Fed Audit Bitterly Opposed By Treasury

Huffingtonpost.com 3/9/2010

The Treasury Department is vigorously opposed to a House-passed measure that would open the Federal Reserve to an audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a senior Treasury official said Monday. Instead, the official said, the Treasury prefers a substitute offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), and would like to see it enacted as part of the Senate bill.Fed Audit Treasury

The Watt measure, however, while claiming to increase transparency, actually puts new restrictions on the GAO’s ability to perform an audit.

Secretary Tim Geithner, Assistant Treasury Secretary Alan Krueger and Gene Sperling, a counselor to the secretary, held a briefing Monday with new media reporters and financial bloggers during which they discussed the Fed audit and other topics. Under the briefing’s ground rules, the officials could be paraphrased but not quoted, and the paraphrase could not be connected to a specific official.

HuffPost reporter Sam Stein lodged what he called a “formal complaint” against the ground rules. The complaint was noted and the briefing began.

Asked whether he supports the House-passed measure to open the Fed to an audit, which was cosponsored by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), a senior Treasury official said he is intensely opposed to it.

The official said the measure would undermine the independence of monetary policy and could restrict the ability of the Fed to act in times of crisis. He said that the GAO already has audit authority and that the chairman routinely testifies before Congress.

He said he supports full disclosure when it comes to the scale of Fed lending and wouldn’t draw a bright line around auditing certain activities, but wants to make sure it maintained its independence.

The Watt measure, however, while claiming to increase transparency, actually puts new restrictions on the GAO’s ability to perform an audit.

Secretary Tim Geithner, Assistant Treasury Secretary Alan Krueger and Gene Sperling, a counselor to the secretary, held a briefing Monday with new media reporters and financial bloggers during which they discussed the Fed audit and other topics. Under the briefing’s ground rules, the officials could be paraphrased but not quoted, and the paraphrase could not be connected to a specific official.

HuffPost reporter Sam Stein lodged what he called a “formal complaint” against the ground rules. The complaint was noted and the briefing began.

Asked whether he supports the House-passed measure to open the Fed to an audit, which was cosponsored by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), a senior Treasury official said he is intensely opposed to it.

The official said the measure would undermine the independence of monetary policy and could restrict the ability of the Fed to act in times of crisis. He said that the GAO already has audit authority and that the chairman routinely testifies before Congress.

He said he supports full disclosure when it comes to the scale of Fed lending and wouldn’t draw a bright line around auditing certain activities, but wants to make sure it maintained its independence.

A lack of independence, he said, could lead to inflation and otherwise undermine progressive priorities.

He said, however, that he would be supportive of efforts that would help the Fed earn back some of the credibility it has lost over the past few years.

HuffPost asked if central bank liquidity swaps — foreign currency trades worth hundreds of billions of dollars — should be subject to an audit. The official said that the identity of the countries that received dollars was made public as was the amount each got. It worked well and was good policy, he said, and opening it to audit could undermine its future effectiveness.

The purpose of the swaps, he said, was to make sure that foreign central banks had enough dollars to meet their obligations. The effort kept interest rates low, he said.

A member of Congress, told of the unnamed Treasury official’s comment, asked not to be named and said that Geithner, a former Fed president, should recuse himself from Fed audit legislation discussions, given that the audit would cover his own actions during the crisis.

And Rep. Grayson said he finds Treasury’s opposition to the audit troubling. “There is a growing feeling on the part of real Democrats that the president is getting bad advice from people who have sold out to Wall Street,” said Grayson. “And opposing a measure that passed overwhelmingly in the House with bipartisan support at the [Financial Services] Committee level, based up on legislation that now has 317 cosponsors in the House, shows that the president may be getting bad advice.”

The idea that the Fed’s mission would be undermined by an audit, said Grayson, “is a scarecrow erected by people who want to cover up the actions of the Fed for their own purposes, including those who actually have worked at part of the Fed, to prevent accountability at any cost.”

Geithner served as president of the New York Fed during the financial crisis.

“It’s interesting that the Fed regards the simple fact that people find out what it does as somehow being unduly restrictive. We are a government of laws, not of men,” said Grayson.

“It’s certainly no surprise that banking insiders at Treasury don’t want transparency at the Fed,” said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Rep. Paul. “They are wrapped up in the central bank shenanagins too, and do not want their wheelings and dealings out in the open any more than Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke,”

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Los Angeles to Pull Investments from Foreclosure-Heavy Financial Firms…will others follow?

Los Angeles to Pull Investments from Foreclosure-Heavy Financial Firms
Monday, March 8th, 2010, 2:59 pm by JON PRIOR

As the distressed housing market in the City Of Angels continues to grow, the entity that oversees operations, the City of Los Angeles, is its pulling investments and deposits out of financial institutions it deems are not cooperating with local, state and national foreclosure prevention efforts.

The Los Angeles City Council instructed the city attorney to draft a new ordinance, called the Responsible Banking Initiative, that would require banks looking to do business with the city to submit a report on investments in local communities. The “report cards” would give insight to policy makers on the bank’s investment in the city. The city currently holds almost $30bn in investments, including savings and pension funds.

According to the real estate data provider, RealtyTrac, the Los Angeles metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had the 32nd highest foreclosure rate in the country in 2009 as foreclosures remained concentrated the sand states. There, one in every 25 homes received a foreclosure filing, a 37% increase from 2008. California leads all states with the most permanent modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), according to the US Treasury Department.

The motion was introduced by Councilmember Richard Alarcón. His original proposal came in February 2009. It pertained to bank cooperation with foreclosure prevention, but after a hearing in September, the council widened the scope. Before the city makes an investment, it would examine bank location in the city, how many small business loans are offered and whether or not the bank re-negotiates on foreclosures.

“The City of Los Angeles has an obligation to ensure that not only are our taxpayers dollars spent properly, but that they are also invested in a way that gives the greatest benefit to our City, and the report card created by the Responsible Banking Initiative will give us the information we need so we can invest smarter,” said Councilmember Richard Alarcón. “A slightly lower interest rate isn’t much of a deal, if the same bank is taking advantage of homeowners, refusing to issue small business loans or not opening branches or ATMs in low-income areas.”

Los Angeles would be the biggest city in the US to create reporting requirements for banks looking to do business with the city.

Write to Jon Prior.

Source: HousingWire.com

Wall Street’s Naked Swindle by: Matt Taibbi

Short-Selling Vs. Naked Short-Selling: An Explanation

In “Wall Street’s Naked Swindle,” Matt Taibbi examines how a scheme to flood the market with counterfeit stocks helped kill Bears Stearns and Lehman Brothers — and the feds have yet to bust the culprits. The scheme that helped do in two of the five major investment banks in the U.S. is known as naked short-selling — the sale of shares you don’t have or won’t deliver. Normal short-selling, however, is legal and good for the market: it lets investors bet against companies that they believe will decrease in value.

To help explain his story, Taibbi heads to the white board and breaks down the differences between the two: click above to watch him explain short-selling (our buyer: Wilford Brimley, broker: Count Chocula, short-seller: Hervé Villechaize), and below for a discussion of its evil twin, naked short-selling. — Rolling Stone

Wall Street’s Naked Swindle

A scheme to flood the market with counterfeit stocks helped kill Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers — and the feds have yet to bust the culprits
MATT TAIBBI Posted Oct 14, 2009 9:30 AMPhoto

On Tuesday, March 11th, 2008, somebody — nobody knows who — made one of the craziest bets Wall Street has ever seen. The mystery figure spent $1.7 million on a series of options, gambling that shares in the venerable investment bank Bear Stearns would lose more than half their value in nine days or less. It was madness — “like buying 1.7 million lottery tickets,” according to one financial analyst.

But what’s even crazier is that the bet paid.

At the close of business that afternoon, Bear Stearns was trading at $62.97. At that point, whoever made the gamble owned the right to sell huge bundles of Bear stock, at $30 and $25, on or before March 20th. In order for the bet to pay, Bear would have to fall harder and faster than any Wall Street brokerage in history.

The very next day, March 12th, Bear went into free fall. By the end of the week, the firm had lost virtually all of its cash and was clinging to promises of state aid; by the weekend, it was being knocked to its knees by the Fed and the Treasury, and forced at the barrel of a shotgun to sell itself to JPMorgan Chase (which had been given $29 billion in public money to marry its hunchbacked new bride) at the humiliating price of … $2 a share. Whoever bought those options on March 11th woke up on the morning of March 17th having made 159 times his money, or roughly $270 million. This trader was either the luckiest guy in the world, the smartest son of a bitch ever or…

Or what? That this was a brazen case of insider manipulation was so obvious that even Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the pillow-soft-touch Senate Banking Committee, couldn’t help but remark on it a few weeks later, when questioning Christopher Cox, the then-chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “I would hope that you’re looking at this,” Dodd said. “This kind of spike must have triggered some sort of bells and whistles at the SEC. This goes beyond rumors.”

Cox nodded sternly and promised, yes, he would look into it. What actually happened is another matter. Although the SEC issued more than 50 subpoenas to Wall Street firms, it has yet to identify the mysterious trader who somehow seemed to know in advance that one of the five largest investment banks in America was going to completely tank in a matter of days. “I’ve seen the SEC send agents overseas in a simple insider-trading case to investigate profits of maybe $2,000,” says Brent Baker, a former senior counsel for the commission. “But they did nothing to stop this.”

The SEC’s halfhearted oversight didn’t go unnoticed by the market. Six months after Bear was eaten by predators, virtually the same scenario repeated itself in the case of Lehman Brothers — another top-five investment bank that in September 2008 was vaporized in an obvious case of market manipulation. From there, the financial crisis was on, and the global economy went into full-blown crater mode.

Like all the great merchants of the bubble economy, Bear and Lehman were leveraged to the hilt and vulnerable to collapse. Many of the methods that outsiders used to knock them over were mostly legal: Credit markers were pulled, rumors were spread through the media, and legitimate short-sellers pressured the stock price down. But when Bear and Lehman made their final leap off the cliff of history, both undeniably got a push — especially in the form of a flat-out counterfeiting scheme called naked short-selling.

Read this article HERE

See the movie “Stock Shock” on DVD to learn more about this. trailer at www.stockshockmovie.com

The Experts: “In NY they call us the plumbers. We’re the plumbers of Wall Street…and Nobody wants to hear what the plumber has to say until the SHIT backs up in the livingroom”

If you really get into all, you might want to visit DeepCapture by Patrick Byrne it was a mind-blowing experience and opened my eyes to a “whole new world”. He takes it to another level with names.

Here is another video of Matt Taibbi explaining how Goldman Sachs makes money.