Category Archives: Financial Crisis

Wall Street and the U.S. Presidential Election: Interview with Nomi Prins

Mike Papantonio talks to Nomi Prins, who worked as a managing director at Goldman-Sachs and as a Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns. Prins is also the author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power. She discusses how this year’s election will be the most expensive in history, and how there’s only one candidate that isn’t begging billionaires for their support. Her latest article for The Nation is The American Brand of Democracy Is Cold Hard Cash(Ring of Fire)

Former Financial Regulator Bill Black Reviews ‘The Big Short’

Jessica Desvarieux talks to former financial regulator Bill Black who reviews the highlights and holes of the film The Big Short. Bill Black is also the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry(The Real News)

Sanders vs. Clinton on Wall Street Reform: Interview with Bill Black and Mike Konczal

Paul Jay talks to former financial regulator Bill Black and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal. Both men give their take on the policies of the two contenders for the Democratic nomination. (The Real News)

Did Financial Giant Goldman Sachs Just Admit the System is Rigged? Interview with Bill Black

Jessica Desvarieux talks to former financial regulator Bill Black, who explains why one of world’s largest investment firms Goldman Sachs is questioning the “efficacy of capitalism” and why its CEO is terrified of a Sanders presidency. (The Real News)

The 1% Economy: Interview with Raymond Offenheiser

Narmeen Sheikh and Amy Goodman talks to Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, about a new report from Oxfam on global inequality which finds that the world’s richest 62 billionaires now own as much wealth as half the world. The report is timed to coincide with the meeting of global elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Part two of the interview can be viewed here(Democracy Now!)

Goldman Sachs backs campaign to keep Britain in European Union

Jill Treanor and Larry Elliott report for The Guardian:

Goldman Sachs signGrowing concern in the City about Britain’s possible exit from the European Union has been underlined by the fact that the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs had pumped a significant sum into the campaign for staying in.

The move on Wednesday by the high-profile US investment bank to back the in campaign – Britain Stronger in Europe – comes at a time when the City has started to focus on the possibility that the UK will vote to end its 43-year relationship with the EU.

Other City firms are known to be spending large sums of money considering the implications for their business of a possible Brexit, even though the date for a referendum has not yet been set.

David Cameron would like the referendum to be held in June to avoid the possibility of prolonged coverage of refugees fleeing to the EU. The news of the donation by Goldman Sachs to the in campaign – said to run to six figures – appeared to be carefully timed: Cameron is due to address delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where a large delegation of UK business leaders and financiers have gathered for the annual event in the Swiss ski resort.

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Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world’s population, says Oxfam

Larry Elliott reports for The Guardian:

The vast and growing gap between rich and poor has been laid bare in a new Oxfam report showing that the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.

Timed to coincide with this week’s gathering of many of the super-rich at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, the report calls for urgent action to deal with a trend showing that 1% of people own more wealth than the other 99% combined.

Oxfam said that the wealth of the poorest 50% dropped by 41% between 2010 and 2015, despite an increase in the global population of 400m. In the same period, the wealth of the richest 62 people increased by $500bn (£350bn) to $1.76tn.

The charity said that, in 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%. This dropped to 80 in 2014 before falling again in 2015.

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HBOS whistleblower Paul Moore exposes badly designed corporate culture

Anthony Hilton reports for the London Evening Standard:

Last year was a record one for mergers, and early indications are that there will be a lot happening this year too.

So it is perhaps time for a cautionary tale of what can — and indeed usually does — go wrong. Far more businesses are destroyed by deals than enhanced by them.

Back in 2000, Bank of Scotland could legitimately claim to be one of Europe’s most respected banks and the Halifax one of its most envied savings and mortgage providers.

In 2001, the two organisations merged to create what was then hailed as the fifth force in British banking.

In four years, profits virtually doubled. In eight years, the bank was bust.

Total collapse was only avoided by selling out to Lloyds, which then meant both had to be bailed out by government.

This is also the story of whistleblower Paul Moore, the man who saw the insanity at first hand, tried to stop it and was personally sacked by the then HBOS chief executive James Crosby for his pains.

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Beware the great 2016 financial crisis, warns leading City pessimist

Larry Elliott reports for The Guardian:

The City of London’s most vocal “bear” has warned that the world is heading for a financial crisis as severe as the crash of 2008-09 that could prompt the collapse of the eurozone.

Albert Edwards, strategist at the bank Société Générale, said the west was about to be hit by a wave of deflation from emerging market economies and that central banks were unaware of the disaster about to hit them. His comments came as analysts at Royal Bank of Scotland urged investors to “sell everything” ahead of an imminent stock market crash.

“Developments in the global economy will push the US back into recession,” Edwards told an investment conference in London. “The financial crisis will reawaken. It will be every bit as bad as in 2008-09 and it will turn very ugly indeed.”

Fears of a second serious financial crisis within a decade have been heightened by the turbulence in markets since the start of the year. Share prices have fallen rapidly and a slump in the cost of oil has left Brent crude trading at barely above $30 a barrel.

“Can it get any worse? Of course it can,” said Edwards, the most prominent of the stock market bears – the terms for analysts who think shares are overvalued and will fall in price. “Emerging market currencies are still in freefall. The US corporate sector is being crushed by the appreciation of the dollar.”

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Sell everything ahead of stock market crash, say RBS economists

Nick Fletcher reports for The Guardian:

Investors face a “cataclysmic year” where stock markets could fall by up to 20% and oil could slump to $16 a barrel, economists at the Royal Bank of Scotland have warned.

In a note to its clients the bank said: “Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small.” It said the current situation was reminiscent of 2008, when the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank led to the global financial crisis. This time China could be the crisis point.

Stock markets have already come under severe pressure in 2016, with the FTSE 100 down more than 5% in its worst start since 2000. In the US, the Dow Jones industrial average has made its poorest ever start to a year.

Oil prices have also fallen sharply on fears of lower demand and a supply glut, especially with Iran due to start exporting once more when sanctions are lifted. Tensions between Iran and Saudia Arabia make it less likely that Opec can agree to cut production to halt the slide in prices. Brent crude is down another 1% at $31.18, its lowest level since April 2004.

Investors have been spooked by fears of a severe slowdown in the Chinese economy and a fall in the value of the yuan, not helped by a crash in the country’s stock market despite attempts by the country’s authorities to curtail selling.

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PostCapitalism: The end of capitalism has begun

Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews), author of PostCapitalism, writes for The Guardian:

The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.

Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.

If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.

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Dodd-Frank’s 5th Anniversary Passes, But Should We Celebrate? Interview with Gerald Epstein

Five Years Later, the Unfulfilled Promise of Dodd-Frank

Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams:

With several key promises of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act still unfulfilled, “Americans cannot be comforted that Wall Street will not wreak havoc again,” according to a new report from the watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Five years after President Barack Obama signed this legislation, Dodd-Frank remains largely incomplete,” said Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate and author of the report, Dodd-Frank is Five: And Still Not Allowed Out of the House (pdf), published Tuesday.

“Major portions of the law have yet to be codified into specific rules,” Naylor explained. “Many enforcement dates are set well into the future, and certain rules are not yet being implemented and enforced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Dodd-Frank, signed into law five years ago Tuesday, “promised that America would never again be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail, but that promise remains unfulfilled,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “Instead, industry-captured regulators and members of Congress hungry for campaign contributions from Wall Street continue to delay and dilute the law.”‘

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Between Berlin and a Hard Place: Greece and the German Strategy to Dominate Europe

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes:

[…] The German bet was that the EU could outrun financial markets, using the crisis as an opportunity to advance fiscal and political integration and impose their demands upon the rest of Europe, while simultaneously preventing markets from creating a crisis so severe that it threatened the euro or the economies of the more powerful nations. Without the pressure of financial markets, the EU could not force its member nations to restructure their economies and societies. Chancellor Merkel would frequently describe the European debt crisis to her colleagues as a “poker game” between financial markets and politicians. The first to flinch would lose.

In 2011, Bloomberg noted that Merkel was “turning Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis into an opportunity to reshape the euro region in Germany’s image,” concluding that she had “pulled ahead for now in her battle to restore policy makers’ mastery over the market.” A biographer of Merkel explained, “It’s policy by trial and error.”

Merkel’s powerful Finance Minister, Mr. Schauble, was one of the chief architects of the German strategy for Europe’s crisis. In March of 2010, he wrote in the Financial Times that, “from Germany’s perspective, European integration, monetary union and the euro are the only choice.” But aid comes with strings attached and harsh penalties for violations. “It must, on principle, still be possible for a state to go bankrupt,” wrote Mr. Schauble. “Facing an unpleasant reality could be the better option in certain conditions.”

The German minister believed “the financial crisis in the eurozone is not just a threat, but an opportunity,” as markets would “force the most debt-laden members of the 17-nation currency union to curb their budget deficits and increase their competitiveness.” This would pressure governments to accept further integration into a “fiscal union” defined and shaped by Germany. “We need to take big steps to get that done,” Mr. Schauble said in 2011. “That is why crises are also opportunities. We can get things done that we could not do without the crisis.”

Financial markets were happy to oblige the German-EU strategy, as the crisis would force the reforms long demanded by banks as a solution to the irresponsible spending of governments: austerity and structural reform. From 2002 to 2012, Josef Ackermann led Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank. In 2011, the New York Timesdescribed Ackermann as “the most powerful banker in Europe” and “possibly the most dangerous one, too,” standing “at the center of more concentric circles of power than any other banker on the Continent.”’

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The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a lie.

John Pilger writes:

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared a Guardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades. They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.’

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Paul Mason on Greece: “Finance will be used in a hostile way if you flout the sovereignty of Europe”

‘Greece will have to implement the tough austerity measures demanded by its lenders, plus hand €50bn of assets to a privatisation fund, where sales will be used to pay down debt.’ (Channel 4 News)

Greece is the latest battleground in the financial elite’s war on democracy

George Monbiot recently wrote from The Guardian:

Irish famine, original illustrationGreece may be financially bankrupt, but the troika is politically bankrupt. Those who persecute this nation wield illegitimate, undemocratic powers, powers of the kind now afflicting us all. Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes.

The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

The same programme is imposed regardless of circumstance: every country the IMF colonises must place the control of inflation ahead of other economic objectives; immediately remove barriers to trade and the flow of capital; liberalise its banking system; reduce government spending on everything bar debt repayments; and privatise assets that can be sold to foreign investors.’

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#ThisIsACoup: Dimitri Lascaris and Michalis Spourdalakis on the Humiliating Eurozone Offer to Greece

Capitalism and Government Debt at Odds in Greece: Interview with Michael Hudson

Michael Hudson is research professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. In this interview he says that unlike personal and corporate debt, there is no legal framework for writing off government debt, so there is deliberate anarchy in place. (The Real News)

Was Tsipras’ referendum worth it? Paul Mason on the Greek debt crisis

‘The new Greek government proposals, published late last night are clearly based on those submitted by Jean Claude Juncker last Thursday, before the referendum. It’s left many Greeks frustrated, asking: what was the point of the referendum?’ (Channel 4 News)

We Voted ‘No’ To Slavery, But ‘Yes’ To Our Chains: Greg Palast On Greece

Greg Palast is an investigative reporter who has worked for the BBC and the Guardian, among others. He is the author of several books including Vultures’ Picnic and The Best Money Democracy Can Buy.

Return to Sender: Glen Ford on Eric Holder Going Back to Covington & Burling

Eric Holder Back to Wall Street-Tied Law Firm After Years of Refusing to Jail Bankers: Interview with Matt Taibbi

‘In the latest sign of the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, recently retired U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is returning home — to the corporate law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked for eight years before becoming head of the Justice Department. During his time at Covington, Holder’s clients included UBS and the fruit giant Chiquita. The law firm’s client list has included many of the big banks Holder failed to criminally prosecute as attorney general for their role in the financial crisis, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. We speak with Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine. “I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we’ve ever had,” Taibbi says.’ (Democracy Now!)

Paul Mason on Yanis Varoufakis quitting despite Greek referendum victory

Greek Voters Deliver Stunning Rebuke to Austerity: Dimitri Lascaris Interviews Michael Spourdalakis

Michael Spourdalakis is the Dean of the School of Economics and Politics at the University of Athens. In this interview with Dimitri Lascaris, he says that it is time for the Greek government to play hardball with the Troika. (The Real News)

Paul Mason on the Greek referendum: “For the first time in the history of the Eurozone, people power has happened”

In A World Of Artificial Liquidity – Cash Is King

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her latest book, “All The Presidents’ Bankers“. You can read part two of this article here. Also, be sure to check out more of Nomi’s great work at her website.

Nomi Prins writes for Peak Prosperity:

Global central banks are afraid. Before Greece tried to stand up to the Troika, they were merely worried. Now it’s clear that no matter what they tell themselves and the world about the necessity or even righteousness of their monetary policies, liquidity can still disappear in an instant. Or at least, that’s what they should be thinking.

The Federal Reserve and US government led policy of injecting liquidity into the US and then into the worldwide financial system has resulted in the issuance of trillions of dollars of debt, recycling it through the largest private banks, and driving rates to 0% — or below. The combined book of debt that the Fed and European Central Bank (ECB) hold is $7 trillion. None of that has gone remotely into fixing the real global economy. Nor have the banks that have ben aided by this cheap money increased lending to the real economy. Instead, they have hoarded their bounty of cash. It’s not so much whether this game can continue for the near future on an international scale. It can. It is. The bigger problem is that central banks have no plan B in the event of a massive liquidity event.

Some central bank entity leaders have admitted this. IMF chief, Christine Lagarde for instance, warned Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen that potential US rate hikes implemented too soon, would incite greater systemic calamity. She’s not wrong. That’s what we’ve come to: a financial system reliant on external stimulus to survive.’

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Greek Crisis Marks End of Debt Era

Atul Singh writes for Fair Observer:

[…] The Greek debt crisis is about to go global. First, other European countries are bound to be affected. Even France, la grande nation, will eventually come under pressure. Second, even states and cities will face pressure. Already, Puerto Rico’s government has declared that it cannot pay its $73 billion debt. In fact, all government-backed debt from sovereign to municipal bonds will come under pressure. Third, the US and China will eventually face a debt crisis too. The crisis is global and about to amplify.

The ballooning of debt is the biggest challenge facing the world economy. To stave off economic collapse, governments bailed out American and European banks. Central banks then released a torrent of money into the system by lowering interest rates and using quantitative easing, emulating the Bank of Japan. Those who own assets became richer, exacerbating already terrible inequality. Governments support creditors to boost economic confidence, while home owners in the US and ordinary citizens are fed to the dogs.

There is certainly a glut of savings in some parts of the world. China and Germany are awash with capital and are looking to park their money in assets that give them higher return. Yet there are limits to returns in a world awash with capital. The Chinese bubble in real estate and stocks has burst. Yet China is putting more money into its economy. It has made a fourth cut in interest rates since November and has reduced reserve requirements for banks, so they can continue lending. China has also lowered transaction fees and relaxed collateral rules on borrowing to fund share purchases. This is debt-fueled madness.

Like all parties, the Chinese one is coming to an end and stocks have lost nearly 25% of their value since the middle of June. Hence, Chinese money is flocking to the US in search of a safe harbor. Chinese buyers are now purchasing houses in California without even looking at them. China continues to fund US debt and shudders in horror as quantitative easing dilutes the value of its reserves. Unlike smaller countries like Greece, the US will never face default. It has the unique luxury of diluting its debt by simply printing more dollars. As the superpower in-charge of the world’s reserve currency, it can live off debt a little longer. It offers the greatest security to investors in an uncertain world. Yet the music will one day stop playing even for the US.’

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The forgotten origins of Greece’s crisis will make you think twice about who’s to blame

Ana Swanson reports for The Washington Post:

[…] In the mid-1990s, even before it came into existence, markets made a huge bet that the euro would be a reality. Specifically, investors, many in northern Europe, bet that interest rates in northern and southern Europe would converge. At the time, interest rates in southern Europe were much higher than in northern Europe, simply because people thought investing in countries like Greece was much riskier than investing in countries like Germany.

In anticipation of the euro zone, investors put lots of money in the cheap, high-yielding bonds of southern Europe. That helped to drive down yields and fueled borrowing and an economic boom in southern countries.

Ultimately, investors were right – Greek interest rates on 10-year bonds fell from around 20 percent in the early 1990s to only 3 percent in 2002. “They made a lot of money in the north betting against higher interest rates there. That fueled the boom, before the euro came, that overheated these economies.”

As economies overheated, it’s not a surprise that their competitiveness suffered, says Matthijs [co-editor of The Future of the Euro].

In short, many in the north pushed for a financial regime that didn’t fit the Greek economy, because they personally stood to benefit. Many rightly blame the Greeks for its current crisis, but some of the blame belongs farther north as well, he argues.’

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How Europe Played Greece

Alex Andreou writes for Common Dreams:

[…] Faith in European Institutions is thin on the ground. Lines have been crossed. At times of financial strain, a country’s currency issuer, its central bank, should act as lender of last resort and prime technocratic negotiator. In Greece’s case, the European Central Bank, sits on the same side as the creditors; acts as their enforcer. This is unprecedented.

The ECB has acted to asphyxiate the Greek economy – the ultimate blackmail to force subordination. The money is there, in our accounts, but we cannot have access to it, because the overseers of our own banking system, the very people who some months ago issued guarantees of liquidity, have decided to deny liquidity. We have phantom money, but no real money. There is a terrifying poetry to that, since the entire crisis was caused by too much phantom money in the first place.

EU Institutions are now openly admitting that their aim is regime change. A coup d’état in anything by name, using banks instead of tanks and a corrupt media as the occupiers’ broadcaster. The rest of Europe stands back and watches. Those leaders who promised the Syriza government support before the election, have ducked for cover. I understand it. They sympathise, but they don’t want to be next. They are honourable cowards. They look at the punishment beating being meted out and their instinct is to protect their own. ‘

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