Banks have paid less than half the $5.7 billion in cash owed to troubled homeowners under nearly 30 settlements brokered by the government since 2008, delaying help to the millions of victims of discrimination and shoddy lending that epitomized the housing crisis, according to a Washington Post analysis of government data.
But in order to determine how much each borrower was owed, the banks planned to review each foreclosure one by one. After 12 months, no homeowners had received a dime. But the eight consultants managing the process on behalf of the banks were paid nearly $2 billion.
Oh, are we getting ripped off. And now we’ve got the data to prove it. From 2009 to 2011, the richest 8 million families (the top 7%) on average saw their wealth rise from $1.7 million to $2.5 million each. Meanwhile the rest of us – the bottom 93% (that’s 111 million families) — suffered on average a decline of $6,000 each.
Do the math and you’ll discover that the top 7% gained a whopping $5.6 trillion in net worth (assets minus liabilities) while the rest of lost $669 billion. Their wealth went up by 28% while ours went down by 4 percent.
It’s as if the entire economic recovery is going into the pockets of the rich. And that’s no accident.
In theory, a seven figure annual pay packet should be more than enough to live on. In the UK, only the top 1% of income taxpayers earn anything more than £150k according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. In the US, the top 1% of people earn more than $370k according to the Internal Revenue Service. And yet, some bankers in the top bracket are having money troubles.
“It’s really not that unusual to find Wall Street bankers who are close to declaring themselves bankrupt,” said Gary Goldstein, co-founder of U.S. search firm Whitney Partners. “Some people are really struggling.”
Claims that bankers are having problems making ends meet won’t do much to ingratiate them to the public. At last week’s Barclays Annual General Meeting, Joan Woolard, a pensioner from the north of England berated Barclays for overpaying its bankers. Anyone who wanted more than £1m ($1.5m) a year was simply a “greedy b*stard,” said Woolard.
For some people working in financial services, however, £1m is simply what’s needed to cover the cost of living.
“You get a lot of people who have a very expensive lifestyle,” said Louise Cooper, a former Goldman Sachs salesperson and financial analyst at Cooper City. “They will always have a nanny, private schools for the children and they will have a very big expensive house. All of this has to be paid for out of taxable income,” she points out. “With a top tax rate of 45%, this means that you need to be earning nearly double what you’re spending.”
It would be one thing if Apple and other giant companies were borrowing in order to expand operations and create new jobs. But that’s not what’s going on. Apple, remember, is still sitting on $145 billion.
The reason big companies aren’t creating more jobs is consumers aren’t buying enough to justify the expansion. And government is cutting back on spending.
Big corporations are borrowing simply in order to push stock prices up and reward their investors.
It’s a sump pump with the Fed on one end buying up bonds to keep interest rates low, and shareholders on the other end raking in the returns.
Get it? Easy money from the Fed can’t get the economy out of first gear when the rest of government is in reverse.
Trickle-down economics is the first cousin of austerity economics. Austerity is nuts when so many millions are out of work. And as we’ve learned before, trickle-down is a fraud. Nothing ever trickles down.
More than two million emails that shed light on the biggest tax dodge in history – trillions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts – have been uncovered by the British newspaper The Guardian and the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Some $32 trillion has been hidden in small island banking hubs which host a bevy of trust funds, shell corporations and other tax havens, the Tax Justice Network estimates.
Let that sink in for a moment. The implications are stupefying. The real effects of this are far more subtle, and pernicious, but this makes for a fun thought exercise – even setting aside the fact that only some percentage of this huge sum would fairly be taken as tax revenue.
The “CIA World Factbook” estimates the nominal Gross World Product is $71.83 trillion as of 2012. If you shine a light on that $32 trillion, and put it back on the books, the entire planet’s total product jumps by more than 44%. Every country on Earth would get a $163.2 billion windfall. High-speed rail and space programs for everyone!
If all $32 trillion was added to government coffers, that would be enough to give every man, woman and child alive on Earth today a roughly $4,600 “stimulus” check.
Maybe we could all enjoy a two-week vacation in the British Virgin Islands. After all, it seems to be the destination of choice for monied types…
The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor.
Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.
You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”
That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.
If you work for 50 years and receive the typical long-term return of 7 percent on your 401(k) plan and your fees are 2 percent, almost two-thirds of your account will go to Wall Street. This was the bombshell dropped by Frontline’s Martin Smith in this Tuesday evening’s PBS program, The Retirement Gamble.
This is not so much a gamble as a certainty: under a 2 percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that’s before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam.
To put it another way – you work for Wall Street. You are their slave, their lackey and as long as their toadies dominate in Congress, nothing is going to change on the legislative front to stop the looting.
The alchemists of Wall Street are at it again.
The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good. Once more, arcane-sounding financial products like collateralized debt obligations are being minted on Wall Street.
You’d think they’d have learned their lesson from the prosecutions, the forced break-ups, the clawbacks, the re-regulation, and our simple, pitiless lassez-faire approach of simply letting the worst of them fail.
Senator Warren: I just want to take a look at the Independent Foreclosure Review Payment Agreement details. I think you’ve probably all seen this one page agreement that lists all of the things that the banks did wrong and then boxes for how many people fall into each category and how much money they’re going to be paid. Is that right? You’ve all seen this? [Panel indicates they have seen it.] And this was put out – who put this out? I think this is put out by the OCC and Federal Reserve. Is that right? As part of the settlement details. So I just want to ask you about this. It has some pretty amazing categories here. The first category is about service members who were protected by Federal law whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed. It’s got people who were current on their payments whose homes were foreclosed. It’s got people who were performing all of the requirements under a modification who lost their homes to foreclosure. And it tells how many people fall into each category and how much money the people in that category will receive. And, it ultimately resolves what will happen to 3,949,896 families. So the question I have is having resolved this nearly 4 million families, who put the people, the families, into each of these boxes. Is that what your firms did. Mr. Ryan?
Owen Ryan, Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP: No, Senator, we did not.
Senator Warren: So who put them in.
Ryan: I’m not sure how that schedule is prepared. I saw it for the first time yesterday.
Senator Warren: Mr. Flanagan?
James Flanagan, Leader, U.S. Financial Services Practice, Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP: Same response. We were not involved in the accumulation of that information.
Senator Warren: Mr. Alt?
Konrad Alt, Managing Director, Promontory Financial Group: Senator, I’ve seen the schedule but I’m not familiar with the basis for its preparation.
Senator Warren: So let me understand this. You ran the independent reviews, right. That’s what you got paid to do. And yet, I presume, the only one left is the banks must have put them in these boxes and you made no independent review of their going into these boxes. You were not asked to do that? Mr. Alt.
Alt: No Senator, we were not asked to do that.
Senator Warren: Mr. Flanagan.
Flanagan: No we were not.
Senator Warren: Mr. Ryan.
Ryan: We were not Senator.
Senator Warren: So that leaves us with the banks that broke the law were then the banks that decided how many people lost their homes because of their lawbreaking. And, as a result, how many people would collect money in each of these categories. Is that right Mr. Alt?
Alt: Senator, I’m not familiar with the basis for the scheduling.
Senator Warren: So far as you know, there’s no independent review of the banks’ analysis…you looked at 100,000 cases and the banks have now put 4 million people into categories and resolved finally how much they will get from this review by the OCC and the Federal Reserve.
“Swarming,” writes Mal Spooner, a Canadian money manager and financial columnist, “is the term now applied to the crime where an unsuspecting innocent bystander is attacked by several culprits at once… Because swarming at street level involves violence, it is criminal. However in financial markets it is perfectly legal.”
Bank of America will pay $36.8 million to members of the military it improperly foreclosed on between 2006 and 2010, according to a settlement it reached with the federal government in 2011, the Justice Department announced this week.
Bank of America was already paying 142 military members under the original 2011 agreement, but a further review required by the settlement found 155 additional military homeowners who were subject to improper foreclosures, the Justice Department said.
Imagine other crimes punished like banking institutions:
“You are charged with the theft of one 1995 Honda Accord, how do you plead?” “I admit no wrongdoing.” “That’s fine. You are thus hereby fined $5.33 for your crime, I can only hope this will deter you from further violations of the law.”
Millions of internal records have leaked from Britain’s offshore financial industry, exposing for the first time the identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world, from presidents to plutocrats, the daughter of a notorious dictator and a British millionaire accused of concealing assets from his ex-wife.
The leak of 2m emails and other documents, mainly from the offshore haven of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.
In France, Jean-Jacques Augier, President François Hollande’s campaign co-treasurer and close friend, has been forced to publicly identify his Chinese business partner. It emerges as Hollande is mired in financial scandal because his former budget minister concealed a Swiss bank account for 20 years and repeatedly lied about it.
In Mongolia, the country’s former finance minister and deputy speaker of its parliament says he may have to resign from politics as a result of this investigation.
But the two can now be named for the first time because of their use of companies in offshore havens, particularly in the British Virgin Islands, where owners’ identities normally remain secret.
The names have been unearthed in a novel project by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists [ICIJ], in collaboration with the Guardian and other international media, who are jointly publishing their research results this week.
Newly released data on corporate profitability for 2012 show the continuation of historic levels of profitability despite excessive unemployment and stagnant wages for most workers. Specifically, the share of capital income (such as profits and interest, which are hereafter referred to as ‘profits’) in the corporate sector increased to 25.6 percent in 2012, the highest in any year since 1950-1951 and far higher than the 19.9 percent share prevailing over 1969-2007, the five business cycles preceding the financial crisis…
We now have an economy built to assure high corporate profitability even when it’s operating far below capacity and when most families and workers are faring poorly. This is further evidence that there is a remarkable disconnect between the fortunes of business and those best-off (high-income households) and the vast majority.
More of the same. Can’t make up my mind about the category.
FURY erupted yesterday as it emerged that rich Russians withdrew £2billion BEFORE a tax raid on bank savings in Cyprus was announced.
The revelation came as Eurozone ministers proposed a plan to protect investors with under 100,000 euros (£85,700).
But British troops on the Mediterranean island were left fearing they may still lose out as the UK Government watered down a guarantee to safeguard their cash.
An earlier scheme to grab 6.75 per cent of smaller savings would see an estimated 60,000 British ex-pats — with £1.7billion in Cypriot banks — potentially losing thousands.
The controversial one-off tax was announced on Saturday as part of a 10billion euro bailout.
But Russian oligarchs and big investors emptied accounts in the days beforehand, prompting claims they were tipped off by bank insiders. A source told The Sun: “It leaked out. Bankers warned their best clients. Government officials warned their friends and relatives.
“Billions disappeared from accounts in days, most from accounts held by Russians.”
A couple of years ago, the journalist Nicholas Shaxson published a fascinating, chilling book titled “Treasure Islands,” which explained how international tax havens — which are also, as the author pointed out, “secrecy jurisdictions” where many rules don’t apply — undermine economies around the world. Not only do they bleed revenues from cash-strapped governments and enable corruption; they distort the flow of capital, helping to feed ever-bigger financial crises.
One question Mr. Shaxson didn’t get into much, however, is what happens when a secrecy jurisdiction itself goes bust. That’s the story of Cyprus right now.
Basically, Cyprus is a place where people, especially but not only Russians, hide their wealth from both the taxmen and the regulators. Whatever gloss you put on it, it’s basically about money-laundering.
And the truth is that much of the wealth never moved at all; it just became invisible. On paper, for example, Cyprus became a huge investor in Russia — much bigger than Germany, whose economy is hundreds of times larger. In reality, of course, this was just “roundtripping” by Russians using the island as a tax shelter.
Unfortunately for the Cypriots, enough real money came in to finance some seriously bad investments, as their banks bought Greek debt and lent into a vast real estate bubble. Sooner or later, things were bound to go wrong. And now they have.
But step back for a minute and consider the incredible fact that tax havens like Cyprus, the Cayman Islands, and many more are still operating pretty much the same way that they did before the global financial crisis. Everyone has seen the damage that runaway bankers can inflict, yet much of the world’s financial business is still routed through jurisdictions that let bankers sidestep even the mild regulations we’ve put in place. Everyone is crying about budget deficits, yet corporations and the wealthy are still freely using tax havens to avoid paying taxes like the little people.
So don’t cry for Cyprus; cry for all of us, living in a world whose leaders seem determined not to learn from disaster.
European Union lawmakers are expected to agree on Wednesday to bar bankers in Europe from getting bonuses bigger than their salary, introducing the first cap of its kind globally.
One of the most ambitious reforms of the financial crisis, the cap is designed to address public anger at a bonus-driven culture many European politicians believe encouraged the risk-taking that pulled down banks and governments.
It is set to be introduced from next year despite the objections of Britain. While some token concessions are possible to show goodwill towards the bloc’s financial hub of London, the decision on a cap will not be reversed.
So it turns out that those who noted that the Cyprus bailout took place ahead of a local bank holiday on Monday were onto something. The terms of the bailout deal represent a huge leap in how the EU is tackling the crisis. Time will tell whether this leap is over or into the chasm.
And the Russians? The reason small depositors have been hit is that the losses inflicted would be much bigger if a) only large deposits b) only non-EU deposits were haircut. The data on Cyprus deposits is here (MUMs = Monetary Union Members). I would guess the thinking is that 10% is seen as a cost of doing business when it comes to money laundering, but 30% would probably finish Cypriot banking for good. If the infliction of losses on small depositors has a purpose, it’s probably to reassure the Russians that they are not being discriminated against. Yes, I may have thrown up a little in my mouth typing that.
Summary: A bunch of big banks made some risky investments, and they sold these risky investments to other financial groups and rich people. These rich people were told “hey; if this works out, you’ll make a fortune… if not, sucks to be you.”
Well, it didn’t work out, the banks tanked and shut their doors, and they took a bunch of other industries with them. Now, the EU helped these investors, who were told up front of the risks mind you, recoup some of their money. Now, per this agreement, they want Irish taxpayers help these investors recoup their losses. This journalist had the nerve to ask “Why do the taxpayers owe your rich friends a fucking penny?”
German guy and prissy bitch did everything they could to dodge that question.
Irish law says clearly a breach of the minimum holdings of even 1% must be notified to the regulator immediately. He was finding UniCredit being routinely 19% short. When he asked an independent company to check his figures they told him the breaches were as high as 40%. This means the bank was short billions. Such a shortfall means if there was run on the bank it would not have a hope of surviving.
Sugarman was ignored and told to stop complaining. He resigned.
A month later Northern Rock collapsed when a run on the bank exhausted its cash reserves. A year later the Irish banks collapsed.
You might have thought the Irish Bank regulator would want to know what Sugarman had to say. You’d be wrong. The Irish regulator has gone out of his way to ignore him. I have been privy to all the emails and correspondence and it is a shameful and tawdry story of obfuscation, lying and threats. Meetings where he was told he could come and tell the regulator what he knew, but that if he revealed any wrong doing by the bank that occurred during the time he was there, the regulator would have to report him to the police. Despite the fact he had been the one trying to raise the alarm.
And so it is that Sugarman has been interviewded by Australian television, Belgian television, Greek television, interviewed by the major Greek newspaper Kathemarini (which is affiliated with the NY Times) which was picked up, written about and made available to an English speaking audience by the noted and respected British financial journalist Ian Fraser on his blog,
And all the while there has been nothing in Ireland.
JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, ignored internal controls and manipulated documents as it racked up trading losses last year, while its influential chief executive, Jamie Dimon, briefly withheld some information from regulators, a new Senate report says.
No arrests were made.
eToys opened at $78 per share, which meant that Goldman’s clients were sitting on a profit of $475 million the minute that the stock started trading on the open market. In most cases, the clients cashed out — which was smart, because eToys didn’t stay at those levels for long. But if Goldman got back 40% of those profits in trading commissions, then it made $190 million in commissions, compared to that $11.5 million in fees.
If Goldman had raised the IPO price to $37 per share, then yes its fee income would have gone up by $10 million, to $21.5 million. But — assuming the stock would still have opened at $78 — its clients’ opening-tick profits would have come down to $336 million, and Goldman’s 40% share of that would also have come down, to $135 million. Total income to Goldman? $156.5 million, rather than $201.5 million. If the IPO price were higher, Goldman’s total take would have gone down by about $45 million.
All of these numbers are hypothetical, of course, but the bigger point is simple: if Goldman manages to get kickbacks, in terms of extra commissions, of more than 7% of its clients’ profits, then it has a financial incentive to underprice the IPO. And Goldman’s clients were desperate to give it kickbacks: they didn’t just route their standard trading through Goldman, since that wouldn’t generate enough commissions. Instead, they bought and sold stocks on the same day, at the same price. Capstar Holding, for instance, bought 57,000 shares in Seagram Ltd at $50.13 per share on June 21, 1999 — and then sold them, on the same day, at the same price. Capstar made nothing on the trade, but Goldman made a commission of $5,700. Capstar’s Christopher Rule says that in May 1999, fully 70% of all of his trading activity “was done solely for the purpose of generating commissions”, so that he could continue to keep on getting IPO allocations.
Goldman, of course, revealed none of this to eToys. Instead, they pitched eToys with a presentation saying, on its first page, in big underlined type, “eToys’ Interests Will Always Come First“.
Yesterday Attorney General Holder stated openly what was already apparent. The Justice Department believes that Too Big to Fail Banks are Too Big to Jail. Criminal indictments against banks or leading bankers might endanger the economy and thus were too big a risk.
Here’s what Holder said
“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” he said. “And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”
“You are not a money manager; you are an asset gatherer.”
Royal Bank of Scotland declared on Thursday it was on track for a partial privatisation next year but sparked a fresh row over bonuses at the scandal-hit institution.
The bank posted an annual loss of more than £5bn and Stephen Hester, its chief executive, admitted 2012 had been a “chastening” year after its £390m Libor rigging fine. Its total losses since the 2008 bailout have now topped £34bn. However, the bank is still paying out £607m in bonuses in the coming weeks.
Despite the loss, RBS has paid out £607m in bonuses, £215m of which went to its investment bankers whose division was behind the Libor scandal. The bank, which said bonuses would have been £500m higher without the Libor fine, risked inflaming the row over City pay further by indicating that its annual report in March could disclose how many of its staff take home more than £1m.
In 2000 a young PhD in mathematics approached me about a job before eventually landing at a European bank in research. In 2004 he started proprietary trading, where traders bet with the bank’s money. Pay was 15% of the profits. In 2005 he bought obscure and high-yielding corporate bonds, which generated profits of $40 million. He took home $6 million. In 2006 he made $80 million and took home $12 million. In 2007 the world turned and the group was disbanded as losses mounted. He was dismissed, and his trades eventually lost the firm close to $300 million.
What was his PhD thesis about? Game theory, or using math to find the optimal solution to complex systems.
Late last year he sent me an email. “Chris, why are you still working?”
Bernanke: “Some of these rules take time to develop…”
As in never.
Major banks have quickly become behind-the-scenes allies of Internet-based payday lenders that offer short-term loans with interest rates sometimes exceeding 500 percent.
With 15 states banning payday loans, a growing number of the lenders have set up online operations in more hospitable states or far-flung locales like Belize, Malta and the West Indies to more easily evade statewide caps on interest rates.
While the banks, which include giants like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, do not make the loans, they are a critical link for the lenders, enabling the lenders to withdraw payments automatically from borrowers’ bank accounts, even in states where the loans are banned entirely. In some cases, the banks allow lenders to tap checking accounts even after the customers have begged them to stop the withdrawals.
So what if we told you that, by our calculations, the largest U.S. banks aren’t really profitable at all? What if the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from U.S. taxpayers?