civil suits that will follow IF Obama does not call in the FBI and Justice to do a more thorough job of investigating the firm and their variety of dodgy deals.

The penalty will be a disgorgement of 15 million, plus a penalty of maybe 45 million. This is just the cost of doing business compared to the billions they took down in side bets like the Credit Default Swaps when the subprime card table tipped over.

The Dems will get Chris Dodd's toothless financial reform passed, and within five years at least one Wall Street firm will roll over and be 'virtually bailed out' at great cost to the taxpayers under its provisions. After he leaves office citizen Obama will say he should not have listened to Larry Summers' advice and ought to have done more to reform Wall Street, despite determined Republican opposition. hi ho

That is the usual outcome. It *could* change, Obama can change it and he doesn't need the Republicans to ask the FBI and Justice to assist the SEC in their civil case investigation to look for evidence of criminal wrongdoing including Paulson and other hedge funds under the RICO statutes. That would show us something about him, at least differently from what I think of his character now. I don't hold much hope for it given the enormous sums that Wall Street is contributing to the Democrats. But I'm prepared to be surprised.

Or it could change if the people shake off their cynicism and lethargy, and a "million person march" goes to Washington this summer, and peacefully demonstrates that business as usual is no longer acceptable. And then they put some bite into it and vote out the incumbents in the fall elections, voting heavily for third parties dedicated to real change.

That is also unlikely but I am prepared to be surprised.

But in the meantime, Europe and Asia should start counting the silverware, and hide the women and children, because the dogs of Wall Street are still on the loose, with little effective restraint.