On Monday's Majority Report with Sam Seder, Matt Taibbi explains the myth of JP Morgan Chase as the “one good bank”, why too big to fail is the problem, why Washington is finally getting fed up with Wall Street, how Wall Street miscalculated the 2012 election, how JP Morgan Chase hides losses and commits regular acts of financial fraud and is genuine Wall Street reform possible now?
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- Author Interviews
- Bain Capital
- Big banks
- Bill Moyers
- Bob Khuzami
- Carl Levin
- Chrystia Freeland
- Election 2012
- Eliot Spitzer
- Eric Holder
- Goldman Sachs
- Hank Paulson
- JPMorgan Chase
- Jamie Dimon
- Koch Brothers
- Lanny Breuer
- Levin Report
- Majority Report
- Mitt Romney
- Moyers & Company
- Neil Barofsky
- Obama Administration
- Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
- Rolling Stone
- Rolling Stone Magazine
- Sam Seder
- Securities and Exchange Commission
- Too Big to Fail
- Wall Street
- William Black
- blind eye
- drug money
- financial fraud
- financial meltdown
- financial reform
- job destroyer
- mexican drug cartels
- money laundering
- taxpayer money
- terrorism money
- unethical behavior
- wall street reform
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi takes the Justice Department to task over settling with HSBC late last year in the “largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever.”
"The HSBC case went miles beyond the usual paper-pushing, keypad-punching sort-of crime, committed by geeks in ties, normally associated with Wall Street," Taibbi writes. "In this case the bank literally got away with murder – well, aiding and abetting it, anyway."
Three-time losers doing life in California prisons for street felonies might be surprised to learn that the no-jail settlement Lanny Breuer worked out for HSBC was already the bank's third strike. In fact, as a mortifying 334-page report issued by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations last summer made plain, HSBC ignored a truly awesome quantity of official warnings.
Journalist Matt Taibbi assesses the Obama Administration’s approach to holding banks accountable for their behavior, and early indications are not promising. Taibbi tells Bill Moyers that fearing another economic calamity is no excuse for turning a blind eye to shockingly unethical decisions and management.
“The rule of law isn’t really the rule of law if it doesn’t apply equally to everybody. If you’re going to put somebody in jail for having a joint in his pocket, you can’t let higher ranking HSBC officials off for laundering $800 million for the worst drug dealers in the entire world,” Taibbi tells Bill. “Eventually it eats away at the very fabric of society.”
Watch Bill’s full conversation with Taibbi on this weekend’s Moyers & Company.
Four years after the massive bailout that rescued Wall Street, Democracy Now! looks at the state of the financial sector with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and former financial regulator William Black. In a new article for Rolling Stone, Taibbi argues the government did not just bail out Wall Street, but also lied on the financial sector’s behalf, calling unhealthy banks healthy and helping banks cover up how much aid they were getting. The government’s approach to the banks came under new scrutiny this week after it reached an $8.5 billion settlement for improprieties in the wrongful foreclosures on millions of American homeowners, including flawed paperwork, robo-signing and wrongly modified loans. The settlement will end an independent review of all foreclosures, meaning the banks could be avoiding billions of dollars in further penalties, in addition to criminal prosecution.
"This is a longstanding dispute between the former CEO of AIG, Hank Greenberg, and the government. And it’s funny. If you actually read Greenberg’s suit, there are some points in it that have a little bit of validity. I mean, it’s still preposterous that Greenberg, who was, in a way, kind of like the Patient Zero of the financial crisis, because the scandal that he started at AIG back in the 2000—in the early 2000s. It was a reinsurance scandal where he was artificially inflating the balance sheet of AIG, that led to a downgrade of AIG, which led to the catastrophe of 2008, when the company went into—imploded. And that subsequently caused the entire financial crisis. You can really point to Hank Greenberg as maybe the guy who caused the financial crisis, and here he is suing the American government over the bailout."
"But one of the things he says in this—his lawsuit is that the bailout of AIG was not really a bailout of AIG, it was a bailout of the companies that were owed money by AIG, because they gave 100 cents on the dollar to all the companies—the counterparties of AIG, like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank and Barclays, and that if he were in that position, he would have negotiated a much tougher deal. That’s probably true. I mean, there’s actually some validity to that point, that there’s no way, under any rational circumstances, that those companies should have gotten 100 cents on the dollar for the money they were owed by AIG."
A full transcript of the interview after the jump.
Due out on newstands January 17th, Matt Taibbi's latest expose on the Big Banks, Big Government, and Wall Street is available online now. As always, it's another "Must Read" if you haven't yet done so. Here's a snippet...
It has been four long winters since the federal government, in the hulking, shaven-skulled, Alien Nation-esque form of then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you'd think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we've been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul – right?
It was all a lie – one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.
How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform
But the most appalling part is the lying. The public has been lied to so shamelessly and so often in the course of the past four years that the failure to tell the truth to the general populace has become a kind of baked-in, official feature of the financial rescue. Money wasn't the only thing the government gave Wall Street – it also conferred the right to hide the truth from the rest of us. And it was all done in the name of helping regular people and creating jobs. "It is," says former bailout Inspector General Neil Barofsky, "the ultimate bait-and-switch."
The bailout deceptions came early, late and in between. There were lies told in the first moments of their inception, and others still being told four years later. The lies, in fact, were the most important mechanisms of the bailout. The only reason investors haven't run screaming from an obviously corrupt financial marketplace is because the government has gone to such extraordinary lengths to sell the narrative that the problems of 2008 have been fixed. Investors may not actually believe the lie, but they are impressed by how totally committed the government has been, from the very beginning, to selling it.
The banking giant HSBC has escaped indictment for laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and groups linked to al-Qaeda. Despite evidence of wrongdoing, the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed the bank to avoid prosecution and pay a $1.9 billion fine. No top HSBC officials will face charges, either.
Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, author of "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History," joins Democracy Now! to discuss how the bankers escaped criminal prosecution for their actions.
"You can do real time in jail in America for all kinds of ridiculous offenses," Taibbi says. "Here we have a bank that laundered $800 million of drug money, and they can’t find a way to put anybody in jail for that. That sends an incredible message, not just to the financial sector but to everybody. It’s an obvious, clear double standard, where one set of people gets to break the rules as much as they want and another set of people can’t break any rules at all without going to jail."
"Now, how did Forbes put it, Matt," asks Amy Goodman. "What’s a bank got to do to get into some real trouble around here?"
"Exactly, exactly," begins Taibbi. "And what’s amazing about that is that’s Forbes saying that. I mean, universally, the reaction, even in—among the financial press, which is normally very bank-friendly and gives all these guys the benefit of the doubt, the reaction is, is "What do you have to do to get a criminal indictment?" What HSBC has now admitted to is, more or less, the worst behavior that a bank can possibly be guilty of. You know, they violated the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Bank Secrecy Act. And we’re talking about massive amounts of money. It was $9 billion that they failed to supervise properly. These crimes were so obvious that apparently the cartels in Mexico specifically designed boxes to put cash in so that they would fit through the windows of HSBC teller windows. So, it was so out in the open, these crimes, and there’s going to be no criminal prosecution whatsoever, which is incredible."
A full transcript of the discussion below the fold.
The One Percent is not only increasing their share of wealth — they’re using it to spread millions among political candidates who serve their interests. Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney’s campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why? Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama’s modest attempts at financial reform.
To discuss how the super-rich have willfully confused their self-interest with America’s interest, Bill is joined by Rolling Stone magazine’s Matt Taibbi, who regularly shines his spotlight on scandals involving big business and government, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Following the conversation, Bill shares his thoughts on corporate executives who — enabled by the Citizens United ruling — are strong-arming their employees to vote as they say, from the Murray Energy CEO who reportedly made his workers spend unpaid time at a pro-Romney rally; to David and Charles Koch, who sent anti-Obama and pro-Romney materials to the 45,000 employees of their subsidiary Georgia Pacific; to ASG Solutions boss Arthur Allen, who sent an intimidating email to his employees.
The full transcript is available here.
Matt Taibbi is f*&^ing brilliant. This is today's "Must Read."
Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone:
Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.
"But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth."
"By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions - placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place..."
"If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House."
Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi talked with Eliot Spitzer last night about Eric Holder's decision not to prosecute Goldman Sachs for the offenses laid out in the Levin report.
Taibbi had this to say afterwards:
"But that's exactly who Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer haven't been, exactly who Bob Khuzami at the SEC hasn't been. Instead of being fighters, they've been dealmakers and plea-bargainers. They've dealt out every major financial scandal, from Abacus to the Muni-bid-rigging cases (they prosecuted a few low-level guys at GE but let the big players at the big banks skate) to the Citigroup fraud settlement that was so bad a judge threw it back at the govenment's face. In that latter case, amazingly, the govenment is now fighting not for its constituents, but for its right to give out crappy deals to repeat-offender banks without judicial review."
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi spoke to Democracy Now! on July 19, where he discussed the pattern of systemic corruption by 16 banks accused of rigging a key global interest rate used in contracts worth trillions of dollars.
The London Interbank Offered Rate, known as Libor, is the average interest rate at which banks can borrow from each other. Some analysts say it defines the cost of money. Barclays was recently fined $453 million for rigging Libor, and a number of other banks are under investigation. "Ordinary people actually suffered when Libor was manipulated downward, mainly because local governments, municipal governments tended to lose money," Taibbi says. "Even the tiniest manipulation downward, when you’re talking about a thing of this scale, would result in tens of trillions of dollars of losses. The banks weren’t doing this just to make themselves look healthier, they were also doing this just to make money. They were trading against this information in what essentially was the biggest kind of insider trading you could possibly imagine."
Full transcript available here.