Trillions In Secret Fed Bailouts For Global Corporations And Foreign Banks – Has The Federal Reserve Become A Completely Unaccountable Global Bailout Machine?

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.

Well boo-hoo!

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!”

“Waaaaaaah!”

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

Goldman Sachs
Citibank
JP Morgan Chase
Morgan Stanley
Merrill Lynch
Bank of America
Bear Stearns
Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO)

Big Global Corporations

General Electric
Caterpillar
Harley-Davidson
Verizon
McDonald’s
BMW
Toyota

Canadian Banks

Royal Bank of Canada
Toronto-Dominion Bank
Scotiabank

European And Asian Banks

Barclays Capital
Bank of Scotland
Deutsche Bank
Credit Suisse
BNP Paribas
Societe Generale
UBS
Dexia
Bayerische Landesbank
Dresdner Bank
Commerzbank
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.

The Unbelievably Rampant Corruption On Wall Street

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.

SILVER MART

 

Another Way That The Federal Reserve Makes Massive Gobs Of Money For The Big Banks

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?

No.

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.

Megabanks: The Banking Oligarchy That Controls Assets Equivalent To 60 Percent Of America’s GNP

Today financial power is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals.  In fact, the six biggest banks in the United States now possess assets equivalent to 60 percent of America’s gross national product.  Back in the 1990s that figure was less than 20 percent.  These six banks – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo – literally dictate what goes on in the U.S. banking industry.  These entities are the poster children for “too big to fail”, and they donate massive amounts of cash to the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats to ensure that they will continue to receive favorable treatment.  The vast majority of Americans have had a banking account, a credit card and/or a mortgage with one of these institutions at some point.  If they acted in concert, these six banks could literally bring down the U.S. economy overnight if they wanted to.  Together with the Federal Reserve, these six banks represent the real financial power in America.  They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room that influences nearly every major financial deal that gets done and virtually every major political decision that gets made.  As the last couple of years have demonstrated, top politicians from both parties (John McCain and Barack Obama for example) will instantly jump into action and start advocating that the U.S. government spend billions upon billions of dollars when the interests of these behemoths are threatened.  The frightening thing is that the power of these megabanks is growing at a frightening pace.  As dozens upon dozens of smaller U.S. banks are “allowed to fail”, they either go out of existence or the Feds actually encourage these smaller banks to sell themselves to one of the big sharks.  In either event, the banking power in the United States becomes further consolidated in the hands of the megabanks.

Bill Moyers recently interviewed Simon Johnson and James Kwak, the authors of a new book entitled 13 Bankers: The Wall St. Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown.  During that interview Kwak described to Moyers just how explosive the growth of the power of these megabanks has been….

Bill Moyers: And you write that they control 60 percent of our gross national product?

James Kwak: They have assets equivalent to 60 percent of our gross national product. And to put this in perspective, in the mid-1990s, these six banks or their predecessors, since there have been a lot of mergers, had less than 20 percent. Their assets were less than 20 percent of the gross national product.

Does it alarm you that the banking elite have accumulated such a large amount of financial power?

It should.  These institutions have the power to wreck entire economies.  Just consider what happened in Greece lately.  Now, it is being alleged that the megabanks are ripping off American cities with the same kinds of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece. 

And that is what these megabanks are.

They are predators.

In fact, a very revealing article in Rolling Stone described Goldman Sachs this way….

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.

Unfortunately, they may have actually been understating things a bit.

These megabanks have rigged the game so that the wealth of the nation is slowly transferred from us to themselves and to the international financial interests that control them.

They can make money if the markets are going up, and they can make money if the markets are going down.

For example, in a newly released email from the height of the housing crash, the CEO of Goldman Sachs bragged that his firm “made more than we lost” by betting against the housing market.

Thankfully the SEC is starting to look into the fraud that Goldman Sachs committed during this time period, but the truth is that Goldman is not likely to receive any more than a slap on the wrist for what it has done.

They are way too big, way too powerful and have too many friends in high places for them to get into any real trouble.

For example, it has come out that Barack Obama does not intend to return any of the campaign contributions that he received from Goldman Sachs.  And surely they will be glad to continue to pour big money into his political coffers.

So where does that leave the rest of us?

Well, the rest of us can expect higher taxes and a lower standard of living according to the IMF.  The IMF (which has deep connections to these megabanks) says that the party is “over” for nations that have been enjoying the good life.  In a recent article, the Washington Post summarized the message that the IMF is trying to communicate through their recent policy papers….

To keep the global economy on track, people in the United States and the rest of the developed world need to work longer before retiring, pay higher taxes and expect less from government. And the cheap imports lining the shelves of mega-chains such as Wal-Mart and Target? They need to be more expensive.

So are you ready to work longer, pay higher taxes, expect less from government and have a lower standard of living?

That is what the IMF says we are all going to be facing in the years ahead.

We are all going to financially suffer as the megabanks continue to thrive and consolidate power.

Isn’t that wonderful?

You say you don’t like that so much?

Well, good luck taking on the 800 pound gorilla.

Wow! The SEC Formally Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud

Wow!  Just when you think the U.S. government is entirely incompetent and toothless when it comes to controlling the corruption on Wall Street something like this happens.  For those who have not heard yet, on Friday the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit accusing Goldman Sachs of securities fraud.  We’ll get into the details below, but first it is important to note how stunning all of this is.  Goldman Sachs has had an extremely chummy relationship with the U.S. government over the past couple of decades.  A whole host of former Goldman Sachs executives have been appointed to key government positions by both Republicans and Democrats in recent years.  In addition, Goldman Sachs was Barack Obama’s number one campaign donor, and its employees gave $981,000 to his campaign.  But in spite of all that, the SEC has decided to go after Goldman Sachs.

Someone out there has a lot of guts.  Although to be honest it is far too soon to pass final judgment on this while thing.  Let’s see how it plays out.  It could end up being a “white wash” after all.  But at least this is a hopeful sign that justice will be done.

You can see a copy of the official charges filed by the SEC right here.

These charges are a huge blow to the reputation of what is widely regarded as the most powerful firm on Wall Street.  Goldman Sachs earned a record $4.79 billion last quarter, and for years it has seemed as if they could do no wrong.

But all of that has suddenly changed.

After the announcement of these charges by the SEC, Goldman’s shares fell more than 13 percent.

The heart of the charges involves the failure by Goldman Sachs to disclose conflicts in the 2007 sale of a collateralized debt obligation.  According to the SEC, investors in the collateralized debt obligation ended up losing approximately 1 billion dollars.

So what did Goldman Sachs do that was so wrong?

Well, it turns out that Goldman Sachs allowed hedge fund Paulson & Co. (run by John Paulson – not related to Henry Paulson) to help select the securities that were to be included in the CDO.

The SEC says Paulson & Co. paid Goldman around 15 million dollars in 2007 to put together a collateralized debt obligation that included mortgage-related securities that Paulson & Co. believed were very likely to decline in value.  Then Paulson & Co. placed huge bets against the CDO.

When Goldman Sachs presented the collateralized debt obligation to potential investors, they did not tell them that Paulson & Co. was shorting the CDO.

In essence, what happened is that Paulson & Co. helped select mortgage-related securities for the CDO that they thought would definitely fail and then they bet big money that they would fail.  Then Goldman went out and marketed the CDO as a worthy investment to investors and did not tell them that Paulson & Co. were betting big money that the CDO would fail.

When the value of the CDO plunged dramatically just a few months after it was issued, Paulson & Co. walked off with about a billion dollars.

According to the SEC, within 6 months of the issuance of the CDO, 83% of the residential mortgage-backed securities in the portfolio had been downgraded.

Within nine months of the issuance of the CDO, 99% of the residential mortgage-backed securities in the portfolio had been downgraded.

Two major European banks were left holding the bag. ABN Amro, a major Dutch bank, and IKB, a German commercial bank, combined to lose nearly a billion dollars.

The SEC says that it is trying to recoup profits reaped on the deal.

Also being charged by the SEC is a 31 year old Goldman Sachs vice president, Fabrice Tourre.  The SEC alleges that he was principally responsible for putting together the deal and marketing the securities.

You see, this is what happens when you let a young kid play around with hundreds of millions of dollars.

In an almost unbelievable email to a friend, Tourre described himself as “the fabulous Fab standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities!!!”

That is the level of maturity that we can apparently expect from Wall Street executives these days.

No wonder our financial system is falling apart.

In a statement, Goldman Sachs responded to the SEC charges by saying the following: “the SEC’s charges are completely unfounded in law and fact and we will vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation.”

But of course Goldman Sachs never admits that they are wrong.

“Our short positions were not a ‘bet against our clients,”‘ Goldman Sachs said in a recent letter to shareholders that discussed Goldman’s behavior during the recent housing crash. “Rather, they served to offset our long positions. Our goal was, and is, to be in a position to make markets for our clients while managing our risk within prescribed limits.”

But other financial analysts are applauding this action by the SEC….

In a note to his clients on Friday, Chris Whalen, a bank analyst at Institutional Risk Analytics noted the following….

“This litigation exposes the cynical, savage culture of Wall Street that allows a dealer to commit fraud on one customer to benefit another.”

A brief video news report about these charges against Goldman Sachs is posted below….

So will there be additional charges against Goldman Sachs?

Let’s hope so.

The truth is that the misbehavior documented above is just the tip of the iceberg.

Goldman Sachs helped create the housing collapse by selling mortgage-related securities that were absolute garbage to trusting clients at vastly overinflated prices.  Then Goldman Sachs placed huge bets against those same mortgage-related securities and also placed huge bets against the U.S. housing market.  When the U.S. economy collapsed in 2008 and 2009 they ended up making huge profits.

“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,”Sylvain Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York, told The New York Times. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”

Even with today’s action by the SEC, it still seems extremely unlikely that Goldman Sachs will ever be held fully accountable for all that they have done.  They are just too big and too powerful and they have too many big and powerful friends.

But at least today is a beginning.

For years Goldman has been considered almost untouchable.  They have been considered an almost “all-powerful” financial monster that pretty much does whatever it wants.

An article in Rolling Stone described it this way….

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.

But perhaps today will start to change that.

Let’s hope so.

For much more on Goldman Sachs and all of the mischief that they have been involved in, please read our recent article entitled “How Goldman Sachs Made Tens Of Billions Of Dollars From The Economic Collapse Of America In Four Easy Steps”.

Young Living Thieves Oil Spray

Goldman Sachs Admits To Engaging In “Improper Behavior” During The Housing Crash – But They Aren’t About To Give The Money Back

Goldman Sachs Wall StreetIn an absolutely stunning admission, the CEO of Goldman Sachs acknowledged on Wednesday that the investment bank engaged in “improper” behavior during 2006 and 2007.  This improper behavior included making huge bets against the housing market while at the same time peddling more than $40 billion in securities backed by risky U.S. home loans.

The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, made this stunning admission during the opening hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is a 10 member panel that Congress created to investigate the causes of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The chairperson of this commission, Phil Angelides, warned Blankfein that he would be “brutally honest” during his questioning.  He directly confronted Blankfein about Goldman’s behavior during the housing crash.  In particular, he pressed Blankfein about whether it was proper or not for Goldman Sachs to make huge bets against the housing market when they were peddling tens of billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities at the same time.  In response to the questioning by Angelides, Blankfein made the following statement….

“I do think the behavior is improper, and we regret . . . the consequence that people have lost money in it.”

Lost money?

The truth is that tens of billions of dollars were lost.  In fact, the garbage that Goldman sold them has some state governments on the verge of bankruptcy.

But Goldman came out of the housing crash smelling like a rose.  In fact, they made tens of billions of dollars in 2009.

So will this commission get to the bottom of this mess?

Not likely, but at least Angelides was willing to ask some of the tough questions.

You can see a large portion of the confrontation between Blankfein and Angelides below….

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to deal with the horrific aftermath of the housing crisis.  The U.S. government just posted its largest December budget deficit on record (91.9 billion dollars) as higher unemployment reduced revenue and the government spent large amounts of money to help the U.S. economy recover.

A 91 billion dollar deficit in a single month?

What kind of madness is this?

We are dumping a massive debt on to our children and grandchildren that they will never, ever be able to repay.

In fact, a two year study by the 24 member Committee on the Fiscal Future of the United States says that the United States must soon either raise taxes or cut government spending to curb its debt.

But either action would have devastating effects on the U.S. economy.

However, if the U.S. government keeps piling up debt at the current rate it is absolutely going to destroy the financial system of the United States.

The truth is that the U.S. government is between a rock and a hard place.

If it raises taxes or cuts spending it will seriously hurt the economy, but if the government continues to rack up debt at this pace the consequences will be catastrophic.

The truth is that hard choices need to be made and that there is going to be economic pain no matter what is decided.

In fact, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue is warning that the U.S. faces a double-dip recession because of the new taxes and the new regulations under consideration by Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress.

While some in the mainstream media talk hopefully of “recovery”, the truth is that things continue to get worse for the U.S. economy.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and are now stuck in a cycle of hopelessness.  In fact, some analysts now believe that the true unemployment rate in the United States is close to 22 percent.

All of this unemployment means that millions of Americans cannot pay their mortgages.  Almost 3 million U.S. homeowners received at least one foreclosure filing during 2009 which set a new all-time record.

However, things are going to get even worse for the housing market when the next wave of adjustable mortgages start resetting in 2010.  A massive wave of adjustable mortgages is scheduled to reset between 2010 and 2012, and the reality is that there is simply no way that another huge wave of mortgage defaults is going to be able to be avoided.

Things have gotten so bad that a record number of American citizens are turning to the U.S. government for assistance.  The number of Americans enrolled in the food stamp program has set a record for the ninth month in a row.

So is there any end to this economic misery?

Are things going to get even worse?

Well, not for the folks over at Goldman Sachs.  Total bonuses for executives at Goldman Sachs for 2009 are expected to be somewhere around 20 billion dollars.

You see, being a bankster is quite profitable these days – even if it did take a little “improper behavior” to get it done.

How Goldman Sachs Made Tens Of Billions Of Dollars From The Economic Collapse Of America In Four Easy Steps

Goldman SachsInvestment banking giant Goldman Sachs has become perhaps the most prominent symbol for everything that is wrong with the U.S. financial system, but most Americans cannot even begin to explain what they do or how they have made tens of billions of dollars from the economic collapse of America.  The truth is that what Goldman Sachs did was fairly simple, and there may not have even been anything “illegal” about it (although they are now being investigated by the SEC among others). 

The following is how Goldman Sachs made tens of billions of dollars from the economic collapse of America in four easy steps….  

Step 1: Sell mortgage-related securities that are absolute junk to trusting clients at vastly overinflated prices.

Step 2: Bet against those same mortgage-related securities and make massive bets against the U.S. housing market so that your firm will make massive profits when the U.S. economy collapses. 

Step 3: Have ex-Goldman executives in key positions of power in the U.S. government so that bailout money can be funneled to entities such as AIG that Goldman has made these bets with so that they can get paid after they win their bets.   

Step 4: Collect the profits – Goldman Sachs is having their “most successful year” and will end up reporting approximately $50 billion in revenue for 2009.

So is it right for the biggest fish on Wall Street to make tens of billions of dollars by betting that the U.S. housing market will collapse?

You see, when you are talking about a financial giant the size of Goldman Sachs, the line between “betting that something will happen” and “making something happen” gets blurred very quickly.

Not that Goldman Sachs was the only one betting against the housing market.

According to the New York Times, firms like Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley also created mortgage-related securities and then bet that they would fail…..

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.

But certainly Goldman Sachs was the most prominent financial player involved in this type of activity.

In fact, without mentioning specifics, Goldman has even admitted publicly to wrongdoing.  On November 17th, 2008 Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein even issued a public apology….

“We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret.”

But complicated financial transactions are something that most Americans simply do not understand, so the public outrage towards Goldman Sachs and others has been somewhat limited.  But that does not change the very serious nature of the activities that Goldman was involved in….

“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,” Sylvain Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York, recently told The New York Times. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”

But the sad thing is that many Americans do not even understand what Goldman Sachs is.  Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 and has forged a reputation as one of the elite financial institutions in the entire world.  They only hire “the best and the brightest” and Ivy League graduates flock to the firm.  Of the five major investment banks that dominated Wall Street before the crash, only Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have survived.  Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns were severely damaged by the crash and ended up being purchased by retail banks and Lehman Brothers ended up folding. 

There are persistent rumors that Goldman played a major role in the collapse of Bear Stearns and that ex-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson could have done much more to bail out Lehman Brothers, but perhaps nobody will ever know the full truth.  All we do know is that at the end of the crash several of Goldman’s competitors were destroyed and Goldman found itself in a more dominant position than ever.

The truth is that Goldman is a financial shark and they do not apologize for it.

An article in Rolling Stone recently put it this way….

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.

So how did Goldman Sachs prosper so greatly in an environment that destroyed their competitors?

The following is an extended breakdown of just how Goldman Sachs was able to reap tens of billions of dollars in profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market….

Step 1: Sell mortgage-related securities that are absolute junk to trusting clients at vastly overinflated prices.

In late 2006, Goldman Sachs made some fundamental changes in the way that they were approaching the U.S. housing market.  According to a McClatchy report, Goldman spokesman Michael DuVally said that the firm decided at that time to reduce its mortgage risks by selling off subprime mortgage-related securities and by purchasing credit-default swaps to hedge against a serious downturn in the U.S. housing market.

The key moment came in December 2006.  After “10 straight days of losses” in Goldman’s mortgage business, Chief Financial Officer David Viniar called a meeting of key Goldman personnel.

Vanity Fair described the results of that meeting this way….

After a now famous meeting in David Viniar’s office on December 14, 2006, Goldman’s traders began to protect the firm against further declines in the market. Just as you can short the S&P 500, the traders took short positions in an index that tracked the price of mortgage-backed securities. They also either sold assets they owned to others at losses or dramatically marked down the price on their own books.  In the aftermath of the crisis, criticism erupted that Goldman had continued to sell mortgage-backed securities to its clients while betting against those very securities for its own account. Clearly, in the simplest terms possible, this is true: while Goldman was never the biggest underwriter of C.D.O.’s (collateralized debt obligations—Wall Street’s vehicle of choice for mortgage-backed securities), the firm did remain in the top five until the summer of 2007, when the market crashed to a halt.

So Goldman Sachs proceeded to sell approxmiately $39 billion of its own mortgage securities in 2006 and 2007 and they sold at least $17 billion more mortgage securities for others, but they never told the buyers of those securities that Goldman was secretly betting that a significant drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those mortgage securities plummeting.

These sales and the massive clandestine wagers placed by Goldman enabled the firm to pass most of its potential losses on to others prior to the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

But many of the investors who got the short end of the stick were not pleased.  When they discovered that what Goldman had promoted as triple-A rated investments were actually a bunch of garbage, many of them were absolutely furious.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission should be very interested in any financial company that secretly decides a financial product is a loser and then goes out and actively markets that product or very similar products to unsuspecting customers without disclosing its true opinion,” said Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff. “This is fraud and should be prosecuted.”

One of the victims of this fraud was the state of Mississippi….

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, whose state has lost $5 million of the $6 million it invested in Goldman’s subprime mortgage-backed bonds in 2006, said the state’s funds are likely to lose “hundreds of millions of dollars” on those and similar bonds.

Another one of the victims of this fraud was California’s retirement system for public employees…. 

California’s huge public employees’ retirement system, known as CALPERS, purchased $64.4 million in subprime mortgage-backed bonds from Goldman on March 1, 2007. While that represented a tiny percentage of the fund’s holdings, in July CALPERS listed the bonds’ value at $16.6 million, a drop of nearly 75 percent, according to documents obtained through a state public records request.

So who is left holding the bag in cases such as these?

The taxpayers.

And that is just fine with Goldman Sachs.  Just as long as they keep raking in huge profits.

Vanity Fair was even more blunt regarding this injustice….

“Goldman’s management team was almost flawless in its execution. But how many people needed government help because of the things Goldman sold them?”

The truth is that a lot of people needed help because of the things Goldman sold them, but up until now Goldman has completely gotten away with it.

Step 2: Bet against those same mortgage-related securities and make massive bets against the U.S. housing market so that your firm will make massive profits when the U.S. economy collapses. 

Not only did Goldman sell mortgage-related securities that were absolute junk to investors at vastly overinflated prices, they also placed massive bets that the U.S. housing market would absolutely collapse.

The New York Times recently described how Goldman used a new index known as the ABX to make many of these bets….

A handful of investors and Wall Street traders, however, anticipated the crisis. In 2006, Wall Street had introduced a new index, called the ABX, that became a way to invest in the direction of mortgage securities. The index allowed traders to bet on or against pools of mortgages with different risk characteristics, just as stock indexes enable traders to bet on whether the overall stock market, or technology stocks or bank stocks, will go up or down.

Goldman, among others on Wall Street, has said since the collapse that it made big money by using the ABX to bet against the housing market. Worried about a housing bubble, top Goldman executives decided in December 2006 to change the firm’s overall stance on the mortgage market, from positive to negative, though it did not disclose that publicly.

These bets would only make money for Goldman Sachs if the U.S. housing market declined.

So if the biggest giant on Wall Street has a huge financial incentive to see the U.S. housing market fail, what do you think the odds are that they are going to do anything to support it?

Step 3: Have ex-Goldman executives in key positions of power in the U.S. government so that bailout money can be funneled to entities such as AIG that Goldman has made these bets with so that they could get paid. 

For years, Goldman Sachs has encouraged executives to serve in U.S. government positions.  Now they are world famous for the amount of influence their former employees have over government policy.

For example, according to the New York Times, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (also a former Goldman CEO) spoke with the current CEO of Goldman Sachs about two dozen times during the week of the bailout, although Paulson says that he obtained an “ethics waiver” before doing so.

So does an “ethics waiver” make everything okay?

But the sad thing is that is not an isolated example.

It turns out that Goldman benefited greatly from a number of decisions made by their former CEO while he was Treasury Secretary….

*Goldman greatly benefited when Paulson elected not to save rival Lehman Brothers from collapse.  Paulson certainly stepped in to help Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG, but apparently had no problem with letting Lehman Brothers fall apart.

*Under Paulson’s direction, Goldman ended up receiving bailout money (which they may or may not have needed) from the U.S. government and has since paid back much of that money with interest.  So why didn’t Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers get the bailout funds that they needed? 

*Goldman greatly benefitted when Paulson organized a massive rescue of American International Group while in constant telephone contact with Goldman CEO Blankfein.  AIG ultimately ended up using $12.9 billion taxpayer dollars to pay off every single penny that it owed to Goldman.

But it is not just Paulson who has had significant influence in Washington.

On October 16th, Adam Storch, a Goldman Sachs vice president, was named managing executive of the SEC’s enforcement division.  What do you think the odds are that he will crack down hard on Goldman?

In addition, former Goldman Sachs lobbyist Mark Patterson is the chief of staff for current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

In fact, ex-Goldman employees are seemingly everywhere.  According to Vanity Fair,  at one  G-7 meeting an anonymous source identified at least 24 out of 32 finance officials in attendance as ex-Goldman employees.

The influence of Goldman Sachs even reaches to the White House.  Goldman was Barack Obama’s number one campaign donor, and its employees gave $981,000 to his campaign.

If you don’t think that kind of money does not buy influence then you are delusional.

Goldman used some of that powerful influence to get the U.S. government to bail out AIG so that AIG could pay off the bets that Goldman had made with them.  In a recent article, Vanity Fair described part of what went down….

After the government bailout of A.I.G., in order to end the collateral calls on the insurance giant, the New York Federal Reserve—whose chairman at the time was former Goldman chairman Steve Friedman—decided to purchase a slew of the securities that A.I.G. had insured, including $14 billion of those on which Goldman had purchased insurance. The government—meaning taxpayers—did so at full price, although according to a recent Bloomberg story, there had been negotiations with A.I.G. to do so at a 40 percent discount. Goldman says that the New York Fed broached the topic of a discount only once. The firm’s response: a flat no. While no one will ever know what would have happened had A.I.G. gone under, the essence of what did happen is perfectly clear. As a recent report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for tarpput it, the decision to pay full price “effectively transferred tens of billions of dollars of cash from the Government to A.I.G.’s counterparties.” Or to put it another way: because Goldman felt it was owed its billions by A.I.G., the firm took it from taxpayers instead.

So what about all of the thousands of small businesses that are failing and what about the millions of Americans that are losing their jobs and homes?

Do they get bailouts?

Of course not.

But the U.S. government definitely made sure that AIG and Goldman were taken care of.

Step 4: Collect the profits – Goldman Sachs is having their “most successful year” and will end up reporting approximately $50 billion in revenue for 2009.

Goldman Sachs ranks #1 in annual net income when compared with 86 peers in the investment services sector.  They are on course for their best year ever.

Yes, they are having a really good “crisis”.

Goldman Sachs is on course to surpass $50 billion in revenue in 2009 and to pay its employees more than $20 billion in year-end bonuses.

20 billion just in bonuses?

That would mean that the average bonus for all Goldman employees would be over $700,000.

No wonder everyone wants to work for them.

It’s good to be on the winning side.

So just how are they making so much money?

In their recent article, Vanity Fair described it this way….

But because so many of Goldman’s competitors were gone or disabled, spreads—the difference between the price at which you sell and buy a variety of securities—were wider than they had been in years, meaning that Goldman could practically mint money. By acting at the moment it did, with Lehman out and Merrill Lynch down for the count, the government enabled this situation.

The other reason for Goldman’s profits is that the government has flooded the system with money, not just the money it used to rescue the financial system but hundreds of billions more in stimulus, in support of the housing market, and in the Federal Reserve’s purchases of securities.

But all of this success has not come without controversy.  In fact, Goldman executives are very much aware of the growing backlash against the firm.

Senior officials at Goldman Sachs have reportedly loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a “populist uprising” against the bank.

In addition, Goldman Sachs employees are now not allowed to gather in groups of 12 or more outside the office.  The firm very much discouraged “holiday parties” as they most definitely did not want to be seen as celebrating the downfall of the U.S. economy.

But the truth is that Goldman Sachs won because so many others lost.

In his very revealing article on Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi described how Goldman keeps making money from the bursting of these economic bubbles….

They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They’ve been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s — and now they’re preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet.

The truth is that in this latest economic collapse there were millions of losers and just a few winners.

Goldman Sachs was one of those winners.

So will they lose next time?

Not likely.

In their recent article, Vanity Fair quoted an anonymous source in the financial industry as saying the following….

“Are they the Yankees? No, the Yankees actually lose! Goldman never loses.”

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