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« VIDEO - Fist Fight In Italian Parliament As 'Dysfunctional' Government Threatens Euro Bailout | Main | Colbert: Crucial Time In The Fight For Corporate Civil Rights »

Larry Summers Is An Economic War Criminal

Guest post submitted by Chris Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics


“It will become clear, and may as well be stated at the outset, that this is written by a political opponent of Henry Kissinger. Nonetheless, I have found myself continually amazed at how much hostile and discreditable material I have felt compelled to omit. I am concerned only with those Kissingerian offenses that might or should form the basis of a legal prosecution: for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture.”

The Case Against Henry Kissinger:
The making of a war criminal

Christopher Hitchens
Harpers, March 2001

Where does Larry Summers get off giving Americans advice on how to fix the continuing housing crisis?  And where does this political opportunist find the unmitigated gall to instruct us not to “finger point” and thereby identify culprits in Washington who helped enable the housing mess?   Like advising the White House to ignore the fact of a collapsing credit market for jumbo and high SATO loans for the past several years?

As a general rule I like to follow the sage advice of Roger Kubarych, formerly of the Fed of New York and then Wall Street, but now working in the public sector, in 2008 during the depths of the crisis. “I have nothing bad to say about anybody,” he quipped during a discussion about how and when the FRBNY senior staff were first apprised on the problems at Bear, Stearns & Co.  Good advice in these dark times.

But former Harvard University head Larry Summers is a special case and one that rises to almost Kissingerian dimensions, to borrow from Christopher Hitchens.  In “Rational Irrationality” in The New Yorker last May, John Cassidy compared Summers to Henry Kissinger, an apt appraisal which begs the question: Is Larry Summers an Economic War Criminal?

Not only did Summers work tirelessly during his years in the Clinton Administration to undermine regulatory and prudential controls in our financial markets, but he joined Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and his political sponsor, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and public paragon Arthur Levitt, in smearing CFTC Chairman Brooksley Born so as to make the world safe for OTC derivatives.

“The moratorium was a huge victory for Wall Street,” Robert Stowe England writes in his new book, Black Box Casino.  “And a big win for Rubin, Summers and Greenspan,” though he rightly notes that Levitt later expressed regrets over his actions.  But not Larry Summers, a man for whom ideology has never gotten in the way of the practical necessities at a given moment in time.  He rolls in his own mess, in political terms you understand, and then expects us to believe that it smells so very sweet.  The latest case in point is seen as Summer prescribes solutions to the housing crisis.

In their book Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson and Josh Rosner describe in vivid detail how Larry Summers, Robert Zoellick and others bullied critics and won and influenced friends for Fannie Mae, one of the key Washington agencies that helped lead to the subprime debt crisis.  Ed Demarco, now head of the agency that supervises Fannie and Freddie Mac, wrote a report in 1996 suggesting that the housing GSEs be privatized.  But Summers bullied Demarco and other staffers, eventually forcing them to rewrite the entire document.  The cost to the taxpayer of Summers’ intervention regarding the housing agencies is over $150 billion and climbing.  And this number will climb dramatically after the 2012 election.

But perhaps one of the biggest indictments of Summers when it comes to his contribution or lack thereof to economic public policy is also his last, namely the advice to President Obama to do nothing about either the top-four zombie banks or the housing GSEs.  By allowing the GSEs and the cartel they form with the largest four banks – JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America – in the secondary market for home loans to deny millions of middle to lower income borrowers the opportunity to refinance, Summers has cost millions of Americans livelihood and security.  I wrote about this issue in “Are the low US home mortgage rates for real?”

Summers deserves the censure of all Americans for his hideously bad advice to President Barack Obama regarding the housing crisis.  First Summers told Obama not to restructure the largest zombie banks, the very same institutions that today deny millions of Americans their contractual right to refinance their mortgages.

Cassidy quotes Summers on Obama’s view of the big banks last year prior to his flight from the White House: “In the same spirit that the president did not want to take ownership of the banks, he has a healthy skepticism about schemes involving large government action and an awareness of the possibilities of unintended consequences.”

Second, Summers told the POTUS that there was no need to address the fact that tens of millions of American households are under water on their mortgages.  As Laurie Goodman of Amherst Securities has noted, there is a cost to doing nothing.  For Summers now to offer us advice on the mess he helped to create is quite outrageous.

“This guy and his crew from Harvard have fought me on this for the last three years when it comes to dealing with the home refinance issue,” notes one banking industry official who has argued for a government response to refinancing. “When we finally get the Obama administration to change their mind on dealing with under water mortgages, Summers pops up pretending to lead the parade.”

Bottom line is that Larry Summers has nothing to say about the housing crisis.  His role in creating the catastrophe and pandering to the worst tendencies on Wall Street should rule him out of any attempt to fashion policy or a coherent history going forward.  And for the media especially, you need to commit Morgenson & Rosner to memory as a lesson in the ways and means of Washington and people like Larry Summers.


Read Chris' Latest Post at IRA:



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Reader Comments (13)

OWS sign reads;

Oct 25, 2011 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlberto


"It's not what you know. It's who you know."

"…Another about $115 million of the $503 million went to a company called First Wind, whose owners include the Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners and a member of the D.E. Shaw group. This Bloomberg article quotes President Obama's White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a congressman at the time the article was published, as saying of Madison Dearborn, "They've been not only supporters of mine, they're friends of mine." The Bloomberg article says, "Employees of Madison Dearborn have donated $77,500 to Emanuel's re-election committee since 2001, collectively emerging as the top contributor to his campaigns in his congressional career, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics." D.E. Shaw is the firm at which Mr. Obama's chief of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers, held a $5.2 million a year, one-day-a-week job. The Energy Department did not respond to a query from FutureOfCapitalism.com about whether Messrs. Emanuel or Summers had been involved in the decision to award the grant.....
Oct 25, 2011 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
Who sits on Obummer and the SEC? Do we need the military for this because all the congressional k___-g______s are too busy?
Oct 25, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoward T. Lewis III
Not to mention the oodles of cash Summers gambled away from his beloved Harvard's endowment...his sacking as Harvard's president...his rampant conflicts...

How does this guy have a job? No, really?
Oct 29, 2011 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosie
Congress discovers they have earned a 9% approval rating, so they suspend, indefinitely, The Bill of Rights and go back to mewling and prancing for contributions because they know how they earned the 9% approval rating, and they fear what will happen to themselves only, next.

Remember, all you squirrels out there, 9-11 has been solved while congress mewled and pranced, the DH oil well in the GoM was intentionally blown out to destroy the gulf resource while Obama greased up and congress mewled and pranced, The Fukushima plant, where three reactors are in meltdown and have melted completely through the floor and are 20 to 50 feet below the structures, was licensed and commissioned and sited ten feet above sea level in the center of the most active tsunami zone on earth facing open ocean with all spent fuel in ponds on top and the emergency cooling unprotected ten feet above sea level, by the same cabal as the above while congress mewled and pranced, and the post-deregulation and SEC enforcement high velocity computer trading and bail outs trading Americans' hard earned dollars for B.S. scrip goes over several trillion dollars while congress mewls and prances, and HAARP weather attacks destroy family AND corporate farms in the midwest as the weather derivative markets are being gamed and then these farms are hit by Rothschild carpetbaggers while congress mewls and prances.

Abstract reasoning is not the forte of the American people, nor is it the forte of those playing with fire as I describe above. There will be hell to pay. Ignorance is no excuse. I hope the military leaders in the active and inactive service to Obama are not so God damned stupid. I know what happens when they go to work.
Dec 17, 2011 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoward T. Lewis III

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
Questions on Fed succession nag in background at Jackson Hole


(Reuters) - Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers never came near the Federal Reserve's annual monetary policy symposium in Jackson Hole this weekend, but his name was often raised on the sidelines amid speculation over his possible selection as the next Fed chairman.

How would Summers, a Harvard professor with a formidable reputation for brilliance but no patience for people he disagrees with, treat his Fed colleagues?
Aug 25, 2013 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
Obama may need Republican help if picks Summers for Fed


(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will likely have to contend with Democratic defections and bring some Republicans on board to support Lawrence Summers if he chooses the controversial former Treasury secretary as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Summers, one of Obama's chief economic advisers during the financial crisis, and Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen are considered the leading candidates to replace Ben Bernanke as the United States' top central banker.

Any nominee for Fed chairman is likely to face a contentious bid for approval by the Senate, where Obama's Democrats hold a majority.

Many lawmakers were unhappy with the unprecedented measures the Fed took to prop up the financial system during the 2007-2009 credit crisis, and some think the U.S. central bank overstepped its bounds by buying government debt to drive down borrowing costs. That sentiment could work against either candidate.

Still, Yellen, a former president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, may have an easier time. A majority of Senate Democrats have either indicated that they would support her or have privately expressed confidence in her abilities.

Summers, who writes an opinion column for Reuters, has drawn the ire of two Democrats on the committee that will need to clear his nomination. And a third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate sent Obama a letter urging him to choose Yellen, putting the onus on the president to court Republicans to reach the required number of votes if he picks Summers instead.

"The president would have to use more of his political capital to get those votes," said Phillip Swagel, an economic adviser in George W. Bush's Republican administration.

Summers has drawn criticism for a personality that many consider acerbic and for his role in deregulating the financial sector as Treasury secretary under former Democratic president Bill Clinton. Many Democrats believe deregulation played a role in triggering the financial crisis a decade or so later.

By contrast, Yellen has been praised by consumer advocates and liberals for spotting the threat posed by the housing bubble. With Democrats united behind her, Obama would not need to count on as many Republicans.

Summers has also faced criticism for comments he made as president of Harvard University questioning women's aptitude in engineering and science. But supporters give him the nod for his experience battling financial crises and his ability to think outside the box.

Bernanke's term ends January 31 and the White House has said an announcement on his successor is expected in the fall. CNBC television, citing a source from 'Team Obama,' reported that Summers will likely be named as Fed chairman in a few weeks.

The confirmation push will come at a particularly difficult time for the administration. Republicans are gearing up for a fight over a spending bill that needs to pass before October 1 to keep the government running and they also plan a battle over the nation's debt limit, which will likely need to be raised by November to avoid a default.


If Obama chooses Summers, the first hurdle would be getting through the Senate Banking Committee.

Obama's fellow Democrats have a 12-10 majority on the panel, but two of them are Summers' biggest critics within the party - Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a consumer advocate and fierce critic of Wall Street, also sits on the committee.
Aug 27, 2013 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
I guess we deniers need to change our political views

hmm: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/02/science-vs-politics/

Here is some background:


First Wind – Received $232 million in stimulus funds. An audit revealed the money only created 125 jobs.

David Shaw: Founder of DE Shaw. Obama bundler and one of the top 3 donors to the Democratic Party. Largest shareholder of First Wind.

Larry Summers: Part owner of First Wind. Obama’s Chief Economic Advisor.

David Canning: Part owner of First Wind. George W. Bush bundler, Barack Obama donor, Rahm Emanuel donor.

Where in the world is Larry Summers?


Google search UPC/IVPC/First Wind/ Evergreen.
Feb 17, 2014 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
Kuwait Investment Authority Hosts Larry Summers in Kuwait


Kuwait City – Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) today hosted Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, as guest speaker at the “Global Macroeconomic and Geopolitical Situation” seminar, held at the Arraya Ballroom, Courtyard Marriott. Arranged together with Citi, the seminar was attended by 350 business heads and top decision makers in the private and public sectors.

On his debut visit to Kuwait, Mr. Summers, currently Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University, presented an interesting overview of global economic environment, while his compelling views and arguments opened the floor to a healthy debate with much focus on Kuwait’s position in the current geopolitical and geo-economics space.
Dec 17, 2014 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
Larry Summers: “Blockchain is Going to Be Fundamental”


Larry Summers, the former Secretary of Treasury of the Clinton administration, is impressed by blockchain technology and believes that it will change financial practice and exchange as we know it today.

Dr Larry Summers is no stranger to the world of finance. He was the Secretary of Treasury of the Clinton administration.

He has also served as the President of Harvard University and Chief Economist of the World Bank. When he makes a statement on matters concerning the financial sector, the world notices...

Adviser to Digital Currency Group

The comments made by Larry Summers on blockchain are not one-off in nature. Summers truly believes in the potential of blockchain and has joined Digital Currency Group as a senior adviser in April 2016.

DCG is an investment firm focusing on the Bitcoin/blockchain technology space. DCG feels that its new advisers, including Dr Larry Summers and Gavin Andresen, will be critical in increasing adoption of blockchain technology and reaching a broad set of end-users.
May 9, 2016 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohn

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