Taking Back the Money Power
We have too long delegated the power to create our money and our credit to private profiteers, who have plundered and exploited the privilege in ways that are increasingly being exposed in the media. Wall Street may own Congress, but it does not yet own the states. We can take the money power back at the state level, by setting up our own publicly-owned banks. We can “spend” our money while conserving it, by leveraging it into the credit urgently needed to get the wheels of local production turning once again.
May 18 (Bloomberg) — A telephone call between a financial adviser in Beverly Hills and a trader in New York was all it took to fleece taxpayers on a water-and-sewer financing deal in West Virginia. The secret conversation was part of a conspiracy stretching across the U.S. by Wall Street banks in the $2.8 trillion municipal bond market.
The call came less than two hours before bids were due for contracts to manage $90 million raised with the sale of West Virginia bonds. On one end of the line was Steven Goldberg, a trader with Financial Security Assurance Holdings Ltd. On the other was Zevi Wolmark, of advisory firm CDR Financial Products Inc. Goldberg arranged to pay a kickback to CDR to land the deal, according to government records filed in connection with a U.S. Justice Department indictment of CDR and Wolmark.
West Virginia was just one stop in a nationwide conspiracy in which financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Wachovia Corp. and 11 other banks.
They rigged bids on auctions for so-called guaranteed investment contracts, known as GICs, according to a Justice Department list that was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on March 24 and then put under seal. Those contracts hold tens of billions of taxpayer money.
California to Pennsylvania
The workings of the conspiracy — which stretched from California to Pennsylvania and included more than 200 deals involving about 160 state agencies, local governments and non- profits — can be pieced together from the Justice Department’s indictment of CDR, civil lawsuits by governments around the country, e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News and interviews with current and former bankers and public officials.
“The whole investment process was rigged across the board,” said Charlie Anderson, who retired in 2007 as head of field operations for the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt bond division. “It was so commonplace that people talked about it on the phones of their employers and ignored the fact that they were being recorded.”
Anderson said he referred scores of cases to the Justice Department when he was with the IRS. He estimates that bid rigging cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Anderson said prosecutors are lining up conspirators to plead guilty and name names.
“This will go on for a long time and a lot of people will be indicted,” he said in a telephone interview.
Ron Paul regarding the Senate Audit the Fed bill:
Bernie Sanders has sold out and sided with Chris Dodd to gut Audit the Fed in the Senate. His “compromise” is what the Adminstration and banking interests want: they’ll allow the TARP and TALF to be audited, but no transparency of the FOMC, discount window operations or agreement with foreign central banks. We need to take aciton and stop this!
I am outraged. The Senate just voted down the Vitter Amendment and against a real audit of the Federal Reserve. My entire team and I are going to work very hard to make sure the American people know who voted right, and who voted with the banking special interests.
ORIGINALLY POSTED May 11, 2010 13:50
The Senate has passed what is being called the Audit the Fed bill with overwhelming support (96-0).
Up until about last Thursday (coincidence?) there was a possibility through the Vitter amendment (see below) that the Audit the Fed bill in the Senate was going to actually audit Fed monetary policy and discount window transactions as per the House of Representative’s bill (HR1207) which passed with significant support last year. The new bill, which was passed in the Senate, was changed by Senator Sanders at the very last minute, according to Ron Paul. Additionally, any hope of the Vitter amendment being passed seems to have been wiped out by Thursday’s stock market crash, which we have suggested was an attack on our financial system and a clear message to Congress by parties interested in keeping Fed activities secret.
Even the world’s most savvy stock-market giants (e.g., Warren E. Buffett) have warned over the past decade that derivatives are the fiscal equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) – potentially lethal. And the consequences of such an explosion would make the recent global financial and economic crisis seem like penny ante. But generously lubricated lobbyists for the unrestricted, unsupervised derivatives markets tell congressional committees and government regulators to butt out.
While banks all over the world were imploding and some $50 trillion vanished in global stock markets, the derivatives market grew by an estimated 65 percent, according the Bank for International Settlements. BIS convenes the world’s 57 most powerful central bankers in Basel, Switzerland, for periodic secret meetings. Occasionally, they issue a cry of alarm. This time, derivatives had soared from $414.8 trillion at the end of 2006 to $683.7 trillion in mid-2008 – 18 months’ time.
The derivatives market is now estimated at $700 trillion (notional, or face, value, not market value). The world’s gross domestic product in 2009: $69.8 trillion; America’s, $14.2 trillion. The total market cap of all major global stock markets? A mere $30 trillion. And the total amount of dollar bills in circulation, most of them abroad: $830 billion (not trillion).
One of the Middle East’s most powerful bankers conceded recently that even after listening to experts explain the drill, he still does not understand derivatives and therefore doesn’t trust them and won’t have anything to do with them. And when that weapon of mass destruction explodes, he explained, “Our bank’s customers, from all over the world, will be saved from the disaster.”
What’s so difficult to understand about derivatives? Essentially, they are bets for or against the house – red or black at the roulette wheel. Or betting for or against the weather in situations in which the weather is critical (e.g., vineyards). Forwards, futures, options and swaps form the panoply of derivatives. Credit derivatives are based on loans, bonds or other forms of credit. Over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives are contracts that are traded and privately negotiated directly between two parties, outside of a regular exchange.