Category Archives: Wall Street firms

Fine, Fine, Fine! ( Wall Street pays some big ones.)

On Wall Street, bonus time comes a little before fine season, usually. Fines — for improper practices and fraud by financial corporations — are exacted mostly by three federal agencies (the SEC, FINRA, and CFTC) and a huge host of state agencies. For the biggest banks and stock trading firms, this happens throughout the year, EVERY year.

Here are some of the biggest fines Wall Street firms and the Big Banks have had to pay in recent years:

1. $722 million, JPMorgan Chase — For its role in the 2009 wreckage of a sewer refinancing attempted in Jefferson County, Alabama, JPMorgan was fined this amount by the SEC. The bank allegedly paid bribes to county officials in order to get the refinancing contract with the county. The deal was fraught with derivatives as part of the loan. Jefferson County is now bankrupt, sewer rates for residents have skyrocketed, and they are in endless debt.

There were more municipalities to file for bankruptcy that year too, for very similar reasons, in multiple states.

2. $550 million, Goldman Sachs — This fine was demanded of Goldman Sachs in July 2010 (but was still pending, as of March 2011) by the SEC, who sued the Wall Street firm for fraud related to only one mortgage security.
Abacus 2007-AC1 was the name of that security. The Abacus deal involved John Paulson, famous hedge fund manager who has probably made more than anyone else in shorting funds. Goldman Sachs failed to disclose to investors — who were going long on the deal — that Mr. Paulson was involved in choosing the components of that bundle of mortgages… and that he was also betting against it.

3. $515 million, Bank of America — Fined in 2004 for permitting improper rapid trading of mutual funds in its Nations Fund. At least half was for investor restitution.

4. $285 million, Citigroup — In December 2011, Citigroup was fined this lordly sum relating to a CDO containing toxic subprime mortgages. It is still in question, as U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff didn’t like it, since they are not required to admit to any guilt for the sales.

5. $280 million, JPMorgan Chase — In June 2011, JPMorgan Chase paid this huge fine for its “Squared CDO-2007” deal, which resembled the “Abacus” of Goldman Sachs. Just like Goldman, JPMorgan had failed to let investors know that another party betting against the fund had helped make it.

6. $215 million, Citigroup — Way back in 2002 Citigroup paid $215 mil to settle a case brought by the FTC claiming that part of their company, The Associates (later CitiFinancial) deceived customers to get them to refinance at interest rates amounting to usury.

7. $137 million, Bank of America — This may be one of the most egregious cases, with a sadly inadequate fine, of all the fraud, collusion and predatory practices seen in the Big Banks and stock firms during the last few years. It was found in 2010 that a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal bonds contracts had been carried out among the biggest banks. JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Wachovia, and others were implicated along with Bank of America. They took turns being “awarded” contracts in dozens of local bonds derivatives contracts.

The SEC demanded for its fine only $36 million; but another $101 million was added to the penalty by multiple state and federal agencies. It is estimated to have cost taxpayers over $1 billion.

……. As huge as these amounts seem, they are tiny in relation to the sums earned by the respective companies. For instance, what JPMorgan CHase paid for the Squared fines was less than 2 days’ income that quarter. In 2006, Citigroup grossed $38 billion from subprime home loans…. wait for it…. and their net profit that year was $28 billion.

Fahrenheit 451 police on Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street at UC Davis featured those shield-helmeted guys in black that the media are comparing to Storm Troopers, SWAT teams, and other scary forces. I think they look like the firemen of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, only they are burning people (with pepper spray) instead of books. You know, no ideas allowed. They are equally relentless and unfeeling.

Our political saga now has incorporated yet another science fiction/horror story into real life. We’ve been in Orwell territory for quite a while, not just 1984 but Animal Farm because our rich are more equal than us, for one thing; we’ve waded through the scum of Minority Report with Obama’s “preventive detention” of Gitmo detainees, who after their sentences are served, cannot go free because he says they might commit more crimes in the future. What else, what other horror stories? I’m afraid they’re too easy to find.

The OccupyWallStreet movement has shown an awful lot of courage.

Wall Street and The Love of Gambling

Wall Street firms historically were the worst of the gamblers. We can now include the Big Banks in that group too. For example, Bank of America’s stock sank by about 40% over the last few months, but it has decided it loves its own sh– I mean, debt. BoA loves its own debt, and is thinking about watering down its stock to make more money so it can buy back its own debt. The said debt had gone through a lessening in value so it might be a bargain if they bought it back now. But why on earth would they want to? Because they’re Too Big To Fail?

The gambling banks really like to gamble. It’s a chance to stare death in the face, and a lot of them don’t seem to care if they win. They just want that encounter with death. There’s a poker player who comes to mind now: Eskimo Clark, a bracelet winner in the World Series of Poker some years back. He has been said to have had more than one stroke at the table, but refused to leave and give up his poker hand. A couple of years ago, the last WSOP I believe he competed in, he’d obviously had a medical emergency; he was falling out of his chair and had pissed himself. But he insisted he would continue playing. It seems he owed so much the only way he could pay it back was to end in the money somewhere in the event. Finally the tournament directors, or someone, called an ambulance and he was removed to a hospital.

A sickening story. When he first jumped into my thoughts, it was because of Bank of America’s doings. BoA was like the desperate poker player. But now maybe I think — we are Eskimo Clark. We have not yet removed ourselves from the table to get needed help. (No action from Congress, no Glass-Steagall reinstatement, no tax on financial transactions to cure the deficit, no jobs bill, no nothing.) What the hell are we doing here? Are we waiting to see what it would be like to die?

Now that Detroit has turned into Tom-All-Alone’s, and other Michigan cities are taking part in that Dickensian nightmare too, why don’t we just all sit back and read about Justin Bieber’s paternity suit and Kim Kardashian’s divorce?

Wall Street Firms Have Occupied US. (Maybe We Should Eject Them)

Which should I be more enraged about — the lack of effect of the OccupyWallStreet movement, or the ever-imminent shutdown of the federal government?

Ted Rall was pretty hard on the mostly-young people taking part in the nonviolent occupation of Wall Street, which is winding down now in the park nearby, having been forced off the main street by violence from the police. Ted’s point was good, though: Why announce you’re going to be nonviolent, when the police routinely taser nonviolent protestors now? Let the police keep their distance a little longer, for fear of a riot beginning. As it was, the NYPD knew they could come in easily with plastic ziplocks for handcuffs, tasers, a minimum of effort, and pepper spray all these people who were not going to do anything about it. The protestors were dead in the water.

Why is it that each succcessive item used in crowd control becomes more harmful? Tasers are used everyday instead of oh, bothering to use one’s hands, and tasers cause a lot of pain, and occasionally heart stoppage; plastic ziplocks are much tighter than any handcuff could be, since that’s how they work — having to be completely tight around the person’s wrists, while handcuffs don’t have to — so ziplocks can cut off circulation, can bruise and cause nerve damage.

In former years, when protestors went limp and nonresistant, it meant the officers had to lift and carry people. Now it means they’ll use electricity on you until you get up on your own damn feet. Also, your hands will go numb. It’s possible they’ll hit you with their fists (as we see in the videos from the OccupyWallStreet group) if you can’t get up on your own. Even if they don’t hit you, you’ll very likely feel the taser a few more times.

This is as bad, or worse, than the early 60s. The taser has simply replaced the billyclub.

It’s maddening when you realize the police are really the foot-soldiers of the big banks and hedge fund companies. That’s who they effectively protect. It is now in the public interest to have fewer police on the street.

We’ll Meet You On The Edge

And now the federal government is about to shut down, again. But the battle is changed. It is now clear that each time the Republican Party does this, we should be insisting on a proper and complete bill, not some “bipartisan” thing, or a bill that’s entirely in the right-wing, billionaire big-bankers’ favor. Let us become brinksmen too. Let the government shut down, this time and every time after this, so we can actually fight for proper funding of jobs, health care, Social Security, and the stuff we need the government to be taking care of.

Brinksmanship 2.0

Wall Street Has SuperPACs, So Labor Should Have SuperPACs. AFL-CIO Takes A Step In That Direction.

As Wall Street firms toss bonuses to their employees, so does the NFL in similar fashion award enormous signing bonuses and contracts to big talent players. Just the other day, the NFL announced they’d be giving Michael Vick a $100 million contract to stay on as Eagles QB.

A day before this was announced, there came a different sort of event: The AFL-CIO had just welcomed the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) into its loving embrace. The NFL players’ union has joined the AFL-CIO. Why now, one might well ask.

In what way do the interests of a group of seasonal workers — many of whom are multimillionaires — dovetail with the interests of the regular workers who make up the rest of the union? It’s a reasonable question.
We do understand that the players union includes not only the millionaire brats and the quarterback divas, it also includes those earning far, far less; and it is a large group of people for whom permanent disability is a significant risk.

But today the NFL just announced it has agreed to pay Michael Vick $100 million. Why does he need union representation — and why is he in one at all, when his employment situation is so many light years away from that of the rank-and-file worker?

Consider what it means. The largest union in America has just annexed a whole bunch of rich people. Those rich people, the star players, make their big money from labor negotiations. Some rich people actually will have to care about how labor gets treated!

Furthermore, Rachel Maddow made clear on her show a week or so ago how Labor and the Democratic Party rise together — when they rise, that is. Historically, the growth of Democratic power was because Labor supported it wholeheartedly; and Labor did well when the Democratic Party was able to carry out its platforms.

So now there’s some important movement occurring. Does this have something to do with superPACs? Are the football players going to help save labor? If so, this may be a really good deal for us. The position of the middle class working person is precarious in every way, and he needs the help of somebody strong. Not necessarily physically strong, but why not?

The strength of NFL players could be symbolic. Think about it.

If some big NFL players were to show up to support another workers’ group demonstration or strike, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have the cameras see on our side. Picture it: Tired, striking health care workers (for example), standing in the rain with their picket signs, shuffling back and forth in front of the hospital entrance, … and suddenly a column of enormous athletes in jerseys marches up and they arrange themselves behind the strikers, and stand there with their enormous arms folded across their chests… just like in Revenge of the Nerds, when the older (and athletic, and black) Tri-Lambs show up to support their scrawny nerd brothers! What a day that would be!

When the 2012 presidential campaign begins in earnest, will our big strong brothers (Brothers in Labor!) be around to show support for the working man, giving a much-needed boost to the party trying to fight the Big Banks, the Wall Street firms, the Phil Gramms, the Koch brothers, and all the super-rich who hate ordinary people?

If so, that’s when I’d start idolizing football players.