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

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Geithner tells panel that more has to be done to help homeowners avoid foreclosure: Washington Post

SCROLL DOWN AND SEE WHAT THEY ADMIT… 

By Renae Merle

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told a Senate panel Thursday that mortgage lenders were still not doing enough to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and that some borrowers who qualify for federal aid are still losing their homes.Homeowners meet with Wells Fargo employees in makeshift offices at a workshop in Oakland to discuss mortgage payment challenges.

The industry’s performance varies by lender, he said, adding that the Treasury Department is conducting “targeted, in-depth compliance” reviews of lenders participating in the government’s foreclosure prevention program. Some firms could lose the incentive payments they earn for helping borrowers if their performance does not improve, he said.

“None of this is acceptable. We are committed to making sure that servicers hold up their end of the bargain,” Geithner said during a hearing of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

So far, the federal program, known as Making Home Affordable, has helped about 200,000 borrowers get a permanent loan modification. But the government is far short of helping the 3 million to 4 million homeowners it initially targeted. In the meantime, millions of homeowners are expected to fall into foreclosure over the next few years.

“I want to be clear that we do not believe [mortgage] servicers are doing enough to help homeowners, not doing enough to help them navigate the difficult and often frightening process of avoiding foreclosure,” Geithner told the committee. “They are not responding to the needs of responsible and increasingly desperate homeowners.” DinSFLA: So there are IRRESPONSIBLE ones?? Clarification, please Mr. Geithner…Who are the irresponsible ones “SIR” who got us in this Shit Hole of a mess??

Industry officials argue that they have helped millions of borrowers avoid foreclosure already, many outside the government program. “While we share the secretary’s continued frustration with anecdotes about lost paperwork and mistaken foreclosures, I don’t think blanket indictments of an entire industry are helpful,” said John A. Courson, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “Nevertheless, the industry is continuing to try and streamline and improve the loan modification process.”

Last month, the Treasury Department announced it was revamping the federal program, including by encouraging lenders to forgive a portion of a borrower’s mortgage debt if more is owed on the loan than the home is worth, a situation known as being underwater. Under the changes, lenders are now required to offer temporary mortgage relief to unemployed borrowers for at least three months.

But the government program is largely voluntary, and some lenders have already balked at the prospect of widespread use of principal forgiveness in which they would slash the mortgage balances of millions of homeowners. Also, housing advocates have argued that the help being offered to unemployed borrowers may not go far enough because it could take many much longer than three months to find a job.

“These changes won’t be implemented until the fall, maybe too little, too late,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

Geithner also faced questions from committee members about the status of its bailout of the automakers, including General Motors and Chrysler. In a recent television ad, GM touted that it had repaid billions of dollars in government loans ahead of schedule.

But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that the commercial did not mention that taxpayers still own 61 percent of the company’s shares. “This is so frustrating to me because I believe the public is being misled,” Collins said.

Geithner said he was aware of concerns over GM’s claims in the commercial. “We still have substantial equity investments left in those companies, and as a result, some risk of loss, although a fraction of what we feared,” he said.

The administration wants to divest its interest in the automakers as soon as possible, Geithner said. There is a reasonable chance that all of the bailout funds given to the industry could be recovered.

“Nobody at GM has claimed victory. We know we have more work to do,” Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, said in an e-mail. “But early repayment of our loans is a milestone for the company and a clear sign that our plan is working, and a critical step toward returning GM to profitability and public ownership.”

Glenn Beck on The Goldman Sachs Connection

So what does this ‘FRAUD” mean and the AIG bailout they received?

 

Federal Reserve Must Disclose Bank Bailout Records (Update5): We love Bloomberg.com

SHOCK & AWE …I’m betting! Thanks to Bloomberg for the lawsuit to DISCLOSE! Notice how both Bloomberg & Huffington are always the ones who go after the banksters…Because they probably don’t use the banksters to fund them!

By David Glovin and Bob Van Voris

March 19 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest U.S. government bailout ever, a federal appeals court said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The ruling upholds a decision of a lower-court judge, who in August ordered that the information be released.

The Fed had argued that disclosure of the documents threatens to stigmatize borrowers and cause them “severe and irreparable competitive injury,” discouraging banks in distress from seeking help. A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected that argument in a unanimous decision.

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, “sets forth no basis for the exemption the Board asks us to read into it,” U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the opinion. “If the Board believes such an exemption would better serve the national interest, it should ask Congress to amend the statute.”

The opinion may not be the final word in the bid for the documents, which was launched by Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, with a November 2008 lawsuit. The Fed may seek a rehearing or appeal to the full appeals court and eventually petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

Right to Know

If today’s ruling is upheld or not appealed by the Fed, it will have to disclose the requested records. That may lead to “catastrophic” results, including demands for the instant disclosure of banks seeking help from the Fed, resulting in a “death sentence” for such financial institutions, said Chris Kotowski, a bank analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.

“Whenever the Fed extends funds to a bank, it should be disclosed in private to the Congressional oversight committees, but to release it to the public I think would be a horrific mistake,” Kotowski said in an interview. “It would stigmatize the banks, it would lead to all kinds of second-guessing of the Fed, and I don’t see what public purpose is served by it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, said the decision was a “major victory” for U.S. taxpayers.

“This money does not belong to the Federal Reserve,” Sanders said in a statement. “It belongs to the American people, and the American people have a right to know where more than $2 trillion of their money has gone.”

Fed Review

The Fed is reviewing the decision and considering its options for reconsideration or appeal, Fed spokesman David Skidmore said.

“We’re obviously pleased with the court’s decision, which is an important affirmation of the public’s right to know what its government is up to,” said Thomas Golden, a partner at New York-based Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Bloomberg’s outside counsel.

The court was asked to decide whether loan records are covered by FOIA. Historically, the type of government documents sought in the case has been protected from public disclosure because they might reveal competitive trade secrets.

The Fed had argued that it could withhold the information under an exemption that allows federal agencies to refuse disclosure of “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”

Payment Processors

The Clearing House Association, which processes payments among banks, joined the case and sided with the Fed. The group includes ABN Amro Bank NV, a unit of Royal Bank of Scotland Plc, Bank of America Corp., The Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., US Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co.

Paul Saltzman, general counsel for the Clearing House, said the decision did not address the “fundamental issue” of whether disclosure would “competitively harm” borrower banks.

“The Second Circuit declined to follow the decisions of other circuit courts recognizing that disclosure of certain confidential information can impair the effectiveness of government programs, such as lending programs,” Saltzman said in a statement.

The Clearing House is considering whether to ask for a rehearing by the full Second Circuit and, ultimately, review by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

Deep Crisis

Oscar Suris, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, JPMorgan spokeswoman Jennifer Zuccarelli, Bank of New York Mellon spokesman Kevin Heine, HSBC spokeswoman Juanita Gutierrez and RBS spokeswoman Linda Harper all declined to comment. Deutsche Bank spokesman Ronald Weichert couldn’t immediately comment. Bank of America declined to comment, Scott Silvestri said. Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell declined to comment. U.S. Bancorp spokesman Steve Dale didn’t return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Bloomberg, majority-owned by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sued after the Fed refused to name the firms it lent to or disclose loan amounts or assets used as collateral under its lending programs. Most of the loans were made in response to the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Lawyers for Bloomberg argued in court that the public has the right to know basic information about the “unprecedented and highly controversial use” of public money.

“Bloomberg has been trying for almost two years to break down a brick wall of secrecy in order to vindicate the public’s right to learn basic information,” Golden wrote in court filings.

Potential Harm

Banks and the Fed warned that bailed-out lenders may be hurt if the documents are made public, causing a run or a sell- off by investors. Disclosure may hamstring the Fed’s ability to deal with another crisis, they also argued.

Much of the debate at the appeals court argument on Jan. 11 centered on the potential harm to banks if it was revealed that they borrowed from the Fed’s so-called discount window. Matthew Collette, a lawyer for the government, said banks don’t do that unless they have liquidity problems.

FOIA requires federal agencies to make government documents available to the press and public. An exception to the statute protects trade secrets and privileged or confidential financial data. In her Aug. 24 ruling, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York said the exception didn’t apply because there’s no proof banks would suffer.

Tripartite Test

In its opinion today, the appeals court said that the exception applies only if the agency can satisfy a three-part test. The information must be a trade secret or commercial or financial in character; must be obtained from a person; and must be privileged or confidential, according to the opinion.

The court said that the information sought by Bloomberg was not “obtained from” the borrowing banks. It rejected an alternative argument the individual Federal Reserve Banks are “persons,” for purposes of the law because they would not suffer the kind of harm required under the “privileged and confidential” requirement of the exemption.

In a related case, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York previously sided with the Fed and refused to order the agency to release Fed documents that Fox News Network sought. The appeals court today returned that case to Hellerstein and told him to order the Fed to conduct further searches for documents and determine whether the documents should be disclosed.

“We are pleased that this information is finally, and rightfully, going to be made available to the American public,” said Kevin Magee, Executive Vice President of Fox Business Network, in a statement.

Balance Sheet Debt

The Fed’s balance sheet debt doubled after lending standards were relaxed following Lehman’s failure on Sept. 15, 2008. That year, the Fed began extending credit directly to companies that weren’t banks for the first time since the 1930s. Total central bank lending exceeded $2 trillion for the first time on Nov. 6, 2008, reaching $2.14 trillion on Sept. 23, 2009.

More than a dozen other groups or companies filed friend- of-the-court briefs. Those arguing for disclosure of the records included the American Society of News Editors and individual news organizations.

“It’s gratifying that the court recognizes the considerable interest in knowing what is being done with our tax dollars,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Virginia.

“We’ve learned some powerful lessons in the last 18 months that citizens need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the financial world. This decision will make it easier to do that.”

The case is Bloomberg LP v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 09-04083, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).

To contact the reporters on this story: David Glovin in New York at dglovin@bloomberg.net; Bob Van Voris in New York at vanvoris@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: March 19, 2010 16:15 EDT

also see  huffington post articles on this

‘Hail Mary’ to Warren Buffett: Untold Details of Lehman’s Fall

March 11, 2010, 6:15 PM ET

‘Hail Mary’ to Warren Buffett: Untold Details of Lehman’s Fall

By Matt Phillips

Doubtless, historians will be going over the mammoth 2,200 page report from the Lehman bankruptcy examiner for years to come.

But we bloggers are writing the first draft now. And there’s plenty of good fodder on Lehman’s final days, including fresh details on its effort to get support from billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Now, it’s well known that Lehman reached out to Buffett in its final months. The Journal’s Scott Patterson wrote about the Oracle’s decision to pass on Lehman in a story back in December.

But the level of detail provided by this report is pretty astounding. It offers a pretty amazing snapshot of Buffett’s conversation with Lehman CEO Dick Fuld as well as a remarkable window on how the Oracle negotiates during times of crisis.

The report really reads like a novel, so we’ll just give you the sections here:

Fuld and Buffett spoke on Friday, March 28, 2008. They discussed Buffett investing at least $2 billion in Lehman. Two items immediately concerned Buffet during his conversation with Fuld. First, Buffett wanted Lehman executives to buy under the same terms as Buffett. Fuld explained to the Examiner that he was reluctant to require a significant buy‐in from Lehman executives, because they already received much of their compensation in stock. However, Buffett took it as a negative that Fuld suggested that Lehman executives were not willing to participate in a significant way. Second, Buffett did not like that Fuld complained about short sellers. Buffett thought that blaming short sellers was indicative of a failure to admit one’s own problems.

Following his conversation with Buffett, Fuld asked Paulson to call Buffett, which Paulson reluctantly did. Buffett told the Examiner that during that call, Paulson signaled that he would like Buffett to invest in Lehman, but Paulson “did not load the dice.” Buffett spent the rest of Friday, March 28, 2008, reviewing Lehman’s 10‐K and noting problems with some of Lehman’s assets. Buffett’s concerns centered around Lehman’s real estate and high yield investments, lending‐related commitments derivatives and their related credit‐market risk, Level III assets and Lehman’s securitization activity. On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Buffett learned of a $100 million problem in Japan that Fuld had not mentioned during their discussions, and Buffett was concerned that Fuld had not been forthcoming about the issue. The problems Buffett saw in the 10‐K along with Fuld’s failure to alert Buffett to the issue in Japan cemented Buffett’s decision not to invest in Lehman.

At some point in their conversations, Fuld and Buffett also discovered that there had been a miscommunication about the conversion price. Buffett was interested only in convertible preferred shares. Buffett told Fuld that he was willing to agree to a $40 conversion price per share, while Fuld thought Buffett was offering to buy in at “up‐ 40,” or 40% above the current market price, which would have been about $56 per share. On Friday, March 28, 2008, Lehman’s stock closed at $37.87. Fuld spoke to Lehman’s Executive Committee and several Board members about his conversations with Buffett. Lehman recognized that an investment by Buffett would provide a “stamp of approval.” However, Lehman already had better offers for its April capital raise, and Lehman did not think it could give a better deal to Buffett at the same time it gave a less attractive deal to others. On Monday, March 31, 2008, before Buffett could tell Fuld that he was not interested, Fuld called Buffett to say that Lehman could not accept his terms.

Last‐Ditch Effort with Buffett

[Hugh “Skip” E. McGee, III, the head of Lehman’s Investment Banking Division] contacted [President David L. Sokol, president of Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy] again in late August or early September 2008 and outlined Lehman’s “Gameplan” for survival, specifically SpinCo. During a subsequent telephone call with Sokol, McGee explained the “good bank/bad bank” scenario and stated that Lehman would need an investor. Sokol believed the e‐mail and call were intended to induce Sokol to pass that information on to Buffett, so Sokol briefed Buffett on SpinCo. Buffett thought the idea would not solve Lehman’s problems.

Sometime during the week prior to Lehman’s bankruptcy, McGee again reached out to Sokol with what both Sokol and McGee described to the Examiner as a “Hail Mary” pass. McGee asked, “Do you have any ideas to save us?” Sokol, who was bear hunting in Alaska at the time, told McGee that he did not.

Judging by the inclusion of the largely irrelevant bear hunting detail at the end, we can tell that this report was written by a frustrated novelist. (And they did an amazing job.) But what we find most remarkable is the insight these sections offer on how Buffett assesses companies.

It’s simple–but not easy–as he combines 10-K analysis with probing questions to management.

Are they willing to put their own money at risk? Are they being upfront? Are they giving investors the full story?

Clearly Buffett didn’t think so.

FAKE it TIMMY, FAKE IT…TIMMY Faked it.

NY Fed Under Geithner Implicated in Lehman Accounting Fraud Allegation

by Yves Smith at 11:06 pm

Quite a few observers, including this blogger, have been stunned and frustrated at the refusal to investigate what was almost certain accounting fraud at Lehman. Despite the bankruptcy administrator’s effort to blame the gaping hole in Lehman’s balance sheet on its disorderly collapse, the idea that the firm, which was by its own accounts solvent, would suddenly spring a roughly $130+ billion hole in its $660 balance sheet, is simply implausible on its face. Indeed, it was such common knowledge in the Lehman flailing about period that Lehman’s accounts were sus that Hank Paulson’s recent book mentions repeatedly that Lehman’s valuations were phony as if it were no big deal.

Well, it is folks, as a newly-released examiner’s report by Anton Valukas in connection with the Lehman bankruptcy makes clear. The unraveling isn’t merely implicating Fuld and his recent succession of CFOs, or its accounting firm, Ernst & Young, as might be expected. It also emerges that the NY Fed, and thus Timothy Geithner, were at a minimum massively derelict in the performance of their duties, and may well be culpable in aiding and abetting Lehman in accounting fraud and Sarbox violations.

We need to demand an immediate release of the e-mails, phone records, and meeting notes from the NY Fed and key Lehman principals regarding the NY Fed’s review of Lehman’s solvency. If, as things appear now, Lehman was allowed by the Fed’s inaction to remain in business, when the Fed should have insisted on a wind-down (and the failed Barclay’s said this was not infeasible: even an orderly bankruptcy would have been preferrable, as Harvey Miller, who handled the Lehman BK filing has made clear; a good bank/bad bank structure, with a Fed backstop of the bad bank, would have been an option if the Fed’s justification for inaction was systemic risk), the NY Fed at a minimum helped perpetuate a fraud on investors and counterparties.

This pattern further suggests the Fed, which by its charter is tasked to promote the safety and soundness of the banking system, instead, via its collusion with Lehman management, operated to protect particular actors to the detriment of the public at large.

And most important, it says that the NY Fed, and likely Geithner himself, undermined, perhaps even violated, laws designed to protect investors and markets. If so, he is not fit to be Treasury secretary or hold any office related to financial supervision and should resign immediately.

I am reading the report, and will provide an update later, but here are the key bits (hat tip reader John M). As much as Karl Denninger has done some terrific initial reporting, he does not go far enough as far as the wider implications are concerned.

The key revelation is that Lehman as of late 2007 was routinely using repo transactions at the end of the quarter to mask how levered it truly was:

Lehman regularly increased its use of Repo 105 transactions in the days prior to reporting periods to reduce its publicly reported net leverage and balance sheet.2850 Lehman’s periodic reports did not disclose the cash borrowing from the Repo 105 transaction – i.e., although Lehman had in effect borrowed tens of billions of dollars in these transactions, Lehman did not disclose the known obligation to repay the debt.2851 Lehman used the cash from the Repo 105 transaction to pay down other liabilities, thereby reducing both the total liabilities and the total assets reported on its balance sheet and lowering its leverage ratios.

Yves here. The stunning bit is these “repos” were actually a conventional type of repo, despite the name, but Lehman was engaging in blatant misreporting, treating these “repos” (in which a bank still shows them on its balance sheet as sold with the obligation to repurchase) as sales. Note that at the time (as the report notes) analysts and others kept probing at the seeming miracle of Lehman’s deleveraging in a difficult market. This ruse may also square the circle on a Lehman leak we broke in 2007. A former Lehman MD had reported that most of the deleveraging that had occurred at the end of 2Q 2008 had resulted from the placement of $55 billion of assets with newly-formed entities in which Lehman retained a 45% ownership interest and were operated by former Lehman employees. To put it mildly, these were off balance sheet entities that strained the idea of independence. Bloomberg got hold of the story, and Lehman asserted that only $5 billion of assets had actually been transferred. I am now wondering whether the $55 billion were indeed transferred precisely as the source had said originally (he in turn had been told this by several people at Lehman) but that most of it was via this type of repo, and then re-materialized on Lehman’s balance sheet once the quarter end had passed (the Examiner’s report notes that the amount that Lehman moves off its balance sheet at the end of 2Q 2008 was $50.38 billion, which tallies with the difference between what the Lehman MD said had been moved off balance sheet versus what they fessed up to when asked by Bloomberg) .

Denninger raises one question: were other banks engaging in this type of accounting chicanery? But there is another question: did some of Lehman’s counterparties must have suspected what was going on, given that this took place on a large scale basis at the end of every quarter? How many had an idea that Lehman was engaging in massive window dressing and chose to play along?

But here is the part of the report that discussed how the Fed aided and abetted Lehman misconduct:

the Examiner questioned Lehman executives and other witnesses about Lehman’s financial health and reporting, a recurrent theme in their responses was that Lehman gave full and complete financial information to Government agencies, and that the Government never raised significant objections or directed that Lehman take any corrective action.

Yves here. So get this: even though Lehman dressed up its accounts for the great unwashed public, it did not try to fool the authorities. Its games playing was in full view to those charted with protecting investors and the financial system.

So what transpired? The SEC (which in all fairness, has never had much expertise in credit markets, this is a major regulatory problem) handed assessing Lehman over to the Fed, which bent over backwards to give it a clean bill of health:

After March 2008 when the SEC and FRBNY began onsite daily monitoring of Lehman, the SEC deferred to the FRBNY to devise more rigorous stress‐testing scenarios to test Lehman’s ability to withstand a run or potential run on the bank.5753 The FRBNY developed two new stress scenarios: “Bear Stearns” and “Bear Stearns Light.”5754 Lehman failed both tests.5755 The FRBNY then developed a new set of assumptions for an additional round of stress tests, which Lehman also failed.5756 However, Lehman ran stress tests of its own, modeled on similar assumptions, and passed.5757 It does not appear that any agency required any action of Lehman in response to the results of the stress testing.

Yves here. So get this: the stress tests were a sham. Only one outcome was permissible: that Lehman pass. So after the Fed was unable to come up with an objective-looking stress test that Lehman could satisfy, they permitted Lehman to devise a test with low enough standards to give itself a clean bill of health.

So why should we trust ANY government designed stress test, particularly when the same permissive grader, Timothy Geithner, was the moving force behind the ones dreamed up last year, which have been widely decried by banking experts, including Bill Black, Chris Whalen, and Josh Rosner? We linked to a simple analysis by Mike Konczal that demonstrates that for the biggest four banks alone, merely on their second mortgage portfolios, the stress tests of 2009 were too permissive to the tune of at least $150 billion.

Lehman type accounting, in other words, is being institutionalized, with the active support from senior government officials.

It is time for Geithner to go. He is not fit to serve as Treasury secretary.

And the time is overdue for a full audit of the Fed, and in particular the New York Fed, from the start of the Bear crisis through and including all the retrades of the AIG bailout.

Update 12:00 AM, 3/12/10. Oh, boy, the spin is in in the US. Bloomberg focuses on an interesting revelation in the report, but which strikes me as secondary, that JP Morgan and Citi delivered the fatal blow to Lehman by withholding collateral. That JP Morgan seized $17 billion of collateral has been reported elsewhere; the only new elements are Citi’s role and that its and JPM’s actions could serve as grounds for legal action:

“There are a limited number of colorable claims for avoidance actions against JPMorgan and Citibank,” Valukas said in the report. He defined a colorable claim as sufficient credible evidence to persuade a jury to award damages at trial.

The Times pointed ignores the Fed’s lapses, as does the Journal and the major report at the Huffington Post.

Update 3:00 AM. Have now read the germane section a bit (over 300 pages, please do not bust my chops). Every page is stunning (the law firm did a great job, this is one case where big fees are associated with big time value). The nonsense is mile high. Lehman had been doing this sort of thing since 2001. No US law firm would give them cover via an opinion letter for their phony repo accounting, they managed to get the opinion they sought in the UK and accordingly shuffled assets through the UK for the repo 105 transactions. Frankly, if you don’t need colorful characters or glam settings, this is as attention-capturing as Too Big To Fail

More on this topic (What’s this?)

Holy F%$^ing Lehman Brothers Autopsy (Jr Deputy Accountant, 3/12/10)