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]
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]
Tim Geithner says he doesn't know how he went from a "mediocre student" to leading the response to the "largest destruction of GDP in world history." His resume highlights were from addressing economic crises in developing countries in ways that correlated strongly to increasing poverty and reducing growth. His main response to critics of his "bailout the top" approach is that disaster was the only alternative.
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]
US Justice Department suing Standard and Poor's over a "scheme to defraud investors" before the financial crisis. More details on these recent developments from The Tech online edition here, which notes: "For many years, the ratings agencies have defended themselves successfully in civil litigation by saying their ratings were independent opinions, protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech. Developments in the wake of the financial crisis have raised questions about the agencies’ independence, however." Reuters opts to let S&P break the news for themselves here.
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)
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]
Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs? The Real Housewives of Wall Street (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.
Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that." I put down my notebook. "Just that?" "That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."
"The first thing that needs to happen, I think, is to get these people out of their homes," a man wearing a bespoke blue-striped shirt, a Hermés tie patterned with elephants and Ferragamo loafers said recently. But, maybe Wall Street doesn't understand why foreclosure fraud is so dangerous to property rights? And, the Obama administration doesn't understand why HAMP has been a portrait in failure for homeowners (in eight parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII.)
Six Simple Ways to Fix Wall Street. "Elements of our Six Simple Steps are in the pending legislation. If they're part of what's adopted, we may get true and lasting reform. If they're not, it won't be long before Wall Street is back to business -- and bailouts -- as usual."
Tonight on PBS, Frontline airs a new investigative report entitled The Warning (sneak peaks 1 & 2), which profiles Brooksley Born, who (as head of the CFTC from '96-'99) was almost alone among regulators in warning of the potential dangers of derivatives.
Last week the House Committee on Financial Services approved legislation to regulate derivatives. Some critics contend that the legislation does not go far enough, and there is fear that there are too many exemptions to the rules: reforming the $42 trillion market for credit swaps is crucial if taxpayers are to be protected from future rescues of institutions deemed not only too big but also too interconnected to fail. [more inside]
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.
Newsweek discusses Obama's "War on the Rich," a timely story, considering Bloomberg's recent christening of the "Obama Bear Market." And on a tangential note, TPM points out that those bankruptcy law reforms enacted under the Bush administration specifically included new provisions aggressively lobbied for by the "International Swaps and Derivatives Association," which were designed to protect the derivatives and swap industries. Yet another example of good timing. [more inside]