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.

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EXTEND & PRETEND: Confirming the Flash Crash Omen

Via: ZeroHedge

Confirming The Flash Crash Omen, Submitted by Gordon T. Long of Tipping Points

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.

SEC KNEW ABOUT SUBPRIME ACCOUNTING FRAUD A DECADE AGO

by Elizabeth MacDonald FoxBusiness

The Securities and Exchange  Commission is missing a bigger fraud while it chases the banks. Even though it knew about this massive, plain old fashioned accounting fraud back in 1998.
Instead, the market cops are probing simpler disclosure cases that could charge bank and Wall Street with not telling investors about their conflicts of interest in selling securities they knew were damaged while making bets against those same securities behind the scenes, via credit default swaps.
Those probes have gotten headlines, but there aren’t too many signs that this will lead to anything close to massive settlements or fines.

For instance, the SEC doesn’t appear to be investigating how banks frontloaded their profits via channel stuffing — securitizing loans and shoving paper securitizations onto investors, while booking those revenues immediately, even though the mortgage payments underlying those paper daisy chains were coming in the door years, even decades, later. Those moves helped lead to $2.4 trillion in writedowns worldwide.
The agency said it  believed banks were committing subprime securitization accounting frauds back in 1998 and claimed to be ‘probing’ them.
I had written about these SEC probes into potential frauds while covering corporate accounting abuses at The Wall Street Journal. The rules essentially let banks frontload into their revenue the sale of subprime mortgages or other loans that they then packaged and sold off as securities, even though the payments on those underlying loans were coming in the door over the next seven, 10, 20, or 30 years.
Estimating those revenues based on the value of future mortgage payments involved plenty of guesswork.

Securitization: Free Market Became a Free For All
The total amount of overall mortgage-backed securities generated by Wall Street virtually tripled between 1996 and 2007, to $7.3 trillion. Subprime mortgage securitizations increased from 54% in 2001, to 75% in 2006. Back in 1998, the SEC had warned a dozen top accounting firms that they must do a  better job policing how subprime lenders book profits from loans that are repackaged as securities and sold on the secondary market. The SEC “is becoming increasingly concerned” over the way lenders use what are called “gain on sale” accounting rules when they securitize these loans, Jane B. Adams, the SEC’s deputy chief accountant, said in a letter sent to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the nation’s chief accounting rule makers.
At that time, subprime lenders had come under fire from consumer groups and Congress, who said banks were using aggressive accounting to frontload profits from securitizing subprime loans. Subprime auto lender Mercury Finance collapsed after a spectacular accounting fraud and shareholder suits, New Century Financial was tanking as well for the same reason.

SEC Knew About Subprime Fraud More than a Decade Ago
The SEC more than a decade ago believed that subprime lenders were abusing the accounting rules.
When lenders repackage consumer loans as asset-backed securities, they must book the fair value of profits or losses from the deals. But regulators said lenders were overvaluing the loan assets they kept on their books in order to inflate current profits. Others delayed booking assets in order to increase future earnings. Lenders were also using poor default and prepayment rate assumptions to overestimate the fair value of their securitizations.
Counting future revenue was perfectly legal under too lax rules.
But without it many lenders that are in an objective sense doing quite well would look as if they were headed for bankruptcy.
At that time, the SEC’s eyebrows were raised when Dan Phillips, chief executive officer of FirstPlus Financial Group, a Dallas subprime home equity lenders, had said the poor accounting actually levitated profits at lenders.
“The reality is that companies like us wouldn’t be here without gain on sale,” he said, adding, “a lot of people abuse it.”
But this much larger accounting trick, one that has exacerbated the ties that blind between company and auditor, is more difficult to nail down because it involves wading through a lot of math, a calculus that Wall Street stretched it until it snapped.

Impenetrably Absurd Accounting
These were the most idiotic accounting rules known to man, rules manufactured by a quiescent Financial Accounting Standards Board [FASB] that let bank executives make up profits out of thin air.
It resulted in a folie à deux between Wall Street and complicit accounting firms that swallowed whole guesstimates pulled out of the atmosphere.
Their accounting gamesmanship set alight the most massive off-balance sheet bubble of all, a rule that helped tear the stock market off its moorings.
The rules helped five Wall Street firms – Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch – earn an estimated $312 billion based on fictitious profits during the bubble years.

Who Used the Rule?
Banks and investment firms including Citigroup, Bank of America and Merrill all used this “legit” rule.
Countrywide Financial made widespread use of this accounting chicanery (see below). So did Washington Mutual. So did IndyMac Bancorp. So did FirstPlus Financial Group, and as noted Mercury Finance Co. and New Century Financial Corp.
Brought to the cliff’s edge, these banks were either bailed out, taken over or went through bankruptcies.
Many banks sold those securitized loans to Enron-style off-balance sheet trusts, otherwise called “structured investment vehicles” (SIVs), again booking profits immediately (Citigroup invented the SIV in 1988).
So, presto-change-o, banks got to dump loans off their books, making their leverage ratios look a whole lot nicer, so in turn they could borrow more.
At the same time, the banks got to record immediate profits, even though those no-income, no-doc loans supporting those paper securities and paper gains were bellyflopping right and left.
The writedowns were then buried in obscure line items called “impairment charges,” and were then masked by new profits from issuing new loans or by refinancings.

Rulemakers Fight Back
The FASB has been fighting to restrict this and other types of accounting games, but the banks have been battling back with an army of lobbyists.
The FASB, which sets the rules for publicly traded companies, is still trying to hang tough and is trying to force all sorts of off-balance sheet borrowings back onto bank balance sheets.
But these “gain on sale” rules, along with the “fair value” or what are called “marked to market” rules, have either been watered down or have enough loopholes in them, escape hatches that were written into the rules by the accountants themselves, so that auditors can make a clean get away.
As the market turned down, banks got the FASB to back down on mark-to-market accounting, which had forced them to more immediately value these assets and take quarterly profit hits if those assets soured – even though they were booking immediate profits from this “gain on sale” rule on the way up.
Also, the FASB has clung fast to the Puritanism of their rulemaking by arguing a sale is a sale is a sale, so companies can immediately book the entire value of a sale of a loan turned into a bond, even though the cash from the underlying mortgage has yet to come in the door.

Old-Fashioned ‘Channel Stuffing’
This sanctioned “gain on sale” accounting is really old-fashioned “channel stuffing.”
The move lets companies pad their revenue and profit numbers by stuffing lots of goods and inventory (mortgages and subprime securities) into the system without actually getting the money in the door, and booking those channel-stuffed goods as actual sales in order to cook ever higher their earnings.
Sort of like what Sunbeam did with its barbecue grills in the ’90s.

Intergalactic Bank Justice League
Cleaning up the accounting rules is an easier fix instead of a new, belabored, top-heavy “Systemic Risk Council” of the heads of federal financial regulatory agencies, as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn) envisions in financial regulatory reform.
An intergalactic Marvel Justice League of bank regulators can do nothing in the face of chicanery allowed in the rules.

Planes on a Tarmac
What happened was, banks and investment firms like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch who couldn’t sell these subprime bonds, or “collateralized debt obligations,” as well as other loan assets into these SIVs got caught out when the markets turned, stuck with this junk on their balance sheets like planes on a tarmac in a blizzard.
Bank of America saw its fourth-quarter 2007 profits plunge 95% largely due to SIV investments. SunTrust Banks’ earnings were nearly wiped out, a 98% drop in the same quarter, because of its SIVs.
Great Britain’s Northern Rock ran into huge problems in 2007 stemming from SIVs, and was later nationalized by the British government in February 2008.
Even the mortgage lending arm of tax preparer H&R Block used the move. Block sold its loans to off-balance-sheet vehicles so it could book gains about a month earlier than it otherwise would. Weee!
The company had $75 million of these items on its books at the end of its fiscal 2003 year. All totally within the rules.

Leverage Culture
The rampant fakery helped fuel a leverage culture that got a lot of homes put in hock.
Banks, for instance, started advertising home equity loans as “equity access,” or ways to “Live Richly” or as Fleet Bank once touted, “The smartest place to borrow? Your place.”
In fact, Washington Mutual and IndyMac got so excited by the gain on sale rules, they went so far as to count in profits futuristic gains even if they had only an “interest rate” commitment from a borrower, and not a final mortgage loan.
Talk about counting chickens before they hatch.

Closer Look at Wamu
Look at Wamu’s profits in just one year during the runup to the bubble. Such gains more than tripled in 2001 at Wamu, to just shy of $1 billion, or 22% of its pretax earnings before extraordinary items, up from $262 million, or 9%, in 2000.
But in 2001, Washington Mutual took $1.7 billion in charges, $1.1 billion of it in the final, fourth quarter, to reflect bleaker prospects for the revenue stream of all those servicing rights.
It papered over the hit with a nearly identical $1.8 billion gain on securitizations and portfolio sales.

Closer Look at Countrywide
The accounting fakery let Countrywide Financial Corp., the mortgage issuer now owned by Bank of America, triple its profit in 2003 to $2.4 billion on $8.5 billion in revenue.
At the height of the bubble, Countrywide booked $6.1 billion in gains from the sale of loans and securities. But this wasn’t cold, hard cash. No, this was potential future profits from servicing mortgage portfolios, meaning collecting monthly payments and late penalties.

Class Warfare: Hundreds Protest Outside Bankers’ Houses In DC

Perhaps an early “Wake Up” call next time…

First Posted: 05-16-10 08:00 PM | Updated: 05-17-10 05:46 PM

Arthur Delaney
arthur@huffingtonpost.com | HuffPost Reporting

Huge raucous crowds converged outside bank employees’ houses on Sunday afternoon to demand banks stop lobbying against Wall Street reform.

“Bank of America: bad for America!” shouted community leaders outside the house of Bank of America deputy general counsel Gregory Baer.

The Chicago-based grassroots organization National People’s Action, in coordination with the SEIU, bused more than 700 workers from 20 states to Baer’s neighborhood, one of the wealthiest corners of Washington. The action kicks off several days of protests targeting K Street for lobbyists’ role in financial reform.

Baer himself went unnoticed until a neighbor outed him. The mob booed loudly as he walked into his house. “I don’t have time for you,” he said, according to Trenda Kennedy of Springfield, Ill. who used a bullhorn to tell the crowd about her trouble getting a mortgage modification from Baer’s bank.

Kennedy told HuffPost she’d been making reduced monthly payments thanks to a trial modification via the Home Affordable Modification Program. She said that when the bank turned her down for a permanent mod, she was told she still owed all the money she’d been paying during the trial. She said she’s been notified of several sheriff’s sale dates but has somehow managed to keep her home.

“Every time I’m inches away from losing my house, by some miracle it’s been pushed off,” said Kennedy, who is a member of Illinois People’s Action.

Passersby and dogwalkers smiled at the sight of people gathered all over Baer’s lawn and blocking the road. Baer’s neighbor from across the street won little sympathy when he angrily yelled at protesters for waking up his two-year-old daughter. Kennedy was one of several people who used a bullhorn to tell personal bank horror stories.

Baer, formerly a senior official at the Treasury department, is a lawyer for the bank’s regulator and public policy legal group. Bank of America declined to comment.

“Bank of America came to the homes of everyday Americans when you spread predatory loans in neighborhoods across, the country, when you financed payday-lending storefronts, when your reckless behavior sent the economy to the brink of disaster, and when your bank-owned properties littered neighborhoods from coast to coast,” said a letter the group asked Baer to deliver to CEO Brian Moynihan. “You’ve created a historic mess and have been unreceptive to very polite, very formal and very consistent requests to fix the problems you helped create.”

The group also protested outside the house of Peter Scher, a lobbyist for JPMorgan Chase. Nobody answered the door.

UPDATE 5/17/10: Bank of America says Baer didn’t say “I don’t have time for you.”

“He did not make that comment to the crowd,” said a spokeswoman in an email. “Actually, Mr. Baer was away from his home and he returned home after his teenage son called him. Mr. Baer did say as he was walking up to his home that he needed to get inside his home to be with his son who was frightened and upset over what was going on outside.”

The bank also disputes the groups’ characterization of its lobbying and its efforts to help the economic recovery. “Bank of America supports financial regulatory reform, and has noted this publicly many times. We are committed to supporting and stimulating the economic recovery in our communities,” the spokeswoman wrote. “We are also vigorously modifying home loans and credit card balances for consumer and business customers in addition to eliminating debit card overdraft fees — steps that are necessary to help customers overcome financial challenges and succeed in this economy. Please visit [this page] for more information.”

Goldman: More CDO Litigation And Investigations Likely Coming

Is the most in-fraudential firm finally going down?

Joe Weisenthal | May. 10, 2010, 7:17 AM BuisnessInsider.com

Goldman’s latest 10-Q is out, and as Bloomberg first noted, the firm is expecting more CDO-related litigation and investigations.

Here’s the key line:lloyd blankfein goldman sachs protestor

We anticipate that additional putative shareholder derivative actions and other litigation may be filed, and regulatory and other investigations and actions commenced, against us with respect to offerings of CDOs.

The full passage is below.

———–

 On April 16, 2010, the SEC brought an action (SEC Action) under the U.S. federal securities laws in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against GS&Co. and one of its employees in connection with a CDO offering made in early 2007 (2007 CDO Transaction), alleging that the defendants made materially false and misleading statements to investors and seeking, among other things, unspecified monetary penalties. Notices of investigation subsequently have been received by GS&Co. from FINRA and by GSI from the U.K. Financial Services Authority, and Group Inc. and certain of its affiliates have received requests for information from other regulators regarding CDO offerings, including the 2007 CDO Transaction, and related matters.
 
Since April 22, 2010, a number of putative shareholder derivative actions have been filed in New York Supreme Court, New York County, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Group Inc., the Board and certain officers and employees of Group Inc. and its affiliates in connection with CDO offerings made between 2004 and 2007, including the 2007 CDO Transaction. These derivative complaints generally include allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, corporate waste, abuse of control, mismanagement, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of information and insider trading, and challenge the accuracy and adequacy of Group Inc.’s disclosure. These derivative complaints seek, among other things, declaratory relief, unspecified compensatory damages, restitution and certain corporate governance reforms. In addition, plaintiffs in the Delaware Court of Chancery actions described in the “Compensation-Related Litigation” section above have amended their complaint to assert, among other things, allegations similar to those in the derivative claims referred to above.
 
Since April 23, 2010, the Board has received letters from shareholders demanding that the Board take action to address alleged misconduct by GS&Co., the Board and certain officers and employees of Group Inc. and its affiliates. The demands generally allege misconduct in connection with the 2007 CDO Transaction, the alleged failure by Group Inc. to adequately disclose the SEC investigation that led to the SEC Action, and Group Inc.’s 2009 compensation practices. The demands include a letter from a Group Inc. shareholder, which previously made a demand that the Board investigate and take action in connection with auction products matters, and has now expanded its demand to address the foregoing matters.
 
In addition, beginning April 26, 2010, a number of purported securities law class actions have been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging the adequacy of Group Inc.’s public disclosure of, among other things, the firm’s activities in the CDO market and the SEC investigation that led to the SEC Action. The purported class action complaints, which name as defendants Group Inc. and certain officers and employees of Group Inc. and its affiliates, generally allege violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Exchange Act and seek unspecified damages.
 
We anticipate that additional putative shareholder derivative actions and other litigation may be filed, and regulatory and other investigations and actions commenced, against us with respect to offerings of CDOs.

Hedge Funds and the Global Economic Meltdown: MUST WATCH VIDEOS!

Do you know who is the next Lehman? Sit back and relax…ENJOY!

Source: writerjudd