Wells Fargo Fined $185 Million for Fraudulently Opening Accounts [The New York Times] “For years, Wells Fargo employees secretly issued credit cards without a customer’s consent. They created fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services. They set up sham accounts that customers learned about only after they started accumulating fees. On Thursday, these illegal banking practices cost Wells Fargo $185 million in fines, including a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the largest such penalty the agency has issued. Federal banking regulators said the practices, which date back to 2011, reflected serious flaws in the internal culture and oversight at Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest banks. The bank has fired at least 5,300 employees who were involved. In all, Wells Fargo employees opened roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards that may not have been authorized by customers, the regulators said in a news conference. The bank has 40 million retail customers.” [more inside]
It was 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Markets were in turmoil. Banks were failing left and right. I worked at a major investment bank, and while I didn’t think the disastrous deal I’d done would cause its collapse, my losses were quickly decimating its commodities profits for the year... [more inside]
The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase's Worst Nightmare. "Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking." [more inside]
The last mystery of the financial crisis. It's long been suspected that ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's helped trigger the meltdown. A new trove of embarrassing documents shows how they did it. by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.
Wall Street begins playing again with the same matches that burned the economy in 2008 From the New York Times: "The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good. Once more, arcane-sounding financial products like collateralized debt obligations are being minted on Wall Street. " (View article on a single page) [more inside]
Wall Street's leaders have utterly escaped jail. "There have been no arrests of senior Wall Street executives." Frontline examines why the United States federal government didn't go after the financial titans. (via)
"Of the top 100 Swiss companies, 49 give shareholders a consulting vote on the pay of executives. A few other countries, including the United States and Germany, have introduced advisory "say on pay" votes in response to the anger over inequality and corporate excess that drove the Occupy Wall Street movement. Britain is also planning to implement rules in late 2013 that will give shareholders a binding vote on pay and "exit payments" at least every three years. Minder's initiative goes further, forcing all listed companies to have binding votes on compensation for company managers and directors, and ban golden handshakes and parachutes. It would also ban bonus payments to managers if their companies are taken over, and impose severe penalties — including possible jail sentences and fines — for breaches of these new rules."
"We decided to go on an adventure through the financial statements of one bank [Wells Fargo], to explore exactly what they do and do not show, and to gauge whether it is possible to make informed judgments about the risks the bank may be carrying. We chose a bank that is thought to be a conservative financial institution, and an exemplar of what a large modern bank should be."
Secret and Lies of the Bailout. "The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come." [Via]
Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality: "Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors, [saying] it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market… Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who modern investors so admire, [never] used the term "economics" by itself, but only in conjunction with politics; they called it political economy… The investors' problem is that they mistake the period between 1991 and 2008 as the norm and keep waiting for it to return."
Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? "A whistleblower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals."
The Destruction of Economic Facts - "Renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues that the financial crisis wasn't just about finance—it was about a staggering lack of knowledge" (via) [more inside]
In his Oscar acceptance speech, documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson reminded viewers worldwide that "not a single financial executive has gone to jail" for the fraud that created the 2008 financial meltdown. His film Inside Job (on Netflix DVD) explains, among other things, that the crisis was avoidable. See also the Inside Job trailer and a subsequent followup video in which Ferguson says that many sources "mysteriously backed out" before being filmed. He also spoke at MIT in January.
"The World", an ambitious real estate project conceived at the height of the real estate boom, is sinking back into the sea.
September 18, 2008 - Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy four days earlier and the Federal Reserve had authorized the New York Fed to lend up to $85 billion to insurance giant AIG. That afternoon, Nancy Pelosi called Henry Paulson to ask for a full briefing the next morning. "They said, 'That will be too late. That will be too late. Tomorrow morning, 9 o'clock will be too late.' ... 'We were not allowed to tell Congress, but since you called, we're going to answer your questions.'" The Bush administration prohibited its own top officials from briefing Congress on the financial crisis.
Today, while testifying for only the second time on Capitol Hill since the financial crisis began, [former Fed chairman] Alan Greenspan said the Fed closely monitored the subprime market [...]"I was right 70% of the time, but I was wrong 30% of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years...". But Greenspan's defense of his record today rang hollow to many seasoned observers, if not downright deceitful.
Matt Taibbifilter: Among other things, the GAO report noted that the entire OTS had only one insurance specialist on staff — and this despite the fact that it was the primary regulator for the world's largest insurer! This week's MeFi stories have generally failed to explain the reasoning that caused the recession, even though Jon Stewart was basically on the mark. Now, Rolling Stone's only reporter lays it all out The Big Takeover, a typical combination of zealous snark and the overlooked, damning facts needed to clear up a ridiculously complicated story.
"Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund." Also: exploding Range Rovers and the environmental impacts on elves. (Pre-vi-ous-ly.)
Protests have rocked Reykjavík since Tuesday: Envious of Obama, Icelanders hurl yogurt and stage riots for new leaders, Global financial crisis overwhelms tiny Iceland, Flickr set of pictures of Tuesday's protest in front of parliament (complete with pepper spray on camera lens), AFP photos from Tuesday's protest, video from protests 1, 2, 3 & 4, Icelandic protesters pelt PM's car (includes short video). New age of rebellion and riot stalks Europe, The Icelandic "Facebook Revolution", Iceland is Burning part 1 & part 2 and Reuters factbox on Iceland and its economic crisis.
The cover of a major financial publication warns: If you're holding U.S. Treasuries, GET OUT NOW! [more inside]
Synthetic CDO's are complex little known financial instruments (insurance contracts) that are on the brink of triggering "the most colossal rights issue in the history of the world, all at once .. mandatory." If, out of a list of several hundred major companies, any nine go bankrupt, the CDO's are in default, which would mean a mass transfer of cash (real money) from unsuspecting investors around the world goes into the banking system. How much? Nobody knows, but it’s many trillions. Banks will be flush with cash, perhaps ending the credit crisis, while many investors (individuals, charities, municipalities) will be wiped out. Alternatively, the triggering of default on the trillions of synthetic CDOs could be a disaster that tips the world from recession into depression. Nobody knows, but it won’t be a small event. Thus far the count is six: three Icelandic banks, Countrywide, Lehman and Bear Stearns.
Sequoia Capital presentation on the bleak scenarios for the economy and how start-ups should prepare. Last week the famous (the firm funded Apple, Oracle, Cisco and Google, among others) venture capital firm Sequoia Capital held a meeting for the firm’s portfolio companies. There, partners presented their views on what went wrong with the economy, what the prospects are for a quick recovery (Hint: the presentation is called 'R.I.P. Good Times' ) and what startups can do to survive. Here are the PowerPoint slides used in their presentation. I suggest a stiff drink before viewing. VIA [more inside]
Bill Moyers interviews George Soros on the financial crisis. Soros discusses market fundamentalism and the causes of the current crisis, as well as what can be done, and how this meltdown will change the global economy. (via The Big Picture) [more inside]
While the Wall Street financial crisis gripped the world Icelanders woke up one day to find that the Icelandic state had forcibly taken over the country's 3rd biggest bank, Glitnir. The worry is now that one of the two larger banks could also fail and the state wouldn't have the resources to do anything as the two remaining of the big 3 have assets totaling 10 times the GDP of Iceland. While the Central Bank claims it was the only option in a bad situation, prior bad blood between one of the Central Bank's directors, a former Prime Minister, and the main owner of Glitnir have some wondering if Icelanders have just been witness to "the biggest bank robbery in Icelandic history." [Warning: The story you are about to read may make you reconsider the verisimilitude of soap operas]