Why does it seem like wherever there is human suffering, some giant bank is making money off of it? According to a new report from the World Development Movement, Goldman Sachs made about 400 million dollars betting on food prices last year. Overall, 2012 was quite a banner year for Goldman Sachs. As I reported in a previous article, revenues for Goldman increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and the price of Goldman stock has risen by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months. It is estimated that the average banker at Goldman brought in a pay and bonus package of approximately $396,500 for 2012. So without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is swimming in money right now. But what is the price for all of this “success”? Many claim that the rampant speculation on food prices by the big banks has dramatically increased the global price of food and has caused the suffering of hundreds of millions of poor families around the planet to become much worse. At this point, global food prices are more than twice as high as they were back in 2003. Approximately 2 billion people on the planet spend at least half of their incomes on food, and close to a billion people regularly do not have enough food to eat. Is it moral for Goldman Sachs and other big banks such as Barclays and Morgan Stanley to make hundreds of millions of dollars betting on the price of food if that is going to drive up global food prices and make it harder for poor families all over the world to feed themselves?
This is another reason why the derivatives bubble is so bad for the world economy. Goldman Sachs and other big banks are treating the global food supply as if it was some kind of a casino game. This kind of reckless activity was greatly condemned by the World Development Movement report…
“Goldman Sachs is the global leader in a trade that is driving food prices up while nearly a billion people are hungry. The bank lobbied for the financial deregulation that made it possible to pour billions into the commodity derivative markets, created the necessary financial instruments, and is now raking in the profits. Speculation is fuelling volatility and food price spikes, hurting people who struggle to afford food across the world.”
So shouldn’t there be a law against this kind of a thing?
Well, in the United States there actually is, but the law has been blocked by the big Wall Street banks and their very highly paid lawyers. The following is another excerpt from the report…
“The US has passed legislation to limit speculation, but the controls have not been implemented due to a legal challenge from Wall Street spearheaded by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, of which Goldman Sachs is a leading member. Similar legislation is on the table at the EU, but the UK government has so far opposed effective controls. Goldman Sachs has lobbied against controls in both the US and the EU.”
Posted below is a chart that shows what this kind of activity has done to commodity prices over the past couple of decades. You will notice that commodity prices were fairly stable in the 1990s, but since the year 2000 they have been extremely volatile…
The reason for all of this volatility was explained in an excellent article by Frederick Kaufman…
The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities — including food — seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.
The money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives. Spearheaded by oil and gas prices (the dominant commodities of the index funds) the new investment products ignited the markets of all the other indexed commodities, which led to a problem familiar to those versed in the history of tulips, dot-coms, and cheap real estate: a food bubble. Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent –and has kept rising.
Are you angry yet?
You should be.
Poor families all over the planet are suffering so that Wall Street bankers can make bigger profits.
Many big financial institutions just seem to love to make money on the backs of the poor. I have previously reported on how JP Morgan makes billions of dollars issuing food stamp cards in the United States. When the number of Americans on food stamps goes up, so does the amount of money that JP Morgan makes. You can read much more about all of this right here: “Making Money On Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Goes Up“.
Sadly, the global food supply is getting tighter with each passing day, and things are looking rather ominous for the years ahead.
According to the United Nations, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in nearly 40 years. Global food reserves have not been this low since 1974, but the population of the world has greatly increased since then. If 2013 is another year of drought and bad harvests, things could spiral out of control rather quickly…
World grain reserves are so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis next year, the United Nations has warned.
Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN.
“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The world has barely been able to feed itself for some time now. In fact, we have consumed more food than we have produced for 6 of the last 11 years…
Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”
“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”
We desperately need a good growing season next summer, and all eyes are on the United States. The U.S. exports more food than anyone else does, and last summer the United States experienced the worst drought that it had seen in about 50 years. That drought left deep scars all over the country. The following is from a recent Rolling Stone article…
In 2012, more than 9 million acres went up in flames in this country. Only dredging and some eleventh-hour rain kept the mighty Mississippi River from being shut down to navigation due to low water levels; continuing drought conditions make “long-term stabilization” of river levels unlikely in the near future. Several of the Great Lakes are soon expected to hit their lowest levels in history. In Nebraska last summer, a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River simply dried up. Drought led the USDA to declare federal disaster areas in 2,245 counties in 39 states last year, and the federal government will likely have to pay tens of billions for crop insurance and lost crops. As ranchers became increasingly desperate to feed their livestock, “hay rustling” and other agricultural crimes rose.
Ranchers were hit particularly hard. Because they couldn’t feed their herds, many ranchers slaughtered a tremendous number of animals. As a result, the U.S. cattle herd is now sitting at a 60 year low.
What do you think that is going to do to meat prices over the next few years?
Meanwhile, the drought continues. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this is one of the worst winter droughts the U.S. has ever seen. At this point, more than 60 percent of the entire nation is currently experiencing drought.
If things don’t turn around dramatically, 2013 could be an absolutely nightmarish year for crops in the United States. If 2013 does turn out to be another bad year, food prices would soar both in the U.S. and on the global level. The following is from a recent CNBC article…
The severe drought that swept through much of the U.S. last year is continuing into 2013, threatening to cripple economic growth while forcing consumers to pay higher food prices.
“The drought will have a significant impact on prices, especially beef, pork and chicken,” said Ernie Gross, an economic professor at Creighton University and who studies farming issues.
So let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.
It looks like higher food prices are on the way, and millions of poor families all over the planet will be hard-pressed to feed their families.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs will be laughing all the way to the bank.
As stocks have risen in recent years, the big hedge funds and the “too big to fail” banks have used borrowed money to make absolutely enormous profits. But when you use debt to potentially multiply your profits, you also create the possibility that your losses will be multiplied if the markets turn against you. When the next stock market crash happens, and the gigantic pyramid of risk, debt and leverage on Wall Street comes tumbling down, will highly leveraged banks such as Goldman Sachs ask the federal government to bail them out? The use of leverage is one of the greatest threats to our financial system, and yet most Americans do not even really understand what it is. The following is a basic definition of leverage from Investopedia: “The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.” Leverage allows firms to make much larger bets in the financial markets than they otherwise would be able to, and at this point Goldman Sachs and the big hedge funds are pushing leverage to ridiculous extremes. When the financial markets go up and they win on those bets, they can win very big. For example, revenues at Goldman Sachs increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and Goldman stock has soared by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months. Those are eye-popping numbers. But leverage is a double-edged sword. When the markets turn, Goldman Sachs and many of these large hedge funds could be facing astronomical losses.
Sadly, it appears that Wall Street did not learn any lessons from the financial crisis of 2008. Hedge funds have ramped up leverage to levels not seen since before the last stock market crash. The following comes from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “Hedge-Fund Leverage Rises to Most Since 2004 in New Year“…
Hedge funds are borrowing more to buy equities just as loans by New York Stock Exchange brokers reach the highest in four years, signs of increasing confidence after professional investors trailed the market since 2008.
Leverage among managers who speculate on rising and falling shares climbed to the highest level to start any year since at least 2004, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley. Margin debt at NYSE firms rose in November to the most since February 2008, data from NYSE Euronext show.
So why is this so important?
Well, as a recent Zero Hedge article explained, even a relatively small drop in stock prices could potentially absolutely devastate many hedge funds…
What near record leverage means is that hedge funds have absolutely zero tolerance for even the smallest drop in prices, which are priced to absolute and endless central bank-intervention perfection - sorry, fundamentals in a time when global GDP growth is declining, when Europe and Japan are in a double dip recession, when the US is expected to report its first sub 1% GDP quarter in years, when corporate revenues and EPS are declining just don’t lead to soaring stock prices.
It also means that with virtually all hedge funds in such hedge fund hotel names as AAPL (the stock held by more hedge funds – over 230 – than any other), any major drop in the price would likely lead to a wipe out of the equity tranche at the bulk of AAPL “investors”, sending them scrambling to beg for either more LP generosity, or to have their prime broker repo desk offer them even more debt. And while the former is a non-starter, the latter has so far worked, which means that most hedge funds have been masking losses with more debt, which then suffers even more losses, and so on.
By the way, Apple (AAPL) just fell to an 11-month low. Apple stock has now declined by 26 percent since it hit a record high back in September. That is a very bad sign for hedge funds.
But hedge funds are not the only ones flirting with disaster. In a previous article about the derivatives bubble, I pointed out the ridiculous amount of derivatives exposure that some of these “too big to fail” banks have relative to their total assets…
According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives. Just check out how exposed they are…
Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)
Bank Of America
Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)
Take another look at those figures for Goldman Sachs. If you do the math, Goldman Sachs has total exposure to derivatives contracts that is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.
That is utter insanity, but we haven’t had a derivatives crash yet so everyone just keeps pretending that the emperor actually has clothes on.
When the derivatives crisis happens, things in the financial markets are going to fall apart at lightning speed. A recent article posted on goldsilverworlds.com explained what a derivatives crash may look like…
When one big bank faces some kind of trouble and fails, the banks with the largest exposure to derivates (think JP Morgan, Citygroup, Goldman Sachs) will realize that the bank on the other side of the derivatives trade (the counterparty) is no longer good for their obligation. All of a sudden the hedged position becomes a naked position. The net position becomes a gross position. The risk explodes instantaneously. Markets realize that their hedged positions are in reality not hedged anymore, and all market participants start bailing almost simultaneously. The whole banking and financial system freezes up. It might start in Asia or Europe, in which case Americans will wake up in the morning to find out that their markets are not functioning anymore; stock markets remain closed, money at the banks become inaccessible, etc.
But for now, the party continues. Goldman Sachs and many of the big hedge funds are making enormous piles of money.
In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs recently gave some of their top executives 65 million dollars worth of restricted stock…
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS -0.76% handed insiders including Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and his top lieutenants a total of $65 million in restricted stock just hours before this year’s higher tax rates took effect.
The New York securities firm gave 10 of its directors and executives early vesting on 508,104 shares previously awarded as part of prior years’ compensation, according to a series of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Monday.
And the bonuses that employees at Goldman receive are absolutely obscene. A recent Daily Mail article explained that Goldman employees in the UK are expected to receive record-setting bonuses this year…
Britain’s army of bankers will re-ignite public fury over lavish pay rewards as staff at Goldman Sachs are expected to reward themselves £8.3 billion in bonuses on Wednesday.
The American investment bank, which employs 5,500 staff in the UK, will be the first to unveil its telephone number-sized rewards – an average of £250,000 a person – as part of the latest round of bonus updates.
The increase, up from £230,000 last year, comes as British families are still struggling to make ends meet five years after banks brought the economy to the brink of meltdown.
Wouldn’t you like to get a “bonus” like that?
Life is good at these firms while the markets are going up.
But what happens when the party ends?
What happens if the markets crash in 2013?
When you bet big, you either win big or you lose big.
For now, the gigantic bets that Wall Street firms are making with borrowed money are paying off very nicely.
But a day of reckoning is coming. The next stock market crash is going to rip through Wall Street like a chainsaw and the carnage is going to be unprecedented.
Are you sure that the people holding your money will be able to make it through what is ahead? You might want to look into it while you still can.
Rampant silver manipulation? Rampant gold manipulation? Rampant LIBOR manipulation? Hiding MF Global client assets? These are all happening at JP Morgan according to an open letter reportedly written by an anonymous employee of the firm. The whistleblower also warns of a “cascading credit event being triggered” by derivatives related to Greek government debt. Unlike Greg Smith at Goldman Sachs, this whistleblower has chosen to remain anonymous for now. According to the letter, the whistleblower is still an employee of JP Morgan and has not resigned. But that does make it much more difficult to confirm what he is saying. With Greg Smith, we know exactly who he is and what he was doing at Goldman. As far as this anonymous whistleblower is concerned, all we have is this letter. So we must take it with a grain of salt. However, the information in this letter does agree with what whistleblowers such as Andrew Maguire have said in the past about silver manipulation by JP Morgan. And this letter does mention Greg Smith’s resignation from Goldman, so we know that it must have been written in the past few days. Hopefully this letter will cause authorities to take a much closer look at the crazy things that are going on over at JP Morgan and the other big Wall Street banks.
This anonymous letter was addressed to the CFTC, but unfortunately it looks like the CFTC has already chosen to ignore it.
The original letter from this anonymous whistleblower has already been taken down from the CFTC website. When you go there now, all you get is this message….
“The Comment Cannot Be Found. Please Return to the Previous Page and Try Again.”
Fortunately, there are many in the alternative media that copied this entire letter from the CFTC website.
The following is a copy of the original letter that the anonymous whistleblower from JP Morgan submitted to the CFTC….
Dear CFTC Staff,
Hello, I am a current JPMorgan Chase employee. This is an open letter to all commissioners and regulators. I am emailing you today b/c I know of insider information that will be damning at best for JPMorgan Chase. I have decided to play the role of whistleblower b/c I no longer have faith and belief that what we are doing for society is bringing value to people. I am now under the opinion that we are actually putting hard working Americans unaware of what lays ahead at extreme market risk. This risk is unnecessary and will lead to wide-scale market collapse if not handled properly. With the release of Mr. Smith’s open letter to Goldman, I too would like to set the record straight for JPM as well. I have seen the disruptive behavior of superiors and no longer can say that I look up to employees at the ED/MD level here at JPM. Their smug exuberance and arrogance permeates the air just as pungently as rotting vegetables. They all know too well of the backdoor crony connections they share intimately with elected officials and with other institutions. It is apparent in everything they do, from the meager attempts to manipulate LIBOR, therefore controlling how almost all derivatives are priced to the inherit and fraudulent commodities manipulation. They too may have one day stood for something in the past in the client-employee relationship. Does anyone in today’s market really care about the protection of their client? From the ruthless and scandalous treatment of MF Global client asset funds to the excessive bonuses paid by companies with burgeoning liabilities. Yes, we at JPMorgan that are in the know are fearful of a cascading credit event being triggered in Greece as they have hidden derivatives in excess of $1 Trillion USD. We at JPMorgan own enough of these through counterparty risk and outright prop trading that our entire IB EDG space could be annihilated within a few short days. The last ten years has been market by inflexion point after inflexion point with the most notable coming in 2008 after the acquisition of Bear.
I wish to remain anonymous as of now as fear of termination mounts from what I am about to reveal. Robert Gottlieb is not my real name; however he is a trader that is involved in a lawsuit for manipulative trading while working with JPMorgan Chase. He was acquired during our Bear Stearns acquisition and is known to be the notorious person shorting in the silver future market from his trading space, along with Blythe Masters, his IB Global boss. However, with that said, we are manipulating the silver futures market and playing a smaller (but still massively manipulative) role in manipulating the gold futures market. We have a little over a 25% (give or take a percentage) position in the short market for silver futures and by your definition this denotes a larger position than for speculative purposes or for hedging and is beyond the line of manipulation.
On a side note, I do not work directly with accounts that would have been directly impacted by the MF Global fiasco but I have heard through other colleagues that we have involvement in the hiding of client assets from MF Global. This is another fraudulent effort on our part and constitutes theft. I urge you to forward that part of the investigation on to the respective authorities.
There is something else that you may find strange. During month-end December, we were all told by our managers that this was going to be a dismal year in terms of earnings and that we should not expect any bonuses or pay raises. Then come mid-late January it is made known that everyone received a pay raise and/or bonus, which is interesting b/c just a few weeks ago we were told that this was not likely and expected to be paid nothing in addition to base salary. January is right around the time we started increasing our short positions quite significantly again and this most recent crash in gold and silver during Bernanke’s speech on February 29th is of notable importance, as we along with 4 other major institutions, orchestrated the violent $100 drop in Gold and subsequent drops in silver.
As regulators of the free people of this country, I ask you to uphold the most important job in the world right now. That job is judge and overseer of all that is justice in the most sensitive of commodity markets. There are many middle-income people that invest in the physical assets of silver, gold, as well as mining stocks that are being financially impacted in a negative way b/c of our unscrupulous shorts in the precious metals commodity sector. If you read the COT with intent you will find that commercials (even though we have no business being in the commercial sector, which should be reserved for companies that truly produce the metal) are net short by a long shot in not only silver, but gold.
It is rather surprising that what should be well known liabilities on our balance sheet have not erupted into wider scale scrutinization. I call all honest and courageous JPMorgan employees to step up and fight the cronyism and wide-scale manipulation by reporting the truth. We are only helping reality come to light therefore allowing a real valuation of our banking industry which will give investors a chance to properly adjust without being totally wiped out. I will be contacting a lawyer shortly about this matter, as I believe no other whistleblower at JPMorgan has come forward yet. Our deepest secrets lie within the hands of honest employees and can be revealed through honest regulators that are willing to take a look inside one of America’s best kept secrets. Please do not allow this to turn into another Enron.
-The 1st Whistleblower of Many
If what this letter says is true, then the problems facing our financial system are more serious than most of us thought.
And the allegations of corruption at JP Morgan are absolutely shocking.
But this is not the first whistleblower to come forward to the CFTC with charges of rampant market manipulation by JP Morgan.
Back in 2010 I wrote about the stunning allegations that a former silver trader named Andrew Maguire presented to the CFTC. The following is an extended excerpt from that article….
Back in November 2009, Andrew Maguire, a former Goldman Sachs silver trader in Goldman’s London office, contacted the CFTC’s Enforcement Division and reported the illegal manipulation of the silver market by traders at JPMorgan Chase.
Maguire told the CFTC how silver traders at JPMorgan Chase openly bragged about their exploits – including how they sent a signal to the market in advance so that other traders could make a profit during price suppression episodes.
Traders would recognize these signals and would make money shorting precious metals alongside JPMorgan Chase. Maguire explained to the CFTC how there would routinely be market manipulations at the time of option expiries, during non-farm payroll data releases, during commodities exchange contract rollovers, as well as at other times if it was deemed necessary.
On February 3rd, Maguire gave the CFTC a two day warning of a market manipulation event by email to Eliud Ramirez, who is a senior investigator for the CFTC’s Enforcement Division.
Maguire warned Ramirez that the price of precious metals would be suppressed upon the release of non-farm payroll data on February 5th. As the manipulation of the precious metals markets was unfolding on February 5th, Maguire sent additional emails to Ramirez explaining exactly what was going on.
And it wasn’t just that Maguire predicted that the price would be forced down. It was the level of precision that he was able to communicate to the CFTC that was the most stunning. He warned the CFTC that the price of silver was to be taken down regardless of what happened to the employment numbers and that the price of silver would end up below $15 per ounce. Over the next couple of days, the price of silver was indeed taken down from $16.17 per ounce down to a low of $14.62 per ounce.
Because of Maguire’s warning, the CFTC was able to watch a crime unfold, right in front of their eyes, in real time.
So what did the CFTC do about it?
You can read the rest of that article right here.
So will the CFTC do anything about all of this?
Based on past history, probably not.
Basically, the CFTC is a government agency that appears to do next to nothing.
Another scandal involving JP Morgan has come out in recent days as well.
This one involves their credit card division. If you have a moments, you should really read the recent American Banker expose of credit card debt collection practices at JPMorgan Chase. It exposes some things that will absolutely blow your mind.
Linda Almonte, a former executive at JPMorgan Chase’s Credit Card Litigation Support Group, has revealed some incredible stuff regarding the debt collection practices at the company. Almonte says that she was shocked at what she saw when she began examining the details of a $200 million package of debt collection judgments to an outside debt collection agency….
Nearly half of the files her team sampled were missing proofs of judgment or other essential information, she wrote to colleagues. Even more worrisome, she alleged in her wrongful-termination suit, nearly a quarter of the files misstated how much the borrower owed.
In the “vast majority” of those instances, the actual debt was “lower that what Chase was representing,” her suit stated.
Almonte says that she warned that this sale of debt collection judgments must be stopped, but that a company executive told her that “she had better go along with the plan to sell the misrepresented asset“.
Almonte refused to go along, and she was fired on November 30th, 2009.
You are probably thinking that this sounds very much like the “robo-signing” foreclosure scandal and you would be right.
The more we dig into these giant financial companies the more corruption we find.
It really is shocking.
And remember, JPMorgan Chase is also the company that makes more money whenever the number of Americans on food stamps goes up.
JPMorgan Chase issues food stamp debit cards in 26 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and they actually want more Americans to go on food stamps so that they can make bigger profits from the division that issues them.
So now are you starting to understand why so many Americans are upset about the corruption on Wall Street?
This isn’t a “conservative issue” or a “liberal issue” – it is an American issue and the outrageous behavior of these firms has brought our financial system once again to the edge of disaster.
Over the past six months, more than 350 prominent executives have resigned from major banks and financial institutions all over the globe.
Is this a sign that the rats are fleeing a sinking ship?
Do they know something that we don’t?
What we do know is that the financial crisis in Greece is far from over and the European financial system is getting closer to a complete meltdown with each passing day.
Very few of the things that caused the financial crisis of 2008 were ever corrected and our financial system is even more vulnerable today than it was back then.
In the end, this entire pyramid of debt, leverage and corruption is going to come crashing down really hard, and the consequences are going to be absolutely catastrophic.
Would America be a better place without Goldman Sachs? Of course it would. The “vampire squid” of Wall Street does not care about the future of America. Sadly, Goldman Sachs apparently does not even care much about their own clients. What Goldman Sachs is all about is making as much money as humanly possible. In the end, there is nothing wrong with making money, but there are constructive ways to make money and there are destructive ways to make money. Unfortunately, Goldman Sachs seems to find the destructive path almost irresistible. Greg Smith, the head of the U.S. equity derivatives business for Goldman Sachs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa made headlines all over the world on Wednesday when he resigned publicly from Goldman Sachs in a scorching editorial in the New York Times. Smith said that he could “honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it”. Considering what we know has gone on at Goldman over the past decade, that is very frightening to hear. So could this be the beginning of the end for Goldman Sachs? And if it is, will America be a better place when Goldman is gone?
You would think that at some point clients of Goldman would become so sick and tired of the stories of corruption coming out of the firm that they would simply walk away.
Unfortunately, corruption is so endemic on Wall Street that Goldman Sachs really does not seem out of place. The truth is that a lot of the things that are said about Goldman could also be said about JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.
But in recent years Goldman Sachs has truly become a national symbol of what is wrong with our financial system. As the American people become fed up with institutions such as Goldman, hopefully we will start to see some of them disappear.
The following are 11 reasons why America would be a better place without Goldman Sachs….
#1 Even after all of the negative publicity we have seen in recent years, Goldman Sachs appears to not have learned any lessons. The following is how Greg Smith described the three ways to get ahead at Goldman Sachs….
“What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.”
#2 Goldman Sachs is one of the too big to fail banks and those banks just keeping getting bigger than ever. Back in 2002, the top 10 U.S. banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets. Today, the top 10 U.S. banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets. So if we couldn’t afford to let them fail back in 2008 because they were so big, why did we allow them to become even larger?
#3 The Federal Reserve shows great favoritism to big Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs. For example, between December 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010 the Federal Reserve made 814 billion dollars in secret loans to Goldman Sachs.
#4 Goldman Sachs is at the heart of the derivatives bubble that threatens to throw the entire global financial system into chaos. At this point, Goldman Sachs has over 53 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.
According to the New York Times, the big Wall Street banks completely control derivatives trading. In fact, the New York Times says that representatives from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup hold a secretive meeting each month to coordinate their domination over the derivatives market….
On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.
The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.
#5 Goldman Sachs was at the very heart of the financial crisis of 2008 which plunged the entire global economy into a very deep recession. In the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, Goldman Sachs was putting together mortgage-backed securities that they knew were garbage and they marketed them to investors as AAA-rated investments. On top of that, Goldman then often made huge bets against those exact same securities which turned out to be extremely profitable when those securities crashed and burned.
The following is how the New York Times described what was going on at the time….
“Goldman was not the only firm that peddled these complex securities — known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s — and then made financial bets against them, called selling short in Wall Street parlance. Others that created similar securities and then bet they would fail, according to Wall Street traders, include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, as well as smaller firms like Tricadia Inc.”
Sylvain Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York, said at the time that he was absolutely shocked by what Goldman was doing….
“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen”
#6 Goldman Sachs played a huge role in getting Greece, Italy and several other European nations into so much debt. The following is an excerpt from an article by Andrew Gavin Marshall….
In the same way that homeowners take out a second mortgage to pay off their credit card debt, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and other U.S. banks helped push government debt far into the future through the derivatives market. This was done in Greece, Italy, and likely several other euro-zone countries as well. In several dozen deals in Europe, “banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books.” Because the deals are not listed as loans, they are not listed as debt (liabilities), and so the true debt of Greece and other euro-zone countries was and likely to a large degree remains hidden. Greece effectively mortgaged its airports and highways to the major banks in order to get cash up-front and keep the loans off the books, classifying them as transactions.
#7 Goldman Sachs is working very hard to help state and local governments sell off our highways, water treatment plants, libraries, parking meters, airports and power plants to the highest bidder. Much of the time foreigners are the highest bidders for these precious infrastructure assets.
The following is how Dylan Ratigan described what is going on….
On Wall Street, setting up and running “Infrastructure Funds” is big business, with over $140 billion run by such banks as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Australian infrastructure specialist Macquarie. Goldman’s 2010 SEC filing should give you some sense of the scope of the campaign. Goldman says it will be involved with “ownership and operation of public services, such as airports, toll roads and shipping ports, as well as power generation facilities, physical commodities and other commodities infrastructure components, both within and outside the United States.” While the bank sees increased opportunity in “distressed assets” (ie. Cities and states gone broke because of the financial crisis), the bank also recognizes “reputational concerns with the manner in which these assets are being operated or held.”
#8 At the same time that Goldman Sachs is causing all sorts of trouble for everyone else, their employees are making crazy amounts of money. During 2010, employees of Goldman Sachs brought in more than 15 billion dollars in total compensation.
#9 Goldman Sachs has way too much influence over the federal government. There is a reason why it is commonly referred to as “Government Sachs”. No matter who is the White House, people that used to work for Goldman and other big Wall Street banks always seem to be crawling around.
Last year, Michael Brenner wrote the following about the composition of the Obama administration….
Wall Street’s takeover of the Obama administration is now complete. The mega-banks and their corporate allies control every economic policy position of consequence. Mr. Obama has moved rapidly since the November debacle to install business people where it counts most. Mr.William Daley from JP Morgan Chase as White House Chief of Staff. Mr. Gene Sperling from the Goldman Sachs payroll to be director of the National Economic Council. Eileen Rominger from Goldman Sachs named director of the SEC’s Investment Management division. Even the National Security Advisor, Thomas Donilon, was executive vice president for law and policy at the disgraced Fannie Mae after serving as a corporate lobbyist with O’Melveny & Roberts. The keystone of the business friendly team was put in place on Friday. General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt will serve as chair of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
#10 Employees from Goldman Sachs pour way too much money into our national elections. In 2008, donations from individuals and organizations affiliated with Goldman Sachs donated more than a million dollars to Barack Obama. This time around they are pouring huge amounts of cash into Mitt Romney’s campaign.
#11 Goldman Sachs is still a “vampire squid” as Matt Taibbi once so famously proclaimed in Rolling Stone….
“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.”
Once again, there is nothing wrong with making money.
And there is certainly nothing wrong with working in the financial system.
But there is a right way to do things and there is a wrong way to do things.
Goldman Sachs is doing things very much the wrong way, and America would be a better place without them.
Goldman Sachs is doing it again. Goldman is telling the public that everything is going to be just fine, but meanwhile they are advising their top clients to bet on a huge financial collapse. On August 16th, a 54 page report authored by Goldman strategist Alan Brazil was distributed to institutional clients. The general public was not intended to see this report. Fortunately, some folks over at the Wall Street Journal got their hands on a copy and they have filled us in on some of the details. It turns out that Goldman Sachs secretly believes that an economic collapse is coming, and they have some very interesting ideas about how to make money in the turbulent financial environment that we will soon be entering. In the report, Brazil says that the U.S. debt problem cannot be solved with more debt, that the European sovereign debt crisis is going to get even worse and that there are large numbers of financial institutions in Europe that are on the verge of collapse. If this is what people at the highest levels of the financial world are talking about, perhaps we should all start paying attention.
There is a tremendous amount of fear in the global financial community right now. As I wrote about the other day, the financial world is about to hit the panic button. Things could start falling apart at any time. Most of these big banks will not admit how bad things are publicly, but privately there is a whole lot of freaking out going on.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Brazil believes that “as much as $1 trillion in capital may be needed to shore up European banks; that small businesses in the U.S., a past driver of job production, are still languishing; and that China’s growth may not be sustainable.”
Perhaps most startling of all is what the report has to say about the debt problems of the United States and Europe.
For example, this following excerpt from the report sounds like it could have come straight from The Economic Collapse Blog….
“Solving a debt problem with more debt has not solved the underlying problem. In the US, Treasury debt growth financed the US consumer but has not had enough of an impact on job growth. Can the US continue to depreciate the world’s base currency?”
Remember, this statement was not written by some guy on the Internet. A top Goldman Sachs analyst put it into a report for institutional investors.
The report also goes into great detail about the financial crisis in Europe. Brazil writes about how the euro is headed for trouble and about how dozens of financial institutions in Europe could potentially be in danger of collapse.
But in any environment Goldman Sachs thinks that it can make money. The following is how Business Insider summarized the advice that Brazil gave in the report regarding how to make money off of the impending collapse in Europe….
- Buy a six-month put option on the Euro versus the Swiss Franc, thus betting the Euro will drop against the Franc (the Franc being the currency that an official Goldman report recently referred to as the most overvalued in the world)
- Buy a five-year credit default swap on an index of European corporate debt—the iTraxx 9. This is a bet that some of these companies will default, and your insurance policy, the CDS, will pay off
This is so typical of Goldman Sachs. They will say one thing publicly and then turn around and do the total opposite privately.
For example, prior to the financial crisis of 2008, Goldman Sachs was putting together mortgage-backed securities that they knew were garbage and marketing them to investors as AAA-rated investments. On top of that, Goldman then often privately bet against those exact same securities.
The CEO of Goldman Sachs has even acknowledged that the investment bank engaged in “improper” behavior during 2006 and 2007.
For much more on the history of all this, please see this article: “How Goldman Sachs Made Tens Of Billions Of Dollars From The Economic Collapse Of America In Four Easy Steps“.
So will Goldman Sachs ever get into serious trouble for any of this?
No, of course not.
Yeah, they will get a slap on the wrist from time to time, but the reality is that the top levels of the federal government are absolutely littered with ex-employees of Goldman Sachs. Goldman is one of the “too big to fail” banks and they are going to continue to do pretty much whatever they feel like doing.
Sadly, the power of the “too big to fail” banks just continues to grow. At this point, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.
Goldman Sachs was the second biggest donor to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, so don’t expect Obama to do anything about any of this.
We have a financial system that is deeply, deeply corrupt and all of that corruption is a big reason why things are falling apart.
Sadly, the 54 page report mentioned above is right – we really are facing a global debt meltdown and we really are heading for an economic collapse.
You aren’t going to hear the truth from the mainstream media or from our politicians because “keeping people calm” is much more of a priority to them than telling the truth is.
The debt crisis in the United States is unsustainable and the debt crisis in Europe is unsustainable. Right now we are in the calm before the storm, and nobody knows exactly when the storm is going to strike.
But let there be no doubt – it is coming.
The amazing prosperity that we have enjoyed for the last several decades has largely been a debt-fueled illusion. It was a great party while it lasted, but now it is coming to an end and the aftermath of the coming crash is going to be absolutely horrific.
Keep watch and get prepared. We don’t know exactly when the collapse is going to happen, but it is definitely on the way and now even Goldman Sachs is admitting that.
Has the Federal Reserve become the Central Bank of the World? That is what some members of Congress are asking after the Federal Reserve revealed the details of 21,000 transactions stretching from December 2007 to July 2010 that totaled more than $3 trillion on Wednesday. Most of these transactions involved giant loans that were nearly interest-free from the Federal Reserve to some of the largest banks, financial institutions and corporations all over the world. In fact, it turns out that foreign banks and foreign corporations received a very large share of these bailouts. So has the Federal Reserve now become a completely unaccountable global bailout machine? Sadly, the truth is that we would have never learned the details of these bailouts if Congress had not forced this information out of the Fed. So what other kinds of jaw-dropping details would be revealed by a full audit of the Federal Reserve?
It is important to try to understand exactly what went on here. Banks and corporations from all over the globe were allowed to borrow gigantic piles of money essentially for free. Yes, when you are getting interest rates such as 0.25 percent, the money is essentially free. These loans were not available to everyone. You or I could not have run over to the Federal Reserve and walked away with tens of billions of dollars in loans that were nearly interest-free. Rather, it was only the megabanks and megacorporations that are friendly with the Federal Reserve that were able to take advantage of these bailouts.
In this way, the Federal Reserve is now essentially acting like some kind of financial god. They decide who survives and who fails. Dozens and dozens and dozens of small to mid-size U.S. banks are failing, but the Federal Reserve does not seem to have much compassion for them. It is only when the “too big to fail” establishment banks are in trouble that the Federal Reserve starts handing out gigantic sacks of nearly interest-free cash.
Just think about it. Which financial institution do you think is in a better competitive position – one that must survive on its own, or one that has a “safety net” of nearly unlimited free loans from the Federal Reserve?
Now that is oversimplifying the situation, certainly, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve had fundamentally altered the financial marketplace and is significantly influencing who wins and who loses.
But even more disturbing is what the Federal Reserve is turning into. This is an institution that is “independent” of the U.S. government, that does not answer to the American people, that controls our money supply and that is just tossing tens of billions of dollars to foreign banks and to foreign corporations whenever it wants to.
In fact, if Congress had not forced the Fed to tell us what was going on with these bailouts we would have never even found out.
The truth is that the Fed is taking incredible risks with “our money” and yet they want to continue to exist in a cloak of almost total secrecy.
In a recent article in the Washington Post, Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher acknowledged that the Federal Reserve played fast and loose with trillions of dollars of our money….
“We took an enormous amount of risk with the people’s money.”
Are you deeply disturbed by that quote?
Well, if not, you should be.
The American people became so infuriated about the bailouts and stimulus packages passed by Congress, but it turns out that they were nothing compared to these Federal Reserve bailouts.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the members of Congress that is now expressing extreme outrage about what the Federal Reserve has done….
“The $700 billion Wall Street bailout turned out to be pocket change compared to trillions and trillions of dollars in near zero interest loans and other financial arrangements that the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution.”
In fact, Senator Sanders was so disgusted by how much of the money went overseas that he was led to make the following remark….
“Has the Federal Reserve become the central bank of the world? I think that is a question that needs to be examined.”
Advocates for the Federal Reserve insist that if all of these foreign banks and foreign corporations were not bailed out the financial crisis would have been much worse. In fact, they say we should be thankful that the Federal Reserve prevented a total financial collapse.
If our financial institutions are so fragile that a stiff wind will knock half of them over maybe they need to just fail.
You know what, life is tough. Nobody is going to cry most of us a river of tears if we lose our jobs. Most of us have learned to scratch and claw to survive with no safety net underneath us.
So maybe it is time for these big financial institutions to start playing by the same rules the rest of us are playing by.
No, when these “too big to fail” financial institutions get into a little trouble they start whining like a bunch of little babies.
“Give us some big sacks of cash!”
Well guess what? Most of the rest of us are just not going to have too much sympathy for these big banks from now on.
The following is a list of just a few of the banks, financial institutions and global corporations that received nearly interest-free loans from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis…..
Big U.S. Banks And Financial Institutions
JP Morgan Chase
Bank of America
Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO)
Big Global Corporations
Royal Bank of Canada
European And Asian Banks
Bank of Scotland
The Korean Development Bank (South Korea)
But those defending the Federal Reserve will insist that the financial world as we know it would have ended if the Fed had done nothing.
That may well be true.
The entire financial system might have gone down in flames.
But that just proves the main point that this column has been trying to make for months.
An economic collapse is coming.
The Federal Reserve can desperately try to keep all of the balls in the air for as long as it can, but eventually it is inevitable that this entire thing is going to come crashing down.
The fact that the Federal Reserve had to resort to such extreme measures to “save” the financial system just shows how desperate things really are.
We really have reached a “tipping point” for the world financial system. There is going to be crisis after crisis after crisis and even bigger bailouts are going to be required in the future.
The world financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand. The Federal Reserve can keep throwing around gigantic sacks of “our money” as much as it wants, but in the end there is nothing that can be done to prevent the inevitable collapse that is coming.
When most people discuss how the Federal Reserve benefits the big banks, they usually only focus on the ways that the Federal Reserve directly brings in income. But there is so much more to it than that. The truth is that the Federal Reserve is used in a whole variety of ways to indirectly assist the big banks in making huge gobs of money. One of the ways this is currently being accomplished is through the U.S. Treasury carry trade.
So how does this carry trade work?
Well, it basically has three steps and it works something like this….
#1) Mr. Big Bank goes over to the Federal Reserve and says, “Hey Mr. Federal Reserve – please loan me a big bag of cash for next to nothing.” Of course, the Federal Reserve is more than happy to loan it to him.
#2) Mr. Big Bank then invests the same big bag of cash into U.S. Tresuries which have a much higher interest rate than what Mr. Big Bank just borrowed at. To give you an idea, 10-year U.S. Treasuries are earning around 3 and a half percent right now.
#3) Mr. Big Bank sits back and enjoys the huge amount of risk-free cash which comes pouring in.
This little three step procedure helped enable four of the biggest U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup) to have a “perfect quarter” during the first quarter of 2010. What that means is that these four banks had zero days of trading losses in the first quarter.
Wouldn’t you like to have a perfect batting average?
Don’t you wish you could pitch a perfect game every time?
Well, it certainly helps when you are being subsidized by the Federal Reserve as Bloomberg recently explained….
The trading results, which helped the banks report higher quarterly profit than analysts estimated even as unemployment stagnated at a 27-year high, came with a big assist from the Federal Reserve. The U.S. central bank helped lenders by holding short-term borrowing costs near zero, giving them a chance to profit by carrying even 10-year government notes that yielded an average of 3.70 percent last quarter.
Doesn’t it just seem like whenever we turn around the Federal Reserve is doing something new to “help out” the big banks?
This is just getting ridiculous.
Remember all of that talk about how the U.S. government had to help out Wall Street so that they could help out Main Street?
Well, a ton of money did get injected into the banking system.
In fact, the Federal Reserve pumped hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars into the banking system since the beginning of the financial crisis. This has caused the U.S. monetary base to explode….
So did the big banks use all of that money to help out Main Street?
In fact, business lending by the big banks has been falling precipitously.
So what have the big banks been doing with all of that money?
Buying U.S. government debt of course….
So instead of making loans to American businesses who desperately needed it, most of this new money has gone to pump up yet another bubble. This time the bubble is in U.S. Treasuries. Asia Times recently described how this trillion-dollar carry trade in U.S. government securities is setting up a very dangerous situation….
Remarkably, the most aggressive buyers of US government debt during the past several months have been global banks domiciled in London and the Cayman Islands. They borrow at 20 basis points (a fifth of a percentage point) and buy Treasury securities paying 1% to 3%, depending on maturity.
This is the famous “carry trade”, by which banks or hedge funds borrow short-term at a very low rate and lend medium- or long-term at a higher rate. This works as long as short-term rates remain extremely low. The moment that borrowing costs begin to rise, the trillion-dollar carry trade in US government securities will collapse.
But as long as the gravy train of the U.S. Treasury carry trade continues, why should the big banks make risky loans to American businesses and consumers when increasing numbers of them are turning out to be deadbeats anyway?
That is a good question.
Meanwhile, we have this sick situation where the Federal Reserve subsidizes the big banks and enables them to buy up a big chunk of the debt the U.S. government is constantly churning out.
Our national banking resources are increasingly being turned away from building up our once great system of free enterprise, and instead are being devoted to servicing the never ending spiral of government debt and funny money that we have created.
But a bunch of folks down on Wall Street are getting exceedingly rich from this little game, so they certainly aren’t going to complain about it. And as long as the vast majority of Americans continue to stay in the dark about all of this, the bouncing ball will just continue to keep rolling.