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Vampire Squid
February 21, 2014 8:40 PM   Subscribe

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet. "Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever." This is the latest and last article for Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi, who is moving on to join First Look Media.
posted by homunculus (56 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sigh. I hate Matt Taibbi. Not because he's not good, because he's great. But every time he writes another longform article, I know I'm going to have to go spend an hour watching cat videos just to stop being depressed and/or angry.

I am amped he's going to First Look. I don't know that much about that whole shebang, but I hope it works out, and that all of those guys are able to continue to do fantastic work.
posted by nushustu at 9:31 PM on February 21 [11 favorites]


I also hate Matt Taibbi, because he does not seem to understand his own privilege. It's so much easier to rise up against the Man when you are a graduate of a prestigious boarding school, as opposed to the barely above minimum wage worker who works for the Man. But no, let's shut down Big Banking, to punish the few at the top, and to hell with the hundreds of thousands who are employed at the bottom.
posted by Ruki at 9:59 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I don't want to abuse the edit button but my mom taught me not to use the word hate against another human being, so please change that to "strongly dislike." Sorry, Mom.
posted by Ruki at 10:00 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I think there may be some middle ground between DELENDA EST BANKS and letting them get away with everything. I think it may be called regulation.
posted by benzenedream at 10:02 PM on February 21 [77 favorites]


It's so much easier to rise up against the Man when you are a graduate of a prestigious boarding school

This is dangerously irrelevant.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:11 PM on February 21 [93 favorites]


Meanwhile, Chase's own head of commodities operations, Blythe Masters – an even more famed Wall Street figure, sometimes described as the inventor of the credit default swap – admitted that her company's warehouse interests weren't just a casual thing. "Just being able to trade financial commodities is a serious limitation because financial commodities represent only a tiny fraction of the reality of the real commodity exposure picture," she said in 2010.

Loosely translated, Masters was saying that there was a limited amount of money to be made simply trading commodities in the traditional legal manner. The solution? "We need to be active in the underlying physical commodity markets," she said, "in order to understand and make prices."

We need to make prices. The head of Chase's commodities division actually said this, out loud, and it speaks to both the general unlikelihood of God's existence and the consistently low level of competence of America's regulators that she was not immediately zapped between the eyebrows with a thunderbolt upon doing so. Instead, the government sat by and watched as a curious phenomenon developed at all of these new bank-owned warehouses, in the aluminum markets in particular.


I demand a Netflix original series loosely based on this person.
posted by fatehunter at 10:17 PM on February 21 [12 favorites]


But the crazy thing is, nobody at the time quite knew it.

That didn't feel right to me, but this from Bernie Sanders is all I could find.

But I think it's a safe bet that Public Citizen, Ralph Nader, and possibly even Consumers Union saw clearly what was in store and were vocal about it.
posted by univac at 10:28 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I also hate Matt Taibbi, because he does not seem to understand his own privilege. It's so much easier to rise up against the Man when you are a graduate of a prestigious boarding school, as opposed to the barely above minimum wage worker who works for the Man. But no, let's shut down Big Banking, to punish the few at the top, and to hell with the hundreds of thousands who are employed at the bottom.

This is a flabbergastingly incoherent thought.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:35 PM on February 21 [61 favorites]


This is a flabbergastingly incoherent thought.

It's the "BUT BY BOYCOTTING WAL-MART YOU'RE HURTING THE WORKERS AT WAL-MART" silliness that turns up around Thanksgiving every year.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 PM on February 21 [31 favorites]


...and upon RTFA, I think even the usual canaries in the coal mine didn't predict the financial-industrial mergers.

Anyway, what signal are we waiting for, before we grab the pitchforks and torches?
posted by univac at 10:43 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]


Pope Guilty: " This is a flabbergastingly incoherent thought.

It's the "BUT BY BOYCOTTING WAL-MART YOU'RE HURTING THE WORKERS AT WAL-MART" silliness that turns up around Thanksgiving every year.
"

By boycotting Koch Industries you're hurting the little people workers! Laughable. Fuck the Kochs and the Waltons. When is it torches and pitchforks and tar and feathers time?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:45 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]



It's the "BUT BY BOYCOTTING WAL-MART YOU'RE HURTING THE WORKERS AT WAL-MART" silliness that turns up around Thanksgiving every year.
posted by Pope Guilty


I think it's actually an altogether different kind of silliness: "he enjoys some forms of privilege and he's railing against an injustice that may not be one of the injustices immediately salient to the daily lives of the worst-off, therefore fuck him."
posted by univac at 10:47 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


I think it's actually an altogether different kind of silliness: "he enjoys some forms of privilege and he's railing against an injustice that may not be one of the injustices immediately salient to the daily lives of the worst-off, therefore fuck him."

Despite those injustices being perpetrated by said injust... icers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


univac: "
It's the "BUT BY BOYCOTTING WAL-MART YOU'RE HURTING THE WORKERS AT WAL-MART" silliness that turns up around Thanksgiving every year.
posted by Pope Guilty


I think it's actually an altogether different kind of silliness: "he enjoys some forms of privilege and he's railing against an injustice that may not be one of the injustices immediately salient to the daily lives of the worst-off, therefore fuck him."
"

Rather than debate the source of the siliness, can't we all agree that the global financial fuckers need to be ridden out on a rail?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:50 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Rather than debate the source of the siliness, can't we all agree that the global financial fuckers need to be ridden out on a rail?

Only if it can be done in a way that causes no short-term pain to anybody at all, apparently.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:04 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


"he enjoys some forms of privilege and he's railing against an injustice"

Yeah, when people bring up this sort of stupidity, I'm left thinking - so what, we all have to unpack our backpacks, measure our privilege against each other, and only the winner with the least privilege gets to expose and fight injustice in the world? Take this to the logical conclusion and the responsibility for saving the world rests on an individual somewhere (an HIV-infected orphan in Chad maybe? Or perhaps a heroin-addicted human-trafficked sex worker in Cambodia?) with the least possible power to make a difference. Privilege theory is a useful way to understand history and structural inequality. Please don't go try using it to fix the world, though.
posted by Jimbob at 11:07 PM on February 21 [56 favorites]


Yeah, when people bring up this sort of stupidity, I'm left thinking - so what, we all have to unpack our backpacks, measure our privilege against each other, and only the winner with the least privilege gets to expose and fight injustice in the world?

Its more lilke - I can stop shopping at WalMart or Hobby Lobby. But how do I stop my mortgage from being sold to Chase or my retirement fund being managed by Bears Morgan Stern ?

Except for sending money to Elizabeth Warren, I aint got shit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:12 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Perfect is the enemy of the aww fuck it, who am I to criticize?
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:20 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Except for sending money to Elizabeth Warren, I aint got shit.

Elizabeth Warren to Fed: Stop Delegating on Enforcement
posted by homunculus at 11:23 PM on February 21


The thing that concerns me is the sheer level of made law that enable these outrageous takeovers. Even if Americans get this turned around, it will take a lot of years - costing serious human, financial, and social capital inefficiencies until it gets reversed.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:31 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


I also hate Matt Taibbi, because he shows no signs of understanding the subject matter he's covering. He practices extreme rhetorical inflation, so much so that the supposed substance falls away. He seems to share this with all his old colleagues from The Exile, a newspaper for Russian-based US expats specializing in nihilism.

Well, that's one interpretation anyway, that he doesn't know what he's saying. The other interpretation is that he knows what he's saying, but he has so little respect for you the readers that he'll just snow you with any old bullshit that flatters your prejudices.

Consider this quotation, from upthread:
Loosely translated, Masters was saying that there was a limited amount of money to be made simply trading commodities in the traditional legal manner. The solution? "We need to be active in the underlying physical commodity markets," she said, "in order to understand and make prices."

We need to make prices. The head of Chase's commodities division actually said this, out loud, and it speaks to both the general unlikelihood of God's existence and the consistently low level of competence of America's regulators that she was not immediately zapped between the eyebrows with a thunderbolt upon doing so. Instead, the government sat by and watched as a curious phenomenon developed at all of these new bank-owned warehouses, in the aluminum markets in particular.
The implication is that "making prices" is some kind of abuse, and probably illegal, similar to fixing prices or rigging prices. Why aren't the regulators going after these crooks?

But actually "making prices" probably does not mean that at all (public company executives rarely admit to crimes on the record, after all). Rather, Masters seems to have been saying that, as a market maker in commodities, JPM has to quote buy and sell prices, and those prices could be better informed by having a more vertical business. Maybe she was right, maybe she was wrong. But she was not admitting to some kind of scam or fraud.

Tellingly, Taibbi doesn't go into this "making prices" thing at all. He just puts it there because it sounds kind of incriminating and it fits the tone of his overall story. But if that's how careful he is with the facts, why the hell should you take his word on anything else?

Even worse, his big story is out of date. The JP Morgan Chase physical commodities business he mentions like 30 times appears to be shut down, and the other players he mentions seem to be getting out of the business.

What must Matt Taibbi think of you, to feed you scary-sounding news from 2008 and 2009, without mentioning that those trends are already largely reversed?

I don't know enough to fact-check everything in this article, but I think I've seen enough to distrust Matt Taibbi spin. He's just a bullshitter. He just says whatever to paint whatever picture he's trying to paint.

I'm really disappointed in First Look for hiring this hack. He is in a sense on the right team, but he's basically a con artist.
posted by grobstein at 12:01 AM on February 22 [27 favorites]


It's so much easier to rise up against the Man when you are a graduate of a prestigious boarding school, as opposed to the barely above minimum wage worker who works for the Man. But no, let's shut down Big Banking, to punish the few at the top, and to hell with the hundreds of thousands who are employed at the bottom.


Yeah, this is basically a derail right at the top of the thread. But I find myself trying to unpack it anyway. The point seems to be- OK, sure, Chase for example might be as much of an Ongoing Criminal Conspiracy as it is a Financial Services Corporation or whatever the hell it pretends to be.

HOWEVER, aside from the billionaire scumbag criminals at the top, the bank in addition employs legions of other workers, who fulfill functions so utterly without actual social value that in a world without Big Criminal Banks, they would probably starve.

OR possibly the implication is that without the organized theft, collusion and fraud provided by these institutions , the world's economy would come so far off its moorings that hundreds of thousands of the presently employed would be out on the streets.

Therefore, to call for any prosecution, regulation, discorporation, or dissolution of these apparently parasitic enterprises is to call for the ruin of the working man, and only a heartless plutocrat would do that.

... nope, that somehow doesn't sound any better.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:02 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


But actually "making prices" probably does not mean that at all (public company executives rarely admit to crimes on the record, after all).

I dunno, I think the the take-away on this is that deregulation (as heavily predicted at the time) has been a disaster for pretty much everyone except the upper echelons of the financial world. The crimes being admitted may not be crimes right now, but they are crimes elsewhere and they have been crimes before, and it would be good to have them crimes again.

I've said it before, but history (Roman and Chinese especially, but elsewhere as well) shows us that concentration of wealth and power into a few hands is very very bad for everyone else, and the situation usually leads to immense disruption and devastation if played to the end.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:01 AM on February 22 [9 favorites]


The defense of parasitic institutions on the grounds that they provide jobs is mind-boggling to me. As if the only way that jobs can possibly be provided is to allow massive banks to loot, pillage and plunder on a grand scale.

Problem is, there are things worth doing that could be done with the time, efforts and energy of those people. Things like rebuilding the entire energy and transportation infrastructure of the United States to drastically reduce our carbon footprints – or tons of other good projects, this is just the example I prefer. Nationalize the banks and put the money to good use for a change.

But don't just sit there and say the banks provide jobs. So do criminal syndicates.
posted by graymouser at 3:06 AM on February 22 [19 favorites]


...he does not seem to understand his own privilege.

You seem to know something about the man, but you don't seem to actually know enough to say what he does or does not understand. Have a look at this.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:41 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


In another recent thread, xarnop made this point: Also there's a huge lash out towards people who talk about their poverty-- you identify yourself as having hardships because of poverty and you get actively attacked for any bad choice you've ever made and for not having the strength to just solve all of the gazillion problems your facing WHILE dealing with barely scraping by or making it through a work day at all. People have endless solutions they can see you should be doing and therefore your poverty is perfectly solvable if you would just try.

And here we see the other side of the imposed double-bind: anyone who isn't poor can't speak on behalf of the poor, because they secretly don't care about them, or it's easy to propose a solution from privilege that might hurt the underprivileged, or whatever.

So the poor are disqualified from fighting for themselves because no particular poor person perfectly fits the model of the "perfect victim," and those who are not poor can't fight for the poor because their privilege makes them inherently indifferent or suspicious. This conveniently leaves no one at all to push back against the abjection of the precariat.
posted by kewb at 4:55 AM on February 22 [26 favorites]


Loosely translated, Masters was saying that there was a limited amount of money to be made simply trading commodities in the traditional legal manner.

that's not right at all. She's talking about the bank's ability to be a market maker.
posted by jpe at 5:17 AM on February 22 [4 favorites]


Every time there's a Tabibbi thread someone points out his hyperbole and fact bending ways. And hey they're probably right. I guess in the end I don't give a shit. If even 30% of what he's saying is right, he's doing a valuable service by being one of the few journalists to give the full on Fox News/TMZ treatment to the criminals that run our financial institutions. The Jungle was exaggerated too. Glad to hear they're getting out of this business...but the law is still on the books and the opportunity for malfeasance still exists. In order for people to understand and care about this, they need to hear about it in the first place, which is where obnoxious muckraking hacks like Tabbibi come in. God bless em.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:49 AM on February 22 [13 favorites]


Can I just put in a quick word for the vampire squid? I know the editors at RS have bigger fish to fry, but in biological terms Vampiroteuthis is a poor. It lives in a cold, dark place and survives by eating dead stuff that falls from above. It moves slowly because there isn't enough oxygen.

If you wanted an animal analog closer to home, why not the noble wild boar? An invasive species that digs up and ruins forests in its search for food, while breeding indiscriminately and growing big enough to scare off any challengers?
posted by sneebler at 5:55 AM on February 22 [24 favorites]


Well sure but the only real truth in the article - about the use of arcane rules on the metals exchanges to use storage facilities to manipulate prices was reported on 6 months ago in that low profile publication the New York Times.

The rest of it is an incoherent mess. Like he doesn't seem to understand that GLB has nothing to do with how investment banks are In the commodities business. And the logic surrounding the bank holding company thing is like wow.

But there is a real story here which is that even by Wall Street standards energy and commodities trading are really very much the Wild West. Actually the big banks are magnitudes less shady than the firms that dominated that world 15 years ago and still dominate some areas.
posted by JPD at 6:00 AM on February 22 [6 favorites]


I guess we cannot fight the Vampire Squid because it would require exiting the Vampire Castle.
posted by adipocere at 6:03 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


1. It takes legions of lawyers and hucksters to determine the letter of the law.
2. FUCKING EVERYBODY can understand the spirit of the law.
3. We listen to the lawyers and hucksters over everybody else.
4. We are insane.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:13 AM on February 22 [14 favorites]


He's not an investigative reporter, but he is fighting a fight that I happen to want fought. So there's a tension, but everybody can't be Elizabeth Warren: you need a lot of different voices to make this kind of case, and some of them will be louder and coarser than others.

I think we'd all be perfectly happy with a journalist who used hyperbole to expose corruption uninvestigated elsewhere. But Taibbi is a popularizer and an aggregator: he uses hyperbole and simplification the way TED talks do, to sell a slick simplistic product named Taibbi.

Investigative reporters earn their muckraking reputations by breaking stories, some of which turn out to be mistaken. That's noble, difficult work. Taibbi isn't a muckraker: he turns the muckraking of others into a paint-by-numbers outrage-generator. That's work too, but maybe a little less noble and a lot easier. It's like a Journalistic-Integrity Default Swap: a kind of synthetic derivative of real journalism.

Personally, I don't happen to find predictable and manipulative outrage-generation particularly compelling, but consider that these ARE outrageous practices and that the average person gets the rest of their news in precisely this TED-talk echo chamber style. You can only get through to them by being just as dumbed-down as the stuff they're marinating in.

To review: journalism mostly sucks and Taibbi is in journalism. But better him on this beat than nobody.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:15 AM on February 22 [6 favorites]


This article made me wonder upon one of the questions that has been bothering me recently. What are the long term effects of low interest rates? Are we setting ourselves up for a disaster that we will have no economic ammunition to use to for a recovery?
posted by niccolo at 7:25 AM on February 22


Damnit. I chose the wrong day to give up drinking.

To review: journalism mostly sucks and Taibbi is in journalism. But better him on this beat than nobody.

Exactly. Plus, he seems to be able to understand this stuff as an outsider, and he can draw the dots the rest of us can't.
posted by Mezentian at 7:34 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


He drew no dots. That's the point. You think he drew dots because you want to think he knows what he's talking about. In reality he completely misses the dots that should be drawn because he has dots he wants to draw.

Investigative reporters earn their muckraking reputations by breaking stories, some of which turn out to be mistaken. That's noble, difficult work. Taibbi isn't a muckraker: he turns the muckraking of others into a paint-by-numbers outrage-generator. That's work too, but maybe a little less noble and a lot easier. It's like a Journalistic-Integrity Default Swap: a kind of synthetic derivative of real journalism.

didn't break a story. repurposed a story someone else broke and wrapped his worldview around it. That's why its shitty journalism.

Here's the guy who broke the story in the mainstream press.

And you should probably read this from the FT's Alphaville blog - which has been exploring weirdness in the metals market since '08 at least.
posted by JPD at 7:54 AM on February 22 [9 favorites]


If you wanted an animal analog closer to home, why not the noble wild boar? An invasive species that digs up and ruins forests in its search for food, while breeding indiscriminately and growing big enough to scare off any challengers?

Also, any normal pig that gets into that environment turns into a boar.
posted by curious nu at 8:00 AM on February 22 [5 favorites]


> But actually "making prices" probably does not mean that at all (public company executives rarely admit to crimes on the record, after all).

A crime? How?

Price-fixing is a crime. But purchasing commodities producers and distributors who have the ability to sway prices is no longer a crime, as the article points out.

Perhaps things have changed since I worked on the Street, but I never heard the phrase "making prices" used as a synonym for "discovering prices".

(Also, price-fixing might theoretically be a crime, but in today's world, is not one that seems to be a big deal. If you remember "Mr. Five Percent", Sumitomo managed to grossly manipulate the price of copper for years, screwing with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and yet only one individual got caught, and even then got a fairly minor jail term.)

> Rather, Masters seems to have been saying that, as a market maker in commodities, JPM has to quote buy and sell prices, and those prices could be better informed by having a more vertical business.

You omitted the very specific detail: "We need to be active in the underlying physical commodity markets." They aren't saying that they need to be informed about those markets, but that they actually have to be playing in those markets to "make prices". There's a huge, huge difference - and before the "repeal" of Glass-Steagall, "being active" in those commodity markets was completely illegal.

The rest of the article goes on to show that the banks have indeed gotten into these physical commodity markets and are proceeding to capture physical markets and manipulate them for their own gain. But I see no acknowledgement from you of any of the rest of the article.

Your comment quibbles with some details on page 1 of the article, then dismisses Taibbi in the rudest and grossest terms while ignoring 90% of the article, including about a dozen damning specific cases. I have no idea why you are carrying water for the big banks, but if you're going to do this, do us the favor of actually addressing the issues at hand.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:45 AM on February 22 [10 favorites]


didn't break a story. repurposed a story someone else broke and wrapped his worldview around it.

The "worldview" is that the likes of Goldman Sachs exploited a loophole in the law to make money for itself and raise prices for the world at large and that while this may have been profitable for the financial firms involved, and adhered to the letter of the law, it's basically scummy and sneaky and completely circumvents the law's spirit. Are we actually arguing that point?
posted by kgasmart at 10:23 AM on February 22 [7 favorites]


The basic situation reminds me of what happens when I start using cheat codes in a strategy game. Once you realize you can change the rules to bypass pesky requirements, you do it more and more until eventually the actual game is so boring that you invent new games-within-games for yourself and ultimately end up in a nuclear war with Gandhi.

What's happened here is that the ultra-wealthy have discovered cheat codes in the form of political influence and the laws it can buy and now we're living through the period where they've become so bored with the actual game of being ultra-wealthy that they're inventing new games. One of these narcissistic games came to a head in 2008 and almost started another depression. What will the next one do?
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:26 PM on February 22 [10 favorites]


As if on cue:

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citigroup are among the banks that have successfully completed trial runs using their own models to assess risk and capital requirements.

This'll turn out well.
posted by kgasmart at 12:29 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]


The "worldview" is that the likes of Goldman Sachs exploited a loophole in the law to make money for itself and raise prices for the world at large and that while this may have been profitable for the financial firms involved, and adhered to the letter of the law, it's basically scummy and sneaky and completely circumvents the law's spirit. Are we actually arguing that point?

The issue is all of the other crap Taibbi wraps around that to make it a poorly reasoned polemic - and that's what his worldview is. Again - the metals warehousing thing is not new news. It was A1 top left hand corner of the Sunday times. What Goldman did is scummy as hell but has nothing to do with everything else he talks about. If he wanted to write an expose on shady practices in Commodity trading - that would have been an interesting article.
posted by JPD at 12:31 PM on February 22


Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citigroup are among the banks that have successfully completed trial runs using their own models to assess risk and capital requirements.

This'll turn out well.


I don't think you know what is going on here. This represents a massive increase in Fed oversight on capital weightings.
posted by JPD at 12:33 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]


I get to where I sort of dread Taibbi discussions on metafilter, because they're apparently pre-poisoned by peoples ideas abut the guy. Either they're concern-trolling (he's basically right, but he's too darn hyperbolic!) or else they're just bullshit ad-homs (he used to write at the exile, they're a bunch of nihilists!).

What I do see in these threads - a bunch of people arguing, apparently from their own authority, that he has no idea what he's talking about and is making things up and understands nothing about his subjects (and has no fact checkers or editors, obviously, because any lone crank blogger like him can make libellous statements whenever he likes because he's accountable to nobody, not a national magazine, not a book publisher, not their respective lawyers, nobody!)

What I don't see- any actual damage to Taibbi's credibility. Can't find much of it anywhere else, either, and I just spent some time looking. Now I'll grant you, the media, the web, verily the whole world hates bankers, and they have no defenders in the business press, they have nobody on their sides at all save anonymous, but authoritative, commenters on mefi.

But even so, you'd think, given Taibbi's prominence, that a person could instantly set up a very popular website that did nothing but debunk all his obvious falsities and exaggerations and misunderstandings, every time he publishes an article. It could even be just a set of links pointing to all the vicious takedowns and debunkings and fact-checkings and fiskings that I just failed to find.

Anybody want to help the world out with this one? Or maybe you could just do it in-thread, here? Because apparently I won't find it, otherwise.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:34 PM on February 22 [9 favorites]


The point being - as these banks found and exploited an unfortunate loophole in the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, I have every expectation they will seek, and exploit, chinks in the supposed armor here. Any time we lay down a set of markers and say, "You guys regulate themselves," we're courting trouble.
posted by kgasmart at 12:37 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Investment Banks being in the commodity business has nothing to do with GLB or FSM of '99.

Goldman has owned J.Aron since the early 80's.

The Fed has essentially reversed its '03 decision where it allowed Citi and JPM to retain its commodity trading arms by requiring much greater capital levels - making them uneconomic to operate.- hence Citi sold Philbro and JPM is in the process of selling their business. RBS I believe has also exited the business - which had large US ops. But again were focusing on the vampire squid here - and nothing at all to do with those changes.

Not only that but the rules GS were manipulating aren't even from a US regulator - but rather the LME based in London.

The Bank Holding Company thing is bullshit - but not because they were allowed to do it, but because they were allowed to walk away from it when they didn't need it anymore. But I find it hard to believe that as he asserts Goldman et al lobbied for certain provisions written into laws predicated on them all nearly failing.

The only thing he has 100% right is basically a condensed version of the NYTimes expose.

hap_hazard - read the alphaville stuff on why this happens. Read up a bit on how the metals trading world is regulated or lack thereof. Read up on things that have happened in this world for decades.

But the problem with Taibbi isn't that he's wrong - its that he takes lots of things that are true (or in this case sorta true) but not really related to one another. Finds a way to weave them together in a way that sounds good to non-experts - but to people with even a casual understanding of things is pretty much completely wrong, and he never follows through on good alleys of discovery his research turns up.

There is a great piece to be written on the shadiness in commodity markets - seriously read the Alphaville stuff - its really good.

There was a great piece to be written on how fucked up the pension system and its wannabe reformers are - as well as how pensions are managed, but again he botched it to make its sound more sensationalistic.

The ratings agencies - I mean the story there was "here's this thing that no one whose smart pays any attention to, everyone assumes is crooked, and are generally seen to be less smart than the people they are surveying - why have we allowed them to matter" -

That's why he's so frustrating - not because he's wrong - but because he's so close to actually helping people understand how they are getting screwed or how are system is screwed up but instead trades that away for page views.

kgasmart- Those changes in the risk models - and their required approval from the fed represent a decrease in self-regulation. That doesn't mean there doesn't need to be more outside supervision - but these new models are a step in the right direction.
posted by JPD at 1:16 PM on February 22 [6 favorites]


Only if it can be done in a way that causes no short-term pain to anybody at all, apparently.

Well, that’s the rub. Nothing is going to change that might slow down traffic or delay a TV show. Things don’t often change until they get really bad, at which point everyone loses. The hope is that the people at the top and the bottom realize this at the same time and make gradual changes. Not an easy trick to pull off.
posted by bongo_x at 4:18 PM on February 22


I believe that gs and ms are still bank holding companies.
posted by double bubble at 4:56 PM on February 22


Now that Taibbi's moving on to First Look, maybe he'll be able to say what he really thinks.
posted by Twang at 5:33 PM on February 22


That's why he's so frustrating - not because he's wrong - but because he's so close to actually helping people understand how they are getting screwed or how are system is screwed up but instead trades that away for page views.

It seems like you are saying that the worldview that taints his malformed reportage, as defined by your knowledge of topics he writes about, is in fact correct, and requires better reporting, because its so important that it impacts everyone, but don't read him.

The reason people may read Taibbi's commentary is that it possibly matches their general experiences in the economy, and maybe more importantly, doesn't write about the instances of individual "scumminess" as isolated, but of a pattern?

A 50-something worker that has had the new economy flatten or eliminate his wages over the last 35 years, watched his kids graduate more expensive colleges into less opportunity due to a recession caused by failed speculation by investment banks requiring reckless lending by supposed financial professionals, and watched those financial institutions gain more power over wider aspects of his life, legislatively, financially, and politically would probably be interested in reporting that took a wider view, and maybe at least considered the possibility that something has gone terribly wrong.

That worker's understanding is that the "scumminess" has costs, and it looks like he is the one that has to pay them.

But who is writing knowledgeably about the financialization of all, and the attending rent collections at every chokepoint, and the obvious damage caused by the tragic consumption of all loose change in all couches by the most powerful financial forces in history, to the detriment of all but an ever decreasing subset of the population that are culturally removed from everything but their class?
posted by dglynn at 8:01 PM on February 22 [11 favorites]


Except many of those things you place at the feet of wall street weren't wall streets fault - indeed the quid pro quo for deregulation was support for increased leverage for consumers such that the living standards continued to increase while disguising real wage stagnation. Thus keeping politicians in power. The corruption flows both ways.

And again the thing to remember about the mortgage crisis wasn't that it was risky loans - its that it was lending that was perceived to be nearly riskless that turned out to be very slightly risky. And politicians didn't want to step in because voters loved feeling richer because their home was increasing in value.

The reality is that the us reaped such an unbelievable windfall from being the only industrial power with an industrial base in 1945 that it was almost inevitable that at some point growth would mean revert. You can't lay wage stagnation on wall street.

I think John Lanchester writing in the LRB does an excellent job. There are also lots of bloggers whom I may not agree with their ultimate conclusion they have a lot of domain expertise and can explain what's going on in a way that isn't "grar financial is at I on" or " vampire squid"
posted by JPD at 5:59 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]


I wonder what kind of compensation Taibi is getting from First Look.

The extraordinary promise of the new Greenwald-Omidyar venture
Omidyar tells Rosen that the site will be a company rather than a nonprofit, but that "all proceeds... will be reinvested in the journalism." If that's the case, it will be a sort of quasi-nonprofit: able to sell ads and otherwise act like a publishing company but paying little to no taxes.
Huh. Snowden's data has gotta be worth a substantial amount to some people, which is also interesting. Omidyar seems like a decent guy to me, though.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:17 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]


It used to be that you would only hear of plotlines like this in the context of sci-fi, in which evil entities use a virus to put massive oil tankers in a position to be capsized or use subsidiaries to move around strategically important metals and secretly corner the market.

But these sorts of leeching global finance corporations are viruses, self-propagating and endangering our lives. And they are the result of a singularity—a corporate one, in which corporations now have both the rights and intelligence of humans and the global reach of nonhuman networks. Hello, Da Vinci virus! Hello, Skynet! They're already here.
posted by limeonaire at 2:30 PM on February 23


Speaking of financial journalism: Deal Me Out - A stacked deck at the New York Times
posted by homunculus at 8:33 PM on March 5


Raging Against Hacks With Muckraker Turned Magazine-Maker Matt Taibbi
Taibbi says his decision to leave Rolling Stone was predicated in part on the need to make a change and “keep from falling into a pattern,” and partly by his desire to “be on Glenn’s side.” Glenn being Glenn Greenwald, who, along with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, is currently editing another First Look property, the national-security-centric The Intercept, which has been live since February. “Glenn’s in this position of being a reporter trying to put out material that came from a whistle-blower, and now they’re both essentially in exile. It’s crazy. If the press corps that existed in the ’60s and ’70s had seen this situation, they’d be rising as one and denouncing the government for it,” Taibbi says.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:54 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I'm so pleased with First Look's The Intercept thus far, worth reading everything they post.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:07 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


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