Why are Republican insiders vastly superior to Democrats at outing Wall Street criminality?
Guest post by John Titus, writer and producer of Bailout.
Prosecution Of Banking Fraud Should Not Be A Left Vs. Right Issue
With the federal government doling out corporate welfare by the trillions, which ensures that the frauds perpetrated on Main Street in the bright light of day continue unabated, you'd have expected rabid packs of Democrats to burst from the chutes of federal power baying like beagles about the corruption that's being systematically worked on the People.
It hasn't happened. Deep Throat is a Republican cabal. Go figure.
The first thing to understand about the raging global financial crisis is that it isn’t a financial crisis. It’s a legal crisis: the criminals who’ve done the damage have been rewarded for their fraud rather than prosecuted. We know this from the black letter of transcripts taken from congressional hearings, court depositions, government reports, what have you. A more interesting source of information lies in the personal accounts from government Insiders, which pretty much means, as we shall see, but for reasons that aren't clear: Republicans.
The second thing to know is that the first thing guarantees that the crisis will exceed the Great Depression in severity. When unconstrained by prison walls, criminal enterprises, which operate on enormous profit margins will grow, quickly. As Catherine Austin Fitts says (see below), "crime that pays is crime that stays." But given the sheer scale of the damage already inflicted (conservatively, $13 trillion), much growth from this point forward is going to spell the death of the entire economy.
The difference between then and now lies in the government's response to the crisis.
The U.S. responded to the Great Depression by convening the Pecora Commission, rooting out the facts about the causes of the crisis, jailing criminals, and passing practical, common-sense legislation that forbade banking practices like commingling people's savings with cash from casino operations.
The U.S. has responded to the current crisis by rewarding the casino banks with bailouts when their bets blew up, and then counseling them on how to avoid criminal prosecution when the settled dust reveals their flagrant legal violations. Indeed, the DOJ goes out of its way to accommodate the bloated parasites: the head of the DOJ's criminal division, Lanny Breuer, recently traveled to Manhattan to instruct the white collar criminal defense bar on what threats to include on their PowerPoint slides before the DOJ to ward off prosecution.
Observe the dynamic at work here: the TBTF banks used the bailout money to acquire other banks and expand their fraudulent gambling operations, and then the DOJ tells the banks to use their massive size as means to avoid prosecution. This will not end well for the bankers and their government agents, who parrot the term "systemic" in hermetically sealed tragicomic oblivion, clueless about what happens to positive feedback loop systems like theirs.
The following chart of money velocity since the Great Depression dramatically illustrates the outcome:
Diagnosis: Stage 3 Federal Cancer
Sadly, this system is our problem, and its diagnosis is bleak.
Any number of people have measured the damage, and the numbers are huge red warning signs. Dennis Kelleher admits he pulled punches when he came up with $13 trillion.
We know the problem lies in Washington, D.C.
- Richard Bowen, a chief risk officer at Citigroup, testified before Congress that he sent CEO Bob Rubin email telling him about the company’s massively defective mortgages, which Citigroup continued selling with Rubin’s full knowledge. Robert Rubin is a former Secretary of the Treasury.
- Jamie Dimon lied to Congress about how JP Morgan didn’t need any bailouts, which you can do with impunity when not one Senator has the sense to give you an oath before testifying. Warren Buffett, the famous insider-trader worth billions, thinks Dimon would make a fine choice for Treasury Secretary.
- Jon Corzine—one of President Obama's biggest fundraisers and a former U.S. Senator—stole $1.6 billion from his customers’ safety deposit boxes without triggering a single federal investigation. Congress investigated the matter. But rather than writing a criminal referral about this theft, Congress wrote a meaningless report. Corzine is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs.
When you know these things about the federal government, you can bet the house that the cancer thrives in Washington, D.C. And you’d win, too, except that the federal government runs the casino at the criminals’ instructions.
The Cancer Says It's All Good
Predictably, this rigged casino is Exhibit #1 in Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's case that the economy is recovering. But like every fraud, it can’t withstand scrutiny: 88% of the gains among the 500 S&P stocks this year come from 10 companies—seven of which (Bank of America, AIG, Goldman, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and GE) have received in excess of $10 trillion in bailout money.
That’s all you need to know about the recovery: it mostly consists of companies getting bailouts to produce one product, namely, fraudulent financial paper. The entire recovery—a recursion algorithm of fraud and bailouts—is a Ponzi scheme disguised by the veil of financial jargon, now threadbare, which remains impenetrable only to the media.
Why Aren't Democratic Insiders Sounding The Alarm?
With the federal government doling out corporate welfare by the trillions to ensure that frauds are perpetrated up and down Main Street in the bright light of day, you'd have expected rabid packs of Democrats to burst from the chutes of federal power baying like beagles about the corruption that is being systematically worked on the People.
Nothing like that has even remotely happened, despite the fact that the 3-headed corporate welfare Godzilla (Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner) is a Republican.
In fact, until this year, not a single Democratic Insider other than Bill Black (who worked for Edwin Gray, a personal freind of the Reagans and a Republican) and James Galbraith (whose anti-fraud screeds, though commendable, lack specificity) broke ranks to so much as suggest criminality within what has historically stood as the Party’s archenemy, the financial Establishment. Finally, with the recent publication of Neil Barofsky’s Bailout and Jeff Connaugton’s Why Wall Street Always Wins earlier this year, Democrats can now point to a grand total of two (2) insiders who’ve taken on the powers that be by spilling the beans on the machinations of D.C.
When you get down to it, the only serious whistleblowers on the incestuous Wall Street-Washington orgy of criminal fraud over the last two decades have all come from the Republican Party.
The roster of Republican Insiders who tell the truth has grown a lot longer than most would've guessed back in 2008.
The most recent Republican Party Crasher is former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair. In her account of the crisis, Bull by the Horns, she rolls over on fellow Republican Tim Geithner by revealing his function as “bailouter in chief,” which he zestily performed, according to Bair, solely to save Citigroup in order to please Bob Rubin, Geithner’s “hero and mentor.”
Bair followed the lead of at least four other Republican insiders, three of whom were quite highly-positioned.
Before working in the Federal Reserve, Chris Whalen served Representative Jack Kemp as a staffer. Whalen exploded across my radar in late 2010 when he informed Larry Kudlow on CNBC that Jamie Dimon was in for a wicked surprise to learn that Bear Stearns had sold the same loans multiple times, an act of fraud so transparently criminal—and next to impossible to defend—that I spent the better part of the week searching for the clip to make sure I’d heard him correctly. I waited another month for the slander lawsuit against Whalen, which never came.
We'll return to the topic of multiple note-pledging--and see just how deep the rabbit hole under this outrageous fraud may well go--when the Republican Insiders' clean-up batter, Catherine Austin Fitts, steps to the plate.
David Stockman was the Budget Director in the Reagan I Administration. He’s the only D.C. Insider from either party that I know of who flat out says TARP was wholly unnecessary, but was passed instead solely to save Wall Street’s bacon. Not even Neil Barofsky, who wrote a whole book about TARP, goes that far.
In one fell swoop, Stockman punctured the myths of the great bank run and the great credit freeze of 2008 by disentangling retail credit (which affects Main Street banks and didn’t freeze) from wholesale credit (which implicates mortgage-backed securities, the exclusive playground of Wall Street, and did freeze). Stockman says TARP was passed to prop up Goldman Sachs’ plummeting stock price (an account partly corroborated by Barofsky’s disclosure of Bernanke’s opinion that Goldman would have been the next domino to fall—but for TARP).
So the run on money was not at the retail teller window; it was in the canyons of Wall Street. The run was on wholesale money—that is, on repo and on unsecured commercial paper that had been issued in the hundreds of billions by financial institutions loaded down with securitized toxic garbage, including a lot of in-process inventory, on the asset side of their balance sheets.
The fact that the TARP bailout was purely an act of Wall Street welfare, which did nothing but compromise the health and well-being of Main Street, is the most widely misunderstood factoid in the entire financial crisis, due in no small part to the relentless drumbeat of media propaganda. No one has ever produced so much as a shred of evidence to back up the claim that TARP saved anything supposedly teetering on the brink, much less the entire economy.
You’d think Democratic Insiders would pounce all over this, but alas, the Reagan wunderkind is the only Insider to do so.
Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts, a co-founder of Reaganomics, was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan I. Roberts came to my attention on Max Keiser’s On the Edge in October 2009 when he almost casually opined, in his genteel Southern lilt, that Tim Geithner’s grant of privileged Treasury access to Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup was an unprecedented outrage indicating that “the criminals are all inside the government operating against the People.” (1:12)
In the same interview, Roberts proceeds to articulate the central complaint of the Occupy Wall Street movement two years before its inception (1:45):
They’re paying enormous compensation to all of their employees, but everybody else in the country is suffering dramatically. The whole economic policy is being run for a handful of super-rich people.
Paul Craig Roberts undermines the official versions of a wide range of current events 2-3 times weekly on his own website.
Catherine Austin Fitts
Far and away the most prescient and thorough of the Republican Insider truth tellers is the soft-spoken Catherine Austin Fitts, the Assistant Secretary for HUD under Bush 41, for whom she’d been a fundraiser.
If you're not familiar with Fitts, know this: her disclosures will do your head in if you try absorbing them in one sitting, at least if you have even a scintilla of faith in anything you retained from your civics textbooks.
Fitts is a nightmare for anyone wishing to write her off as a conspiracy theorist because her accounts of fraud are so detailed--many of her disclosures can be verified with google searches, whereas none that I've found can be discredited either with counter-searches or by inference--as to leave next to no question that they are accurate. And that's quite aside from the fact that she's as sharp as the Devil himself.
Just two months after 9/11, Fitts published a long (12,000 word) piece explaining in detail how the government uses enormous sums of money in complex financial schemes to destroy communities. In it, Fitts draws on her experiences at HUD that led her to a huge financial rabbit hole that remains unresolved to this day:
HUD was a slush fund. Some say the loan sales were initially used to increase slush fund resources. If Treasury colluded with Wall Street bidders, it is entirely possible to have stolen large amounts of resources without anyone on the HUD loan sales team knowing. In addition, loan sales generated the credit subsidy and high recovery rate assumptions needed to fund large increases of new originations. Were new originations needed to keep slush fund operations going?
Fitts goes on to describe the massive amounts of federal credit sloshing around in connection with mortgages at HUD, which was notorious for its lack of anything resembling accounting controls. Fitts puts her finger on a possibility that, when coupled with a growing body of events that have since transpired, appears increasingly likely:
When an agency can issue government guarantees and not record what they have issued correctly and then write checks that are not recorded correctly, then one or more of the players that handle the money, namely the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, AMS and Lockheed, may be in a position to steal literally hundreds of billions of dollars with no one the wiser except those enjoying the fruits.
At a minimum, Fitts concludes the piece, “HUD is being run as a criminal enterprise.”
Since that time, of course, the credit-fueled spree of mortgage fraud exploded, culminating in bailouts that rewarded the perpetrators together with disclosures, like Whalen's (above) about multiple sales of the same mortgages. Fitts elaborated on the deep historical roots of the latter in an interview with Max Keiser last year:
Q. Let’s focus on this term “collateral fraud” because you’ve mentioned it a couple of times. The black budget, I understand you’re saying that since the National Security Act that was passed after World War II, the agencies like the CIA and others have unlimited spending authority with unlimited amounts of money to wage unlimited rogue wars around the world. You’re talking about collateral value—and this is a pretty straightforward banking term—but how does this play out in your picture that you’re painting here of a rogue government driven by corrupt agents inside of intelligence agencies who are bent on stealing the technology to commit illegal war acts?
A. What I discovered—I served as Assistant Secretary of Housing in the first Bush Administration, and then my company several years later was hired back on the basis of a competitive bid to serve as the lead financial advisor and portfolio strategist for the Federal Housing Administration. And what we discovered, Max, at the time, were patterns of systemic fraud that were inexplicable.
A. So, for example, when I was Assistant Secretary of Housing, I found one portfolio—it was a $9 billion portfolio, it was called co-insurance [ph.]—that had a 50% default rate and a 50% loss rate. I mean, it was just—it was impossible to explain by any rational, you know, housing bubble or markets being down. You could only explain these patterns with systemic fraud.
A. And one of the things we would find were communities where literally a house would default 5 times in a year. Well that’s, you know, an enormous speed and trajectory. And so, to make a long story short, I think what was happening was literally you were taking houses, and instead of issuing one mortgage on them, you were issuing 10 mortgages. And as long as it was sitting on a government-guaranteed securitized pool through Ginnie Mae—and I suspect this may have been what was happening in Fannie and Freddie—you could literally take one mortgage and end up through the securitized pools, instead of getting $100,000 for that mortgage, you could get a $1,000,000.
A. So I think one of the problems in letting the market clear is that there may be more than one mortgage on a lot of houses, and one of the reasons you’re seeing real frustration with people demanding to see the note and not being able to get the note is—my question is the reason because there are several notes on it? And there’s a real debate as to whose note is the valid one...
Continuing at 12:20, Fitts contends that the current mortgage-related frauds did not originate with the securitization craze of the 2000s, but stem--with the synthetic aid of subsequent financialization--from misdeeds as far back as the Reagan and Bush I Administrations. It is there, Fitts says, that the legal crisis took root in earnest:
Q. So during this period, all the housing collapse and housing fraud, and mortgage fraud was really birthed during that period, when this housing market and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were government agencies, or quasi-government agencies at that time, really began this whole phenomenon of re-selling the same mortgage multiple times to commit this massive funding fraud. Simultaneously, you’ve got this black [budget] funding of outright theft by the intelligence agencies. Was there any crossover between the money stolen from the intelligence agencies and the accounting in the [Federal] Housing Authority during the Reagan period and Bush period?
A. You know, Max, I believe so, because I believe that crime that pays is crime that stays. When—if you look at how much money was taken out of the housing and other systems with the federal credit and the fraud in the ‘80s, I think that funded an infrastructure of people to come back and to do it again, this time with derivatives and securitization that they didn’t have in the ‘80s.
A. So you’ve literally been watching what I would call the privatization of government as people use federal credit and government assets to shift wealth into private hands. That’s why I call it a financial coup d’etat… But one of the things I really wanna stress to people, that I saw in the Bush Administration, was a real sense that the world divides into 2 groups of people, one which is above the law and one which is not.
A. I’ll tell a story. In 1989, I was sitting in a meeting with Jack Kemp, who got very frustrated with one of the regional administrators. He was disagreeing with a decision he’d made, and the regional administrator said to him, “But I had to do it; it was the law.” And Jack turned to him and said, “You know, I don’t have to obey the law, I’m above the law. I report to a higher moral authority.”
A. So you had this sense that a great deal of money had been stolen, and it had really empowered the people who stole it, who at that point believed they were above the law.
In a recent interview, Fitts cuts to the core of both the problem and its solution, using Iceland as an example. She also returns to the $64 trillion question: where has all that stolen money gone? I’ve transcribed the most interesting parts of the interview here:
Q. The majority of people on this planet now don’t have anything to invest. On the contrary—
A. They have their time. The most valuable investment we all have is our time. And if we can create groups who will keep their promises and covenants and respect each other’s time, fantastic things can happen with no money. But I was just—there was a fellow in the audience from Iceland, and I was just talking about what Iceland has done. You know, in the [United] States, since the bailouts, people don’t trust the system because they don’t think the system—you know, they don’t want to invest their time, they don’t want to invest their money because they think the system isn’t trustworthy because it’s not.
A. Iceland, by repudiating the debt, created an environment where people have faith again in the system. It comes down to law. The debt was fraudulently induced. It’s not lawful. Repudiating it returns you to a state of law, and that’s what we need. So if we’re gonna create, whether it’s individuals or groups, how can we create something that is lawful and respects each other’s rights and time and money too? It’s all of it. So part of it is, how do you create a new legal system, whether it’s a formal system or it’s cultural? Because we have cultures that respect individual rights and property rights. We have other cultures that don’t. And the ones that do are much more prosperous, and it’s deeply embedded in the culture.
The most fascinating part of the interview comes at 13:45, where Fitts explores a theme frequently voiced by Dylan Ratigan, namely, the harvesting operation being run by central bankers. Fitts’ Insider perspective and bold demands for answers are eye-opening to say the least:
Q. You said something talking in a group, and you said something: you’ve been on important or high-level board meetings central positions there. And you say, many of these people are good people. And of course they are. They have families, some of them, they have struggled hard, and they finally get to harvest their own success in a way. That’s how you’re trained to see it, how you’re conditioned to see and judge the situation like this. So it’s not like they’re crooks and criminals. They can, on the top level, some of them can do all the criminal things they want. How can we make the change for these? How can we get the unity? How can we re-align without bitterness or hatred for what has happened? What do you think about that?
A. I think the most important thing we need to do is we need to bring transparency to why they’re behaving the way they’re behaving. In other words, I don’t think we know—
Q. They don’t know it. We don’t know it. Maybe—this is [unintelligible].
A. Well, what’s very interesting is that when you move up the hierarchies, and you sit down in a boardroom or you sit down with people who are working at a high level in government, it is quite amazing sometimes to understand how little they know.
A. And it’s interesting. When I became involved in litigation with the federal government, I stopped and I said, you know, instead of going back to work and just working, working, working, I’m gonna take the time to map out how the money’s really working an figure out what’s really going on. Think of our world as—have you ever been to Disneyworld?
A. So you have a world on top with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and then you have another world underground with all these people running around manipulating and creating—
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. Well, it’s the same thing in our world. We have the covert world and we have the… So I said, okay, I’m gonna map out and I’m gonna understand how the covert world works. And what you discover when you map out the covert world is a huge amount of money is being harvested—planet Earth is like a field, and it’s being harvested every year, and the money is disappearing. So I call it the black budget.
A. And the question is: Where is that money going? And why are the people running the black budget behaving the way they are? And my feeling is that until we answer that question, and figure it out, and demand answers—it is impossible, you know—if you’re a surgeon, you need a diagnosis before you can cut. We don’t know. We don’t understand—
A. What I will tell you is, in America, a group of soccer moms cannot back the drug dealers out of their neighborhood without James Bond and black helicopters coming down on their heads, because that drug money is financing private space programs, or whatever. And so we’ve got to be able to answer the question: Why do we have a centralized system that is literally harvesting planet earth? Where is that money going? And what is this about? Because until we deal with that financial drain, and literally the creation of what I call the breakaway civilization, we don’t understand what’s happening or why.
Fitts' personal account of her time at investment firm Dillon Read is also a jaw-dropper.
You have to wonder why Democratic Insiders have been so notably absent in issuing clarion calls against the elite for its fraud and theft against middle class Americans.
Perhaps having a long history of taking on the Establishment, as the Democrats do, is a two-edged sword. On one the one hand, talking trash about Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan might be easier when people expect you to tell the powers that be to go piss up a rope.
But on the other hand, the Democrats who do this are lauded in some circles for no other reason than they’re part of a team with a long—and respectable—history of doing the same thing. And therein lies the problem, namely, the expectation that as member of the tribe, the Insider won’t go too far. A lampshade on the head in the den is one thing; an empty fifth of Wild Turkey and a loaded .45 near the fine China is quite another.
Republican Insiders face no such hurdle. Merely deciding to spill the beans by talking about crime on Wall Street—the Party’s historical benefactor—is an act of high treason. The question of whether their gloves are off never even comes up. The mere fact that they’re dishing out the dirt on Wall Street places them alongside Colonel Kurtz, in Cambodia, so everyone knows they “got off the boat” because they’ve “split from the whole fucking program.”
Whatever the case, it’s clear that Democratic Insiders have a long way to go before they come even close to producing the deluge of information that Republicans have. At a minimum, they’re doing a fine job making a mockery of their long tradition of standing toe-to-toe with the powerful.
What a shame.
John Titus has practiced law in federal courts for more than 15 years and is the writer and producer of the soon-to-be-released documentary, Bailout.
Previously from Titus: