It’s either RICO Act or Control Fraud.

We are entering the Age of Rage.

It is presently most visible in Europe as austerity programs that potentially could shred a half century of social entitlement advances are met with increasingly violent street demonstrations.  It is seen in the US Tea Party rallies with their fury that the very fabric which the US capitalist system is based on is being destroyed and discarded. Unfortunately these demonstrations of rage are focusing on the effects and not the cause. The cause is a systemic plaque of unenforced financial control fraud.

Americans witnessed CEOs arrested during the nightly news coverage of the S&L Crisis of the early 90’s. They were placated as they heard the details of over 1000 indictments of the perpetrators of fraud. In the aftermath of the tech bubble implosion ten years later, injured investors once again witnessed the most senior executives at Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Qwest and others being led off in handcuffs and disgrace to waiting police cruisers. Retirees with decimated retirement plans felt that some level of restitution had been made when 25 year sentences were meted out to these formerly high-flying felons.

After nearly two years since the greatest financial malfeasants in history and ten years since the last public example of financial crime, the public haven’t seen a single CEO sentenced to hard time for the financial meltdown. They have not had their thirst for revenge quenched by a single high level court case. Instead, the public infuriatingly witnesses politically crafted theater in congressional hearings that go nowhere, read watered down legislation that is replete with even richer lobbyist-authored loopholes and only occasionally see small headlines of quiet settlements with insulting token amends payments. Why? Were there no crimes committed? No laws broken?

The public is forced to accept excuses that we have enforcement agencies not enforcing, regulators not regulating and legislators not equipped to legislate properly in our modern fast moving financial world.  The public is left with the gnawing concern of whether it is incompetence or something much deeper, more troubling, and more sinister.  Confidence and trust in government and our democratically elected politicians continue to worsen from already pathetic levels.

The taxpayer while standing in long unemployment lines, reads in the newspapers of financial institutions that were making mind-numbing profits and paying horrendous executive bonuses suddenly being insolvent and needing taxpayer bailouts. Then as their unemployment benefits near exhaustion, they read of the banks’ profits soaring once again. These are the foundations of the emerging new age of public rage.

We have much more than a crisis of integrity. We have fraud that is so pervasive that it is now unknowingly institutionalized into our business and political culture. The sickening part is that it a like a cancer; if it’s not detected early, it will be too late to fight. We need to fully understand and prosecute the tenets of fraud before it is too late.

FRAUD

Fraud is the act of creating trust then betraying it. Fraud is deceit.

If I was to articulate this definition to the average person,  I believe the vast majority (without formal legal training) would immediately respond that this is exactly how they’d describe the financial crisis!  So why are there no indictments?  Is the fraud of liar’s loans, NINJA (No income, No Job, No Assets) loans, false housing appraisals, false AAA credit ratings and false contingent liability reporting so hard to prove? Not really. It takes an indictment and that’s often a much too political process in America.

Some would argue it was not intentional and therefore can’t be seen as a felony. They‘d say it is more a matter of civil damages. Again, wrong.

CONTROL FRAUD

What emerged from the S&P debacle was the concept of control fraud. At the core of financial control fraud is the notion that a CEO would deliberately use the S&L as a camouflage to make bad loans, thereby gutting the underwriting process while knowing full well that the loans would statistically fail over the long run. By doing this, money is made in the initial stages, exactly in the fashion of a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Profits are declared and rich bonuses are paid. Stocks soar and rich stock options are executed. Then when the inevitable day arrives as the defaults emerge, the CEO takes the company into bankruptcy with no claw-back provisions, or an even newer and richer approach – the CEO seeks government bailouts to replace the pillaged balance sheet.

Corporate Control Fraud might be viewed as having four tell-tales:

1.     Deliberately making bad loans or investments.

2.     Exceptionally High Growth (because improperly accounted profits are being booked today).

3.     The use of extraordinary leverage to maximize profits while profits are artificially available.

4.     False representation of actuarial appropriate loss reserves.

Sound eerily familiar?

The S&L debacle prompted the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) Law (US Code: Title 12,1831o). William K Black the author of “ The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry, “ argues that this law is presently being broken through the misrepresentation of bank asset positions.  Additionally, because the Prompt Corrective Action Law is not being enforced, the felony of accounting control fraud is being committed.

Control fraud theory was developed in the savings and loan debacle. It explained that the person controlling the S&L (typically the CEO) posed a unique risk because he could use it as a weapon.  The theory synthesized criminology (Wheeler and Rothman 1982), economics (Akerlof 1970), accounting, law, finance, and political science. It explained how a CEO optimized “his” S&L as a weapon to loot creditors and shareholders.

The weapon of choice was accounting fraud. The company is the perpetrator and a victim. Control frauds are optimal looters because the CEO has four unique advantages. He uses his ability to hire and fire to suborn internal and external controls and make them allies. Control frauds consistently get “clean” opinions for financial statements that show record profitability when the company is insolvent and unprofitable. CEOs choose top-tier auditors. Their reputation helps deceive creditors and shareholders.

Only the CEO can optimize the company for fraud. He has it invest in assets that have no clear market value. Professionals evaluate such assets-allowing the CEO to hire ones who will inflate values. Rapid growth (as in a Ponzi scheme) extends the fraud and increases the “take.” S&Ls optimized accounting fraud by loaning to uncreditworthy and criminal borrowers (who promised to pay the highest rates and fees because they did not intend to repay, but the promise sufficed for the auditors to permit booking the profits). The CEO extends the fraud through “sales” of the troubled assets to “straws” that transmute losses into profits. Accounting fraud produced guaranteed record profits-and losses.

CEOs have the unique ability to convert company assets into personal funds through normal corporate mechanisms. Accounting fraud causes stock prices to rise. The CEO sells shares and profits. The successful CEO receives raises, bonuses, perks, and options and gains in status and reputation. Audacious CEOs use political contributions to influence the external environment to aid fraud by fending off the regulators. Charitable contributions aid the firm’s legitimacy and the CEO’s status. S&L CEOs were able to loot the assets of large, rapidly growing organizations for many years. They used accounting fraud to mimic legitimate firms, and the markets did not spot the fraud. The steps that maximized their accounting profits maximized their losses, which dwarfed all other forms of property crimes combined. (1)

I have written extensively about the degree to which the banks 10K and 10Q balance sheets do not represent current fair market value of their assets. When the FDIC continuously takes over banks and declares that asset values are 25- 35% overvalued, there’s no further proof required. The banks, which are sold as part of the regular FDIC  “Friday night bank lottery” continuously see no CEOs indicted for falsely representing FDIC-insured assets. We the taxpayers are then unwittingly presented with the tab.

Secretaries Paulson and Geithner subverted the PCA law by allowing failed banks to engage in massive accounting fraud (which also means they are engaged in securities fraud). Treasury is telling the world that resolving the failed banks will require roughly $2 trillion dollars. That has to mean that the failed banks are insolvent by roughly $2 trillion. The failed banks, however, are reporting that they are not simply solvent, but “well capitalized.” The regulators flout PCA by permitting this massive accounting and securities fraud. (Note that by countenancing this fraud they make it extremely difficult to ever prosecute these elite white-collar frauds.)  (5)

Above, I made the assertion that indictments are too political a process in America. Control Fraud isn’t unique to just CEOs. Heads of sovereign governments and their empowered representatives also fall within this type of fraud. We once again see ourselves moving upwards hierarchically towards people in authority, who are charged with a fiduciary and judiciary responsibility, taking positions that enrich or politically benefit themselves at the expense of the innocent. This is fraud. Though we find ourselves asking, where are they when we most need them, we should be asking, who will bring them to justice?

If you think this is not widespread, how do you rationalize that it was recently reported that Goldman Sachs never had a trading day loss in April yet its clients in eight out of ten cases lost money.  Incompetence? Stupidity? The Financial Times reports “The trading operations of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase made money every single business day in the first quarter … Goldman’s trading desk recorded a profit of at least $25m(£16.8) on each of the quarter’s 63 working days, making more than $100m a day on 35 occasions, according to a regulatory filing issued on Monday …  JPMorgan also achieved a loss-free quarter in its trading unit – making an average of $118m a day, nearly $5m an hour”. Morgan Stanley reported trading profits on a mere 93% of the first quarter trading days. This defies any sort of logic in a freely trading markets, unless the markets are controlled and the game fixed. These are better odds than owning a casino.

As A frustrated Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge observes: “if you ever wanted to see what a monopoly looks like in chart form:

The firm did not record a loss of even $0.01 on even one day in the last quarter,” Durden says. “The statistic probability of this event is itself statistically undefined. Goldman is now the market – or, in keeping with modern market reality, Goldman is the ‘house,’ it controls the casino, and always wins. Congratulations America: you now have far, far better odds in Las Vegas that you have making money with your E-Trade account.” (7)

The famous Barnum & Bailey carnival barkers used to snidely boast “there’s a sucker born every minute”. The carnival games were notoriously fixed so the ‘sucker’ almost certainly lost. I’m not indicting anyone here (I will leave that to our alarmingly incompetent regulatory and enforcement agencies), but rather I’m only reinforcing why we have entered an age of public rage and why I felt compelled to write the Extend & Pretend series of articles.

GRESHAM’S LAW

As the concept of control fraud emerged from the S&L crisis, an expansion of Gresham’s Law — has begun to be sketched out by Bill Black —

It will no doubt emerge out of this depression.

Gresham’s Law describes how “bad money drives out good.” Expanding on that idea, what Black calls “A Gresham’s Dynamic” operates similarly, when cheaters profit and “the dishonest drive out the honest.”

CLICK FOR VIDEO

Dr. William Black, University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Thursday, Feb. 18th, 2010, 7:30-9:00 PM, at the Council Chamber.
The title of Dr. Black’s talk is: Why Elite Frauds Cause Recurrent, Intensifying Economic, Political and Moral Crises.


RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS (RICO) ACT

Under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering.   Racketeering activity includes:

In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages.

It seems it is the same names I continue to read about in the press. Do these financial institutions settle to avoid the magic ‘2 committed felony’ threshold qualification for a RICO indictment?

On March 29, 1989, financier Michael Milken was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud relating to an investigation into insider trading and other offenses. Milken was accused of using a wide-ranging network of contacts to manipulate stock and bond prices. It was one of the first occasions that a RICO indictment was brought against an individual with no ties to organized crime. Milken pled guilty to six lesser offenses rather than face spending the rest of his life in prison. On September 7, 1988, Milken’s employer, Drexel Burnham Lambert, was also threatened with a RICO indictment under the legal doctrine that corporations are responsible for their employees’ crimes. Drexel avoided RICO charges by pleading no contest to lesser felonies. While many sources say that Drexel pleaded guilty, in truth the firm only admitted it was “not in a position to dispute the allegations.” If Drexel had been indicted, it would have had to post a performance bond of up to $1 billion to avoid having its assets frozen. This would have taken precedence over all of the firm’s other obligations—including the loans that provided 96 percent of its capital. If the bond ever had to be paid, its shareholders would have been practically wiped out. Since banks will not extend credit to a firm indicted under RICO, an indictment would have likely put Drexel out of business. Is this really what is behind too big to fail prosecution? (6)

You don’t need a fancy high priced Philadelphia lawyer to tell you that “when the glove fits you can’t acquit!”  – A little old fashion common sense is all that is required.

CONCLUSION

The Age of Rage during the French revolution cost people their heads when the guillotine administered public justice daily for the angry masses. Political and bureaucratic heads will also roll in the future if justice is not soon administered. As Marie Antoinette learned too late, it may be much worse than merely the loss of an elected position with all its trappings.

It takes public rage for someone to spend the time to create expressions of frustration like the above graphic represents!

SOURCES:

(1) 08-30-08 The Control Fraud Theory Bizcovering

(2) US Code: Title 12, 1831o. Prompt Corrective Action

(3) April 2009 William K. Black on The Prompt Corrective Action Law Bill Moyers Journal

(4) Accounting Control Fraud Google Scholar

(5) 02-23-09 Why Is Geithner Continuing Paulson’s Policy of Violating the Law? The Huffington Post

(6) RICO – Wikipedia

(7) 05-12-10 Goldman’s Perfect Quarter Eric Fry The Daily Reckoning

C

Gordon T Long

Tipping Points

Mr. Long is a former senior group executive with IBM & Motorola, a principle in a high tech public start-up and founder of a private venture capital fund. He is presently involved in private equity placements internationally along with proprietary trading involving the development & application of Chaos Theory and Mandelbrot Generator algorithms.

Gordon T Long is not a registered advisor and does not give investment advice. His comments are an expression of opinion only and should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as recommendations to buy or sell a stock, option, future, bond, commodity or any other financial instrument at any time. While he believes his statements to be true, they always depend on the reliability of his own credible sources. Of course, he recommends that you consult with a qualified investment advisor, one licensed by appropriate regulatory agencies in your legal jurisdiction, before making any investment decisions, and barring that, you are encouraged to confirm the facts on your own before making important investment commitments.

© Copyright 2010 Gordon T Long. The information herein was obtained from sources which Mr. Long believes reliable, but he does not guarantee its accuracy. None of the information, advertisements, website links, or any opinions expressed constitutes a solicitation of the purchase or sale of any securities or commodities. Please note that Mr. Long may already have invested or may from time to time invest in securities that are recommended or otherwise covered on this website. Mr. Long does not intend to disclose the extent of any current holdings or future transactions with respect to any particular security. You should consider this possibility before investing in any security based upon statements and information contained in any report, post, comment or recommendation you receive from him.

Advertisements

With Banks Under Fire, Some Expect a Settlement: NYTimes.com

From left, Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News; Ramin Talaie for The New York Times

From left, Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general; Robert Khuzami, of the S.E.C.; and Preet Bharara, of the United States attorney’s office. The agencies are investigating Wall Street.

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and ERIC DASH

Published: May 13, 2010

It is starting to feel as if everyone on Wall Street is under investigation by someone for something.

News on Thursday that New York State prosecutors are examining whether eight banks hoodwinked credit ratings agencies opened yet another front in what is fast becoming the legal battle of a decade for the big names of finance.

Not since the conflicts at the center of Wall Street stock research were laid bare a decade ago, eventually resulting in a $1.4 billion industrywide settlement, have so many investigations swirled across the financial landscape.

Nearly two years after Washington rescued big banks with billions of taxpayer dollars, half a dozen government agencies are still trying, with mixed success, to peel back the layers of the collapse to determine who, if anyone, broke the rules.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, the United States attorney’s office and more are examining how banks created, rated, sold and traded mortgage securities that turned out to be some of the worst investments ever devised.

Virtually all of the investigations, criminal as well as civil, are in their early stages, and investigators concede that their job is daunting. The S.E.C. has been examining major banks’ mortgage operations since last summer, but so far, it has filed a civil fraud claim against just one big player: Goldman Sachs. Goldman has vowed to fight.

But legal experts are already starting to handicap potential outcomes, not only for Goldman but for the broader industry as well. Many suggest that Wall Street banks may seek a global settlement akin to the 2002 agreement related to stock research. Indeed, Wall Street executives are already discussing among themselves what the broad contours of such a settlement might look like.

“I would be stunned if any of these cases go to trial,” said Frank Partnoy, a professor of law at the University of San Diego. “I think Wall Street needs to put this scandal behind it as quickly as possible and move on.”

As part of the 2002 settlement, 10 banks paid $1.4 billion total and pledged to change the way their analysts and investment bankers interacted to prevent conflicts of interest. This time, the price of any settlement would probably be higher and also come with a series of structural reforms.

David Boies, chairman of the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, represented the government in its case against Microsoft and is now part of a federal challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban. He said a settlement by banks might be painful but would ultimately be something Wall Street could live with. “The settlement may be bad for everyone, but not disastrous for anyone,” he said.

A settlement also would let the S.E.C. declare victory without having to bring a series of complex cases. The public, however, might never learn what really went wrong.

“The government doesn’t have the personnel to simultaneously prosecute several investment banks,” said John C. Coffee, a Columbia Law School professor.

The latest salvo came on Thursday from Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general. His office began an investigation into whether banks misled major ratings agencies to inflate the grades of subprime-linked investments.

Many Americans are probably already wondering why this has taken so long. The answer is that these cases are tricky, like the investments at the center of them.

But regulators also concede that they were reluctant to pursue banks aggressively until the financial industry stabilized. The S.E.C., for one, is now eager to prove that it is on its game after failing to spot the global Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernard L. Madoff, or head off the Wall Street excesses that nearly sank the entire economy.

The stakes are high for both sides. At a minimum, the failure to secure a civil verdict, or at least a mammoth settlement, would be another humiliation for regulators.

Wall Street wants to put this season of scandal behind it. That is particularly so given the debate over new financial regulations that is under way on Capitol Hill. The steady flow of new allegations could strengthen calls for tougher rules.

Even worse would be a criminal charge, which could put a firm out of business even if that firm were ultimately found not guilty, as was the case with the accounting giant Arthur Andersen after the fraud at Enron.

“No firm in the financial services field has the stomach for a criminal trial,” Mr. Coffee said.

Bankers have been reluctant until now to take their case to the public. But that is changing as Wall Street chieftains like Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman take to the airwaves and New York politicians warn that the city’s economy will be endangered by the attack on some of the city’s biggest employers and taxpayers.

“In New York, Wall Street is Main Street,” Gov. David A. Paterson has said. “You don’t hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder.”

There are broader political consequences as well. At the top, there is President Obama, who was backed by much of Wall Street in 2008. Many of those supporters now privately say they are disillusioned and frustrated by his attacks on their industry, which remains a vital source of campaign contributions for both parties.

Closer to home, the man who hopes to succeed Mr. Paterson, Mr. Cuomo, is painting himself as the new sheriff of Wall Street. Another attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, rode a series of Wall Street investigations to the governor’s mansion in 2006.

But ultimately, it is what Wall Street does best — making money — that is already on trial in the court of public opinion.

Put simply, the allegations against Wall Street were prompted by evidence that the firms may have devised and sold securities to investors without telling them they were simultaneously betting against them.

Wall Street firms typically play both sides of trades, whether to help buyers and sellers of everything from simple stocks to complicated derivatives complete their transactions, or to make proprietary bets on whether they would rise or fall.

These activities form half of the four-legged stool on which Wall Street’s profits and revenue rest, the others being advising on mergers and acquisitions and helping companies issue stocks, bonds and other securities.

“This case is a huge deal. It has the potential to be the mother of all Wall Street investigations,” said Mr. Partnoy of the University of San Diego. “The worry is that the government will go after dealings that Wall Street thought were insulated from review.”

Even some Wall Street executives concede that all the scrutiny makes proprietary trading a bit dubious. “The 20 guys in the room with the shades drawn are toast,” one senior executive of a major bank said.

Ask Goldman Sachs to Give it Back! RALLY AT THE TREASURY 6/7/2010! HUFFINGTON POST

WE WANT A REFUND!

Cenk UygurHost of The Young Turks
Posted: May 24, 2010 06:44 AM

Sometimes when you explain to people that some of the most complicated financial transactions in the country were just side bets, they don’t really believe you. They think it’s an oversimplification. We couldn’t have wrecked the global economy because some people made side bets. These are sophisticated bankers with sophisticated financial instruments, so it must be more complicated than that. It isn’t. They bet one another, whoever lost got paid by the American taxpayer.

To be fair, sometimes they had the money to pay off one another without government bailouts, but not often. That’s because they were largely betting with money they never had. AIG is the perfect example. Their executives made hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses from the early wins in these bets, but then stuck the taxpayers with a $182 billion bill when they lost.

A credit default swap is when you bet that a certain asset is going to default. If you’re wrong, then you have to pay a little bit. If you’re right, you get paid a ton. So, AIG collected a lot of little winnings when they bet that mortgage backed securities would not go into default. But then when they did go into default, they lost big.

So, what does all of this have to do with us? Well, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke in their infinite wisdom decided that we should pay AIG’s bets for them. Did they go back and take the money the AIG executives got for their earlier so-called winnings? No, of course not. Did they even inquire into whether these bets were on actual assets that the other parties were on the hook for? Apparently not.

Let me explain that more. If you bought a package of mortgage backed securities and wanted to insure it in case anything went wrong, that’s a fairly normal derivative. That basically works as insurance for your security. So, if we paid off people who actually owned those securities, it still wouldn’t be right in my opinion but it would be a lot more understandable. The argument would be that it would destabilize the economy too much if all of the people holding the mortgages all of sudden lost most of their value.

But what if they didn’t hold the mortgages, they just bet on them? That’s like the difference between bailing out the Dallas Cowboys to help the local Dallas economy versus bailing out bookies who bet too much on the last Cowboys game. The latter is what we did with AIG. We paid off people’s bets for almost no reason.

I explain all of this because it’s very important that you understand that when we paid $62 billion to AIG “counterparties,” we weren’t saving the economy, we were paying off the bookies. The money we gave them didn’t go toward saving one house or one mortgage or even a package of mortgages or even investors who bought the packages of mortgages. It went to paying off people who made side bets on the mortgages (and even sometimes put down bets on a made up collection of mortgages that didn’t even exist in the real world called “synthetic” collateralized debt obligations).

This is insanity. When you understand what really happened, you have one natural reaction – I want my money back. It’s like we paid Donald Trump for a bet he made against Steve Wynn. Why did we do that? I don’t give a damn if The Mirage or Caesar’s Casino won. Why did you pay them with my money?

So, we’re now starting a campaign to get our money back. I’d love to get the whole $62 billion paid out to the AIG counterparties (let alone the whole $182 billion we’ve sunk into AIG all together). But, we’re going to start out nice and modest. We’d like to have Goldman Sachs pay us our $12.9 billion back that they got from AIG.

That’s all taxpayer money. All of it went to Goldman for some silly bet they made with a buffoonish company that never had the money in the first place. As “sophisticated investors” they should have realized that AIG never really had the cash to pay them.

It’s like making a million dollar bet with your deadbeat friend. Do you really expect to get paid when he doesn’t have ten bucks to his name? How sophisticated can you be if you don’t even realize that your counterparties are broke? So, sad day for you, you made a bet with the wrong guy. That’s capitalism, baby. Go home, lick your wounds.

Except as we all know, that’s not how it worked out. Instead the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson decided to give them the money anyway, from the United States Treasury. Paulson had made $700 million dollars earlier when he made the same kind of deals as the head of Goldman before he became our Treasury Secretary. Not much bias there, right?

So, other than this enormous conflict of interest, why target just Goldman Sachs? Many reasons. They were one of the largest beneficiaries of this “backdoor bailout” from AIG. They were the ones who set up many of the securities in the first place. In fact, they sold $23 billion worth of this junk to AIG (they’re lucky we’re not asking for all of that back).They set them to blow and then bet against them. And they said they didn’t need the money away. Great, then we’ll take it back please.

Yes, they actually said they didn’t need the taxpayers to pay them. They said many times on the record that they were “properly hedged” and that they could have gotten paid off by other companies and didn’t need AIG to pay them. Fantastic! Out with it. We’re going to be generous and not charge much interest, so we’ll take a check for $13 billion made to the United States Treasury.

I’m not kidding. We are going to start applying pressure to both Goldman and the Treasury Department to return that money to its rightful owners, the American taxpayer. Of course, we need your help. We want everyone across the political spectrum to put pressure on the Treasury Department to ask for that money back and for Goldman to give it back.

I invite conservatives, libertarians and tea party activists to join us as well. Don’t you want your money back? Weren’t you angry about the bailouts? Don’t you have a sense that the people in Washington and Wall Street are screwing you? Well, this is how they’re doing it. Time to stand up and fight. Tell Goldman not to tread on you.

To show you how nonpartisan this is, the first protest will be aimed at one of the one guys most responsible for this atrocious decision – Tim Geithner. He is our Treasury Secretary and should be fighting for us and not for the bankers. He can fix his original mistake (he was at the New York Fed when they decided to give these backdoor bailouts at a hundred cents on the dollar when no one thought they were worth anywhere near that much) and get our money back from Goldman.

I have a question for the tea party participants, have you ever wondered why you’ve never protested the one guy in the Obama administration most responsible for the bailouts and the economy? That’s the Treasury Secretary. And the reason you’ve never protested him is because the corporate front groups who organize your protests love Geithner and want to look out for him. Isn’t it time you corrected your mistake, too?

Come join us. Let’s do a real protest of the people who caused this mess in the first place. And let’s get our damn money back.

Join us on Monday, June 7th at noon in front of the Treasury building to demand our $13 billion back from Goldman Sachs. First job is to get Geithner to recognize that he should have never given that particular money to that particular bank for that particular transaction. Or to come out and justify his actions. Let him step out, greet us and tell us why it was such a smart idea to pay off AIG’s side bets with Goldman. I’ll be looking forward to that.

And I’ll be looking forward to seeing you at the protest, no matter what your politics are. You can RSVP by going to the Facebook page for this event. See you there.

Join the Protest Here

UPDATE: Progressive Change Campaign Committee has joined our effort now and we are doing a joint petition to get our money back. Please sign the petition here so your voice can be heard on this even if you can’t make it out to the DC protest.

Everyone in the country should be able to agree to this. I was just on the Dylan Ratigan program on MSNBC and even the conservative on the panel agreed. Sign the petition and help get our money back.

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks

THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS: BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq.

THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF

MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS

BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq., Editor, Fraud Digest (szymoniak@mac.com),

April 15, 2010

On May 11, 2010, Judge Arthur J. Schack, Supreme Court, Kings County, New York, entered an order denying a foreclosure action with prejudice. The case involved a mortgage-backed securitized trust, SG Mortgage Securities Asset Backed Certificates, Series 2006-FRE2. U.S. Bank, N.A. served as Trustee for the SG Trust. See U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Emmanuel, 2010 NY Slip Op 50819 (u), Supreme Court, Kings County, decided May 11, 2010. In this case, as in hundreds of thousands of other cases involving securitized trusts, the trust inexplicably did not produce mortgage assignments from the original lender to the depositor to the securities company to the trust.

This particular residential mortgage-backed securities trust in the Emmanuel case had a cut-off date of July 1, 2006. The entities involved in the creation and early agreements of this trust included Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as servicer, U.S. Bank, N.A. as trustee, Bear Stearns Financial Products as the “swap provider” and SG Mortgage Securities, LLC. The Class A Certificates in the trust were given a rating of “AAA” by Dominion Bond Rating Services on July 13, 2006.

The designation “FRE” in the title of this particular trust indicates that the loans in the trust were made by Fremont Investment & Loan, a bank and subprime lender and subsidiary of Fremont General Corporation. The “SG” in the title of the trust indicates that the loans were “securitized” by Signature Securities Group Corporation, or an affiliate.

Fremont, a California-based corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 19, 2008, but continued in business as a debtor-in-possession. On March 31, 2008, Fremont General sold its mortgage servicing rights to Carrington Capital Management, a hedge fund focused on the subprime residential mortgage securities market. Carrington Capital operated Carrington Mortgage Services, a company that had already acquired the mortgage servicing business of New Century after that large sub-prime lender also filed for bankruptcy. Carrington Mortgage Services provides services a portfolio of nearly 90,000 loans with an outstanding principal balance of over $16 billion. Nearly 63% of the portfolio is comprised of adjustable rate mortgages. Mortgage servicing companies charge  substantially higher fees for servicing adjustable rate mortgages than fixed-rate mortgages. Those fees, often considered the most lucrative part of the subprime mortgage business, are paid by the securitized trusts that bought the loans from the original lenders (Fremont & New Century), after the loans had been combined into trusts by securities companies, like Financial Assets Securities Corporation, SG and Carrington Capital.

Carrington Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, is headed by Bruce Rose, who left Salomon Brothers in 2003 to start Carrington. At Carrington, Rose packaged $23 billion in subprime mortgages. Many of those securities included loans originated by now-bankrupt New Century Financial. Carrington forged unique contracts that let it direct any foreclosure and liquidations of the underlying loans. Foreclosure management is also a very lucrative part of the subprime mortgage business. As with servicing adjustable rate mortgages, the fees for the foreclosure management are paid ultimately by the trust. There is little or no oversight of the fees charged for the foreclosure actions. The vast majority of foreclosure cases are uncontested, but the foreclosure management firms may nevertheless charge the trust several thousand dollars for each foreclosure of a property in the trust.

The securities companies and their affiliates also benefit from the bankruptcies of the original lenders. On May 12, 2010, Signature Group Holdings LLP, (“SG”) announced that it had been chosen to revive fallen subprime mortgage lender Freemont General, once the fifth-largest U.S. subprime mortgage lender. A decision to approve Signature’s reorganization plan for Fremont was made through a bench ruling issued by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, CA. The bid for Fremont lasted nearly two years, with several firms competing for the acquisition.

The purchase became much more lucrative for prospective purchasers in late March, 2010, when Fremont General announced that it would settle more than $89 million in tax obligations to the Internal Revenue Service without actually paying a majority of the back taxes. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana Division, approved a motion that allowed Fremont General to claim a net operating loss deduction for 2004 that is attributable for its 2006 tax obligations, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, Fremont General will deduct additional 2004 taxes, because of a temporary extension to the period when companies can claim the credit. The extension from two years to five went into effect when President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. While approved by the bankruptcy court judge, the agreement must also meet the approval of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, but according to the SEC filing, both Fremont General and the IRS anticipate that it will be approved. In all, Fremont’s nearly $89.4 million tax assessment was reduced to about $2.8 million, including interest. In addition, as a result of the IRS agreement, a California Franchise Tax Board tax claim of $13.3 million was reduced to $550,000.

Another development that made the purchase especially favorable for SG was the announcement on May 10, 2010, that Federal Insurance Co. has agreed to pay Fremont General Corp. the full $10 million loss limits of an errors and omissions policy to cover subprime lending claims, dropping an 18-month battle over whether the claims were outside the scope of its bankers professional liability policies.

All of these favorable developments are part of a long history of success for Craig Noell, the head of Signature Group Holdings, the winning bidder for Fremont. Previously, as a member of the distressed investing area at Goldman Sachs, Noell founded and ran Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending, investing Goldman’s proprietary capital in “special situations opportunities.”

Bruce Rose’s Carrington Mortgage Services and Craig Noell’s Signature Group Holdings are part of the story of the attempted foreclosure on Arianna Emmanuel in Brooklyn, New York. U.S. Bank, N.A., as Trustee for SG Mortgage Securities Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2006 FRE-2 attempted to foreclose on Arianna Emmanuel. The original mortgage had been made by Fremont Investment & Loan (the beneficiary of the $100 milion tax break and the $10 million insurance payout discussed above).

To successfully foreclose, the Trustee needed to produce proof that the Trust had acquired the loan from Fremont. At this point, the document custodian for the trust needed only to produce the mortgage assignment. The securities company that made the SG Trust, the mortgage servicing company that serviced the trust and U.S. Bank as Trustee had all made frequent sworn statements to the SEC and shareholders that these documents were safely stored in a fire-proof  vault.

Despite these frequent representations to the SEC, the assignment relied upon by U.S. Bank, the trustee, was one executed by Elpiniki Bechakas as assistant secretary and vice president of MERS, as nominee for Freemont. In foreclosure cases all over the U.S., assignments signed by Elpiniki Bechakas are never questioned. But on May 11, 2010, the judge examining the mortgage assignment was the Honorable Arthur J. Schack in Brooklyn, New York.

Bechakas signed as an officer of MERS, as nominee for Fremont, representing that the property had been acquired by the SG Trust in June, 2009. None of this was true. Judge Schack determined sua sponte that Bechakas was an associate in the law offices of Steven J. Baum, the firm representing the trustee and trust in the foreclosure. Judge Schack recognized that the Baum firm was thus working for both the GRANTOR and GRANTEE. Judge Schack wrote, “The Court is concerned that the concurrent representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C. of both assignor MERS, as nominee for FREMONT, and assignee plaintiff U.S. BANK is a conflict of interest, in violation of 22 NYCRR § 1200.0 (Rules of Professional Conduct, effective April 1, 2009) Rule 1.7, “Conflict of Interest: Current Clients.”

Judge Schack focused squarely on an issue that pro se homeowner litigants and foreclosure defense lawyers often attempt to raise – the authority of the individuals signing mortgage assignments that are used by trusts to foreclose. In tens of thousands of cases, law firm employees sign as MERS officers, without disclosing to the Court or to homeowners that they are actually employed by the law firm, not MERS, and that the firm is being paid and working on behalf of the Trust/Grantee while the firm employee is signing on behalf of the original lender/Grantor.

Did the SG Trust acquire the Emmanuel loan in 2006, the closing date of the trust, or in 2009, the date chosen by Belchakas and her employers? There are tremendous tax advantages being claimed by banks and mortgage companies based on their portfolio of nonperforming loans. There are also millions of dollars in insurance payouts being made ultimately because of non-performing loans. There are substantial fees being charged by mortgage servicing companies and mortgage default management companies – being paid by trusts and assessed on homeowners in default. The question of the date of the transfer is much more than an academic exercise.

As important as the question of WHEN, there is also the question of WHAT – what exactly did the trust acquire? What is the reason for the millions of assignments to trusts that flooded recorders’ offices nationwide starting in 2007 that were prepared by law firm employees like Bechakas or by employees of mortgage default companies or document preparation companies specializing is providing “replacement” mortgage documents. Why, in judicial foreclosure states, are there thousands of Complaints for Foreclosure filed with the allegations: “We Own the Note; we had the note; we lost the note.” Why do bankruptcy courts repeatedly see these same three allegations in Motions For Relief of Stay filed by securitized trusts attempting to foreclose? If the assignments and notes are missing, has the trust acquired anything (other than investors’ money, tax advantages and insurance payouts)? In many cases, the mortgage servicing company does eventually acquire the property – often by purchasing the property after foreclosure for ten dollars and selling it to the trust that had claimed ownership from the start.

Where are the missing mortgage assignments?

Bank Investigations Cheat Sheet: ProPublica

by Marian Wang, ProPublica – May 13, 2010

Here’s our attempt to lay out exactly what’s known about which banks are being investigated by whom and for what. We’re going to keep updating this page, so please send usstories or details we’ve missed. Related: Covering the Bank Investigations: A Cautionary Tale

  What has been reported What the bank has said
 
Citigroup
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal has reported that Citigroup is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. Also citing unnamed sources, Fox Business reported on May 12 that the SEC has an active civil investigation into Citigroup and has subpoenaed the firm, but has not issued any Wells notices. A report on May 12th by the Journal cited unnamed sources saying that the Department of Justice is scrutinizing a few CDO deals that Morgan Stanley bet against–but which were underwritten by Citigroup and UBS. Neither the SEC nor the Justice Department have confirmed these reports.

Citing two anonymous sources, The New York Times has reported that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating eight banks to determine whether they misled rating agencies in order to get higher ratings for their mortgage-related products; Citigroup has been named as one of the banks. Subpoenas were issued on May 12, according to the Times and the Dow Jones Newswires, both of which relied on anonymous sourcing for their reports.

Citigroup has declined to comment to us and other outlets.

Credit Agricole
Credit Agricole has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating separately. Credit Agricole did not immediately respond to the Times’ request for comment and has not yet responded to ours.

Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating. Credit Suisse declined to comment to the Times about the New York attorney general’s investigation.

Deutsche Bank
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal has reported that Deutsche Bank is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. Also citing unnamed sources, Fox Business reported on May 12 that the SEC has an active civil investigation into Deutsche and has subpoenaed the firm, but has not issued any Wells notices. Neither agency has confirmed these reports.

Deutsche Bank has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating separately.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment to Fox, the Journal, and the Times about possible investigations.

Goldman Sachs
The SEC has brought a civil fraud lawsuit against Goldman, alleging that the investment bank made “materially misleading statements and omissions” when it allowed a hedge fund to help create and bet against a CDO, called Abacus, without disclosing the hedge fund’s role to investors.

The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the probe,” reported in April that the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into Goldman’s CDO dealings following a referral from the SEC. Neither agency has confirmed this, but the AP, citing another unnamed source, has reported the same thing. Since then, many news organizations–including the The New York TimesABC News and the Washington Post–have also reported on the criminal probe, citing unnamed sources. No charges have been brought.

Goldman Sachs has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating separately.

Goldman called the SEC’s accusations “unfounded in law and fact.

After the reports of a criminal investigation, a Goldman Sachs spokesman declined to confirm that the bank had been contacted by the DOJ but also told several news outlets that “given the recent focus on the firm, we’re not surprised by the report of an inquiry. We would cooperate fully with any request for information.”

The bank has declined to comment to us on the New York attorney general’s investigation.

 
JP Morgan Chase
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal has also reported that JPMorgan Chase has received civil subpoenas from the SEC and is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. Neither the SEC nor the Justice Department has confirmed these reports. A JPMorgan spokesman told the Journal that the bank “hasn’t been contacted” by federal prosecutors and isn’t aware of a criminal investigation.

Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America)
Merrill has not been named in any SEC investigations. But as we pointed out, a lawsuit brought by a Dutch bank asserts that Merrill Lynch did a CDO deal that was “precisely” like Goldman’s. The SEC has declined to comment on whether it is investigating the deal.

Merrill Lynch has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

Merrill has said its CDO deal was not like Goldman’s, calling Goldman’s Abacus deal an “entirely different transaction.”

The bank did not immediately return the Times’ request for comment about the investigation by Coumo, but when we called and asked, a spokesman from Bank of America, which merged with Merrill, said, “We are cooperating with the attorney general’s office on this matter.”


Morgan Stanley
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reported on May 12 that the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into Morgan Stanley’s CDO dealings, including its role in helping design and betting against two sets of CDOs from 2006 known as Jackson and Buchanan. The Justice Department declined to comment. No charges have been brought, and according to the Journal, the probe is “at a preliminary stage.” A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said the bank had “no knowledge of a Justice Department investigation into these transactions.” The Journal reported that the SEC has subpoenaed Morgan Stanley on several occasions, but the bank says it has received no Wells notices, which would indicate pending SEC charges.

Morgan Stanley has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said on May 12that the firm has “not been contacted by the Justice Department about the transactions being raised by The Wall Street Journal, and we have no knowledge of a Justice Department investigation into these transactions.”

The investment bank declined to comment to the Times about the Coumo’s investigation.


UBS
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reported that UBS has received civil subpoenas from the SEC and is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. In a report on May 12, the Journal reported that the Justice Department is scrutinizing a few CDO deals that Morgan Stanley helped design and bet against–but which were marketed by Citigroup and UBS. Neither the SEC nor the Justice Department has confirmed these reports. The firm has not disclosed that it has gotten any Wells notices.

UBS has also been named as one of the banks New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

A UBS spokesman has declined to comment on any of the investigations.

Moooove Over SLACKERS!! NY AG CUOMO probing 8 banks over securities

AP Source: NY AG probing 8 banks over securities

NEW YORK — The New York attorney general has launched an investigation into eight banks to determine whether they misled ratings agencies about mortgage securities, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

finance-20100513-US.Wall.Street.InvestigationAttorney General Andrew Cuomo is trying to figure out if banks provided the agencies with false information in order to get better ratings on the risky securities, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been made public.

Cuomo’s office is investigating Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, UBS AG, Citigroup Inc., Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole and Merrill Lynch, which is now part of Bank of America Corp.

Representatives from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Credit Agricole declined to comment. Others were not immediately available comment.

During the housing boom, Wall Street banks often packaged pools of risky subprime mortgages together. The securities were then typically given top-notch ratings and investors purchased them, in part, because of their high ratings.

The ratings, given out by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, are used as a guide for investors to judge how risky an investment might be.

As the housing market collapsed and more customers fell behind on repaying their mortgages, the securities began to fail.

The securities have been widely blamed for exacerbating the credit crisis and costing investors and the banks themselves billions of dollars in losses. The ratings agencies have come under fire for having given such high ratings to securities that soured.

The attorney general’s probe comes as federal regulators are investigating whether some of the banks misled investors when marketing and selling the securities and other investments that were tied to mortgages.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with fraud over its packaging of mortgage securities. Goldman is facing a separate criminal investigation into the same securities. Goldman has denied the charges and plans to defend itself.

Earlier this week it was reported that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Morgan Stanley misled investors about its role in a pair of $200 million derivatives whose performance was tied to mortgage-backed securities.

The increased scrutiny over how banks managed, packaged and portrayed mortgage securities and derivatives comes as Congress discusses a major overhaul of financial regulations. Politicians have said an overhaul would add more transparency to investments and trading.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Securities and Investments: Fraud Digest

Securities and Investments 

Morgan Stanley

Action Date: May 12, 2010 
Location: New York, NY 

EDITORIAL: On May 12, 2010, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Executive announced in response to a Wall Street Journal article that he was unaware of any criminal investigation by the Justice Department that his firm, like Goldman Sachs, misled investors about mortgage-backed derivative deals. The WSJ had reported that Morgan Stanley was the subject of such an investigation. In addition to determining whether the firm was betting against the very products it was promoting to investors, the Justice Department COULD investigate whether Morgan Stanley and other securities firms exercised secret control over the rating agencies, causing risky investments to get the highest ratings by these firms. The Justice Department COULD also investigate whether the mortgage-backed trusts put together by Morgan Stanley were comprised of much riskier mortgages than represented to investors. Another investigation COULD be conducted regarding the pay-outs from the insurance policies behind the CDOs and whether the servicing companies working for the trusts are collecting twice – from the insurance and from the foreclosures – and then turning around, acquiring the foreclosed properties for $10 – and profiting yet a third time. Investigators COULD even determine whether foreclosure mills working for trusts created by Morgan Stanley are now using forged proof of ownership to foreclose because Morgan Stanley never acquired the mortgages, notes and assignments they claimed to have in their vaults, backing the mortgage-backed securities. In the battle between the Justice Department and Wall Street, Goliath is in New York, not D.C.