In order for a financial system to be able to function properly, it is absolutely essential that the general population has faith in it. After all, who is going to want to invest in the stock market or entrust their money to big financial institutions if there is not at least the perception of honesty and fairness in the financial marketplace? For decades, the American people did have faith in Wall Street. But now that faith is being shattered by a string of recent revelations. It seems as though the rampant corruption on Wall Street is seeping up almost everywhere now. In fact, some of the things that have come out recently have been absolutely jaw-dropping. The truth is that the corruption on Wall Street is much deeper and much more systemic than most of us ever dared to imagine. As the general public digests these recent scandals, it is going to result in a tremendous loss of faith in the U.S. financial system. Once faith in a financial system is lost, it can take years or even decades to get back. So how is the U.S. financial system supposed to work properly when large numbers of people simply do not believe in it anymore?
Just consider some of the recent revelations of Wall Street corruption that have come out recently....
*Bloomberg is reporting that a massive network of big banks and financial institutions have been involved in blatant bid-rigging fraud that cost taxpayers across the U.S. billions of dollars. The U.S. Justice Department is charging that financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks in a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal financial instruments. Apparently what was going on was that it was decided in advance who would win the auctions of guaranteed investment contracts, which public entities purchase with the proceeds from municipal bond sales, and then other intentionally losing bids were submitted in order to make the process look competitive. The U.S. Justice Department claims that this fraud has been industry-wide and has been going on for years. In fact, at least four financial professionals have already pleaded guilty in this case.
*An industry insider has come forward with "smoking gun" evidence that some of the biggest banks have been openly and blatantly manipulating the price of gold and silver. For a time it looked like the federal government was just going to ignore all of this fraud, but after substantial public uproar some action is indeed being taken. In fact, it has been reported that federal agents have launched parallel criminal and civil probes of JPMorgan Chase and its trading activity in the precious metals markets.
*Goldman Sachs is getting most of the press about fraud in the mortgage-backed securities market these days. Of course Goldman is strenuously denying that it "bet against its clients" when it changed its position in the housing market in 2007. But we all know the truth at this point. The truth is that Goldman Sachs clearly bet against its clients and was involved in a whole lot of things that were even worse than that. Many did not think the U.S. government would dare go after Goldman, but that is what we are starting to see. U.S. federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into whether Goldman Sachs or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its trading of mortgage-backed securities, and it will be very interesting to see if anything comes of that investigation.
*But not everyone is being held accountable for their actions. The guy who helped bring down AIG is going to get off scott-free and is going to be able to keep the millions in profits that he made in the process.
*Entire U.S. cities have been victims of this rampant Wall Street fraud. In fact, it is now being alleged that the biggest banks on Wall Street are ripping off some of the largest American cities with the same kind of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece.
*The really sad thing is that fraud is very, very lucrative. Executives at many of the big banks that received large amounts of money during the Wall Street bailouts are being lavished with record bonuses as millions of other average Americans continue to suffer economically. Even the CEOs of bailed-out regional banks are getting big raises. It must be really nice to be them.
So does all of this make you more likely or less likely to invest in the stock market?
Do you think that the American people can see all of this and still believe that the financial system is "fair" and "honest"?
The truth is that Wall Street is full of rip-off artists and fraudsters who don't even try to hide their greed anymore.
It is as if a thousand junior Gordon Gekkos have been unleashed and they are all trying to be masters of the universe at any cost.
But what they are doing is ripping the heart out of the U.S. financial system.
If people lose faith in the system the system will ultimately fail.
A financial system that allows open fraud and manipulation is operating on borrowed time.
So will the rampant corruption on Wall Street now be cleaned up?
Only time will tell.
But one thing is for certain.
The American people will be watching.