Thursday, April 22, 2010

Above the Law?








What law? What is this "law" of which you speak, stranger?

The recent dustup over Goldman Sachs, the most powerful bank on Wall Street and one of the largest in the country, is one of the very few critical moments in the bank's history. I use "critical" as a double entendre because not only is the SEC's civil lawsuit against Goldman one of the very few times it's been criticized for its business dealings but when news broke of the SEC's lawsuit, Wall Street's most dependable money-maker lost 10% of its stock price.

But this civil lawsuit, which, at most, will end up with the SEC and not the homeowners who'd been destroyed by Goldman's top executives betting against mortgaged-backed securities through its Abacus program getting a huge fine will guarantee business will go on as usual. This is a day and age in which even multi-million dollar federal fines are a mere ancillary cost of doing business, with bankruptcy courts and "too big to fail" federal bailouts as their Plan B's. After all, since Goldman Sachs just reported first quarter earnings of almost $3.5 billion, who cares if they have to dig between their couch cushions and literally pull a few million dollars out of their fat, pasty asses? It's a money laundering scheme, essentially, meaning the government makes a show of acting tough against the occasional corporation, they pay Uncle Sam millions in fines, we don't see a penny of it and we hear days or weeks later another outrageously innovative way that the same corporation has come up with to make money.

But acting tough with civil lawsuits and questioning Chairmen and CEO's instead of going after them with handcuffs and truncheons (Buzzflash editorial) isn't the same thing as being tough. The 1999 repeal of Glass Steagall, arguably Bill Clinton's lowest moment next to NAFTA, handcuffs even federal regulators who might actually have a desire to reign in what Matt Taibbi famously called the "bloodsucking squidmonster."

It's notable that, even as the NY Times reported that Goldman's elite executives, including Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein himself, manipulated those mortgage-backed securities that were almost sure to fail and fraudulently sold them to their investors, none of them were named in the civil suit that still, at worst, would've been a slap on the wrist.

In fact, Fabrice P. Tourre, the Frenchman "who saw disaster looming" and was a pioneer in the "credit-default swaps" that largely contributed to the housing bubble bursting, is the only Goldman executive named in the civil suit.

There are certain people and entities in this country that are simply beyond the law or would be had we any actual laws prohibiting this sort of thing from happening. But Glass Steagall's repeal 11 years ago made possible betting against mortgage-backed securities that were anything but secure. And Blankfein, at most, is occasionally called to Capitol Hill so he can get barked at by toothless Democrats on short leashes. Congressional testimony also gives him another reason to warn Congress about the danger of capping already out-of-control executive compensation.

Hardly a word in the MSM has been said concerning the real victims of this credit default swap that's no better than a massive rigged game of craps, which is the individual homeowner. Homeowners who were suckered into home loans by smooth-talking con men who assured them everything would be alright and that their APR's wouldn't double before the first two years of homeownership.

Homeowners who would then be told pay up twice as much or get the fuck out and, by the way, bail us out to the tune of ten billion dollars and forget about getting any more loans even after we get bailed out, forget about having your loans renegotiated or your mortgages restructured or being able to refinance. The days of you using your house as an ATM machine are long gone.

But not the days of unprecedented profits for places like the corporations that put them out of business and turned them out of their homes because our own government made it more profitable for them to foreclose than it would have been to keep these families in their homes so they could do their part to shore up the economy.

It's never been about shoring up the economy but shoring up parasitic corporations. It has, however been all about socializing losses and privatizing gains, keeping "the dreams of many in the hands of one", as Eugene Debs once defined "investment." And not naming the head vampire squids Blankfein and Cohn and all the top executives under them was not a simple oversight.

A man steals a loaf of bread to feed his family and gets a year in prison. John A. Paulson selling worthless mortgage-backed securities that he knows will fail while swindling investors and helping to get hard-working homeowners evicted makes over $3 billion with utter impunity and all under the radar of the SEC and the mainstream media.

Because there are some people who are simply above the law or would be if there were any actual laws to restrain the Goldman Sachs, Enrons and Worldcoms in our country.

7 Comments:

At April 22, 2010 at 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can thank Phil Gramm and the ("Ronald Reagan is GOD!) Republican controlled Congress of the 1990's and early 2000's for the de-regulations and the resulting free-for-all "theft" on/of Wall Street..they made it possible, and they made the "crimes" all perfectly "legal"...

 
At April 22, 2010 at 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes,there will be a special place in
hell for Gramm, McCain and oh yes
REAGAN.

 
At April 22, 2010 at 4:48 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

What's really laughable (and I meant to include this point in with my post) is that Goldman's flaks are fanning out and telling shareholders that Blankfein had nothing whatsoever to do with this, as if making billions in betting against weak mortgage-backed securities was the last thing on his mind.

Which is to say, Blankfein and his ilk would ever actually turn down the opportunity to make billions more in any way possible.

They must think we're all idiots.

 
At April 22, 2010 at 6:43 PM, Anonymous Longtime P'ville reader said...

Nice to see you focusing more on economics these days. I used to get all heated up about political stuff, good Dems vs. bad Repukes, and I liked how you would hammer on that angle. But after Obama got elected -- hell, after the Dims took Congrifts in 2006 and didn't do diddley -- I saw that D and R are just sides of the same coin. And it's the men like Blankcheck, the ones who have all the coins, who run the game. Politics is bullshit; economics is the true state of national affairs.

There are a lot of shrewd economic writers out there like Taibbi. I spend more time reading them than I do political bloggers. You have a good take on politics, but that's almost like being a good sportswriter these days. It's a description of a game, not something real.

 
At April 22, 2010 at 7:08 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Well, I tend to write about that which affects all of us. And if economics doesn't qualify as that, what does?

 
At April 23, 2010 at 12:22 PM, Blogger Cervantes said...

You do have a point, but regarding there being no laws to restrain "the Goldman Sachs, Enrons and Worldcoms in our country," I have to point out that Bernie Ebbers will die in prison. Just sayin'.

 
At April 23, 2010 at 12:48 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

We'll see. And even if that turns out to be true, you have to also remember that in even the most lawless and greediest of times, every now and then the government has to make an example of someone just to give the appearance of the law being upheld, which is not the same thing as the law actually being upheld.

Personally, I think Kenny Lay and Jeff Skilling did far more damage to this country than Bernard Ebbers or Bernie Madoff ever did. Same goes for Lee Mozillo at Countrywide and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs and quite a few other executives I can think of.

And some of the biggest white collar criminals in this country presently work for Treasury or used to.

So it's going to take more one or two executives going to jail before I'll be fooled into thinking that real reform and the rule of law will wash the scumbags off Wall Street.

That simply will not happen. Because the government believes, and will always believe, that some people are just too big too fail. And every day Lloyd Blankfein and his corporate counterparts continue to walk free and eat well is just more validation of that belief.

 

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