07 August 2017

The Volcker Rule and Strong Independent Oversight Is Required to Save the Public From the Banks

"The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.  Perhaps this is inherent. In a community where the primary concern is making money, one of the necessary rules is to live and let live.  To speak out against madness may be to ruin those who have succumbed to it.  So the wise in Wall Street are nearly always silent. The foolish thus have the field to themselves.  None rebukes them...

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.  Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason.  But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right."

John Kenneth Galbraith

"The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises.

If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform."

Simon Johnson, The Quiet Coup

“As Treasury secretary under Clinton, Rubin was the driving force behind two monstrous deregulatory actions that would be primary causes of last year’s financial crisis: the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. and the deregulation of the derivatives market.”

Matt Taibbi

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Upton Sinclair

Among the policy changes that the Clinton Democrats enabled, in bipartisan partnership with the corporate stooge Republicans who were amassing private fortunes, was to go along with the financial sector's long campaign for financial deregulation and the overturning of the Glass-Steagall Act.

There were also plenty of useful idiots who climbed aboard.  Independent thinking is a difficult burden and a rarity, especially when it runs counter to your own career self-interests.

But as 'populist Democrats' the Wall Street Democrats were able to provide a cover for legislation promoted by the financial class, along with the other courtiers to power and money in politics, universities, and the media, for the benefit of a wealthy few.  In retrospect, one might think of about several hundred million reasons why this happened.

And also why the complicity has continued even until today, almost to the point of absurdly low approval ratings and the implosion of the Democratic party after pivoting from the working public to the wealthy professional class in banking and Wall Street's many ventures in healthcare and technology.
In 1999, on signing Gramm-Leach-Bliley into law, Clinton said, 'This is a day we can celebrate as an American day' and that 'the Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate for the economy in which we live' and 'today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down these antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority' and 'This is a very good day for the United States.'

Columbia Journalism Review, Bill Clinton on Deregulation
After enormous bailouts and a near collapse of the global financial system, the Banks are back at it again. They are once more funding a clever campaign, with the help of the silent acquiescence of the mainstream media and those in the disgraced professions, who are more than willing to provide high sounding justifications and willing silence in return for money, access, and position.
"Over the last thirty years, the United States has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy, and the American dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population.  Federal policy is increasingly dictated by the wealthy, by the financial sector, and by powerful (though sometimes badly mismanaged) industries such as telecommunications, health care, automobiles, and energy. These policies are implemented and praised by these groups’ willing servants, namely the increasingly bought-and-paid-for leadership of America’s political parties, academia, and lobbying industry.

If allowed to continue, this process will turn the United States into a declining, unfair society with an impoverished, angry, uneducated population under the control of a small, ultrawealthy elite. Such a society would be not only immoral but also eventually unstable, dangerously ripe for religious and political extremism.

Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation
When this all goes wrong, the professional elite will claim benign ignorance, again.   And then the conversation will quickly shift to blame the public, whom they hold in utter contempt.  They are particularly cynical with regard to their vocal minority of supporters, who are easily swayed by negative misdirection and cynical ideology into blaming other, weaker victims.

The people are starting to become aware of this. And the wealthy few and their professional elite are resisting reform and change for the better. They like things just the way they are.


Five Critical Decisions that Led to the Financial Crisis

Pam Martens' Warning About Financial Deregulation in 1998

Brilliant Warning About Rubin's Proposal for Financial Deregulation in 1995
The Long Demise of Glass-Steagall

The Volcker Rule and the London Whale

By Chris Whalen

...Ina Drew was essentially running a hedge fund directed by Dimon and other senior managers, a fund that was largely kept outside of the bank’s risk management and reporting procedures. Consider the bizarre situation in 2011-2012 when counterparties of Iksil facing the JPM commercial bank were unable to make margin calls, but the JPM investment bank was making margin calls on these same counterparties for positions in the very same indexed credit derivatives.

Bruno Iksil has waited for the proverbial concrete to harden over the past few years before coming forward with his latest accusations. This makes it difficult or impossible for Dimon and his lieutenants to change their story now. It will be very interesting indeed to see if anyone from the financial media or even the regulatory community picks up the new trail illuminated by Iksil’s statements.

The episode involving the London Whale illustrates how difficult it is to learn the truth about the inner working of large banks. Big banks profit by exploiting information and conflicts found between the world of credit and the world of securities. Indeed, the CIO's office generated big returns for JPM over the decade or so that Iksil was with the bank.

But the London Whale episode also shows in graphic terms why the Volcker Rule prohibitions against banks trading for their own account need to be preserved and strengthened. There is a fundamental conflict between a bank acting as a lender and trading credit derivatives.

More, if the CEO of a bank – any bank – can short circuit the internal controls of his institution in order to enhance returns with a bet at the credit derivative roulette table, then by definition that bank cannot be safe and sound."

To read the entire article click here.

"Gentlemen! I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time, and am convinced that you have used the funds of the Bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country.

When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the Bank and annul its charter I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin!

You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out, and by the Eternal, (bringing his fist down on the table)  I will rout you out."

Andrew Jackson, From the original minutes of the Philadelphia bankers sent to meet with the President on February 1834, from Andrew Jackson and the Bank of the United States (1928) by Stan V. Henkels