“It Is Happening Again:” David Dayen on the Epidemic of Mortgage Fraud and the Rigged Economy that Sets It in Motion
Earlier this week the "New York Times" featured a depressing story about homeless people living in the foreclosed and abandoned houses that still dot the landscape in Nevada, reminding everyone of that awful time just a few years ago when families all over the country lost their homes in what has become euphemistically known as “the housing crisis.” It was actually much more specific than that, it was an epidemic of criminal mortgage fraud and it devastated millions of people, many of whom have still not recovered.
Everything old is new again?
Or does it just seem like it's new because the internet is finally replacing (slowly to be sure, but ultimately) the in-crowd-owned MSM as the source of trustworthy information in the USA! USA! USA!
There’s a new . . . (Harry) "Markopolos" (Madoff Exposer) . . . in town with that same brand of leave-no-stone-unturned tenacity and he has his sights set on the charity operations of Hillary and Bill Clinton, known as the Clinton Foundation and its myriad tentacles. Ortel’s actions come just as Hillary Clinton makes her final sprint for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States with Bill in tow as her economic czar. Like Markopolos, Charles Ortel does not mince words.
In a 9-page letter dated yesterday and posted to his blog, Ortel calls the Clintons’ charity the “largest unprosecuted charity fraud ever attempted,” adding for good measure that the Clinton Foundation is part of an “international charity fraud network whose entire cumulative scale (counting inflows and outflows) approaches and may even exceed $100 billion, measured from 1997 forward.” Ortel lists 40 potential areas of fraud or wrongdoing that he plans to expose over the coming days.
Like Markopolos, Ortel has an impressive resume. Ortel’s "LinkedIn" profile shows that he received his B.A. from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He previously worked as a Managing Director at investment bank Dillon Read and later as a Managing Director at the financial research firm, Newport Value Partners. In more recent years, Ortel has been a contributor to a number of news outlets including the "Washington Times" and "TheStreet.com."
The charges being made by Ortel are difficult to dismiss as a flight of fancy because mainstream media has tinkered around the edges of precisely what Ortel is now calling out in copious detail.
. . . An article by James Grimaldi in the "Wall Street Journal" as recently as May 12 of this year charges that a “$2 million commitment arranged by the nonprofit Clinton Global Initiative in 2010 went to a for-profit company part-owned by friends of the Clintons.” The Clinton Global Initiative is a program associated with the Clinton Foundation.
One notable thing that Charles Ortel is pounding away at is, why, with all of these media red flags for years, the Clintons have been allowed by state charity regulators in multiple states in which they solicit donations as well as their Federal regulator, the IRS, to continue business as usual. Are we looking at the Madoff-effect where regulators are afraid to take on powerful figures?
Speaking of Jamie Dimon and Michael Bloomberg, billionaire salts of the earth . . . .
How far would you follow them (off a cliff)?
"Bloomberg News" seems to be on a roll with Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. First it put him on the cover of its relaunched "Bloomberg Markets" magazine and then followed up with a "Bloomberg TV" promotion for the article, suggesting that Jamie Dimon is all about the customer – a concept so divergent from the facts on the ground that we devoted a column to it in March. Neither the article nor the TV promotion mentioned the fact that under Dimon’s leadership, the bank (h)as been charged with three criminal felony counts between 2014 and 2015 for decidedly non-customer friendly behavior while simultaneously rewarding Dimon with obscene pay.
Yesterday, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose net worth is placed at $43.5 billion according to Forbes, teamed up with one of his largest customers, fellow billionaire Jamie Dimon, to jointly write an opinion piece for the media site which carries the name and majority ownership of Mike Bloomberg. Some might see that as a bit of a conflict and/or co-branding in an "OpEd." Mike Bloomberg’s wealth derives primarily from the Bloomberg terminal, of which there are hundreds of thousands populating the trading floors of Wall Street behemoths like JPMorgan Chase around the globe.
Mike Bloomberg and Jamie Dimon selected a curious topic – high school vocational education — subtly suggesting that the largest wealth and income inequality in America since the early 1900s might somehow be rectified if high schools trained students for blue collar jobs. The new writing duo mapped it out thusly:
“We will not solve the critical challenges of poverty, underemployment, wage stagnation and bulging prisons unless we get serious about investing in effective programs that prepare kids who are not immediately college-bound for middle-class jobs.”
For those who would like a closer look at Mike Bloomberg’s prior meddling in public education, we heartily recommend Chapter Two of the Neil Fabricant book, “Mike! Wall Street’s Mayor,” which examines in detail what happened after 2002 when Bloomberg took control of the public schools.
We can understand why two billionaires making their living from Wall Street – currently structured as the greatest wealth transfer scheme in history – would want to distract the public from the facts being presented by Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, to millions of Americans who are catching on for the first time. Sanders keeps pounding away on these key points:
“The reality is that since the mid-1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country. That is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.
“There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
“There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.
“Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The real median income of male workers is $783 less than it was 42 years ago; while the real median income of female workers is over $1,300 less than it was in 2007. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.”
And, of course, Wall Street billionaires are none too happy that Bernie Sanders is promising to provide free public college by placing a speculation tax on Wall Street. As Sanders notes in his detailed plan:
“The cost of this $75 billion a year plan is fully paid for by imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators who nearly destroyed the economy seven years ago. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and today some 40 countries throughout the world have imposed a similar tax including Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, and China. If the taxpayers of this country could bailout Wall Street in 2008, we can make public colleges and universities tuition free and debt free throughout the country.”
Free public college goes right to the heart of Wall Street’s and JPMorgan Chase’s empire of home equity loans and credit cards that millions of Americans are currently forced into in order to pay for their children’s college education, burying many in debt for a lifetime.
Which leads us to the heartbreaking and Pulitzer-worthy article by Neal Gabler at "The Atlantic." Gabler, a man with two grown daughters, makes the ultimate sacrifice for changing the dialogue in America by publicly disclosing his own financial struggles, despite a graduate degree and an impressive resume. Gabler brilliantly walks us through the studies showing what he has acutely come to understand:
“Many of us, it turns out, are living in a more or less continual state of financial peril. So if you really want to know why there is such deep economic discontent in America today, even when many indicators say the country is heading in the right direction, ask a member of that 47 percent. Ask me.”
The 47 percent refers to a study conducted by the Federal Reserve which, writes Gabler, “asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.
Four hundred dollars! Who knew? Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.”
The reality is that there is not only an institutionalized wealth-transfer system occurring on Wall Street, but that former Mayor Bloomberg effectively built a Praetorian Guard out of the New York City Police Department to brutally scuttle efforts to realign our crippled democracy. We offer as evidence this stunning video, submitted in a court case, of Occupy Wall Street protestors being savaged by the Mayor’s Praetorian Guard while news photographers were thwarted from recording what was happening.
Most Americans are also ignorant of the fact that the New York City Police Department has joined ranks with Wall Street in a sprawling surveillance operation that spies on law-abiding citizens, which, outrageously, has been funded by the public purse. Thanks to thousands of street cameras owned by either Wall Street firms or New York City and high tech surveillance technology, Wall Street personnel can now sit elbow to elbow with the NYPD, monitoring the minute-to-minute moves of potential Wall Street whistleblowers or protestors who desire to challenge this system of enforced poverty for the masses and obscene wealth for the one percent. (Read our in-depth report here.)
As we have repeatedly cautioned our readers, a truth-talker and change-maker like Senator Bernie Sanders comes along once in a lifetime. Americans’ window for real, lasting change will slam shut if Wall Street-funded Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic Presidential candidate. Do not take this political season casually.
The next article makes so much sense now that it's almost a conspiracy theory to say that you suspected as much waaaay baaack then. Although it wasn't difficult figuring out that a young turk who admired Reagan probably was much more neoliberal than reported.
And, yes, we all agree that Obama is Mr. Cool.
But what better characteristic would sell as well?
By Pam Martens: March 14, 2016
At "Wall Street On Parade" we call it continuity government. Michael M. Thomas, in a new book of quasi-fiction, calls it Fixers, the idea that no matter who comes and goes in the Oval Office, Wall Street has a fix in to make sure it is protected. The Thomas book could not come at a more inconvenient time for outgoing President Obama and the next leg of the continuity government that Wall Street hopes to install in the White House – otherwise known as Hillary Clinton.
Fixers notes that the characters with speaking parts in the book are “wholly creatures of the author’s imagination and invention” but the securities “transactions and situations” in which those characters are involved are “matters of historical record.”
So what you’re getting in Fixers is a spellbinding analysis of the actual dirty deals that toppled Wall Street in 2008 with a new twist – a fictitious character who says he laundered $75 million into the Democratic presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton’s primary challenger in 2007 in exchange for three names on an index card. Those three names had to become the “hope and change” President’s chief economic advisor, Treasury Secretary, and head of the criminal division of the Justice Department. These three key posts were to keep piles of bailout money flowing to Wall Street while simultaneously making sure no Wall Street executives were prosecuted for the crimes that brought on the crash.
The primary challenger to Hillary Clinton and the man who beats her and goes on to become President is called simply OG in the book. (OMG would have worked for me.)
The details in the book surrounding the three names on the index card seem to be channeling Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Lanny Breuer, who took the respective posts of chief economic advisor, Treasury Secretary and head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in the first Obama administration and, indeed, sluiced trillions to Wall Street while the Justice Department failed to prosecute, saying it was worried about collateral damage, such as triggering bank layoffs. (Like the collapse of the U.S. economy from untamed financial corruption is not collateral damage.)
Fixers takes us back to the earliest days in 2007 when the rumbles of what would become the greatest Wall Street crash since the Great Depression were first being recognized by the smart money crowd on Wall Street. Chauncey Suydam, a one-time CIA agent has breakfast with his former boss at the CIA, who now heads a Wall Street investment bank called Struthers Strauss. The Struthers Strauss chief wants Chauncey to fix the election with the $75 million and put the three selected people in those key posts.
The Struthers Strauss securities transactions throughout the book sound identical to those of Goldman Sachs, including a so-called “Protractor” deal that has all the bells and whistles and settlement terms as the Goldman Sachs Abacus deal. The co-conspirator on the real Abacus deal, hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, was never prosecuted or fined despite his hedge fund being named in the SEC’s complaint against Goldman Sachs, which settled the case for $550 million. Michael Thomas has a very believable explanation for how his fictional character in the “Protractor” deal, James Polton, managed to escape prosecution. (We’re not going to spoil the surprise or how Struthers Strauss is said to have extracted its revenge from Polton.)
The writing of Thomas has an unusually authentic feel in the recounting of the Wall Street frauds and events leading up to and after the 2008 crash, including some events that have been all but forgotten. One reason for the authenticity is that Thomas once worked for Lehman Brothers, intimately understands how the Street thinks, and wrote extensively about Wall Street during the 2008 crash for the "New York Observer."
And, along with us, the "Black Agenda Report," "CounterPunch" and others, Thomas was quick to size up Obama as a con man when it came to cleaning up Wall Street. Just five months after President Obama took office in 2009, Thomas wrote at the "Observer": “Every day now, as this sorry story plays out, I find myself wondering whether Obama isn’t a bigger Wall Street con than Madoff.”
One of the fictional characters in the book, nicknamed Scaramouche, an elderly veteran of Goldman Sachs, sends a deathbed letter to the main character, Chauncey, raising a similar concern about the President:
“The present occupant of the White House represents the final piece of the puzzle. I wonder if his failures to deliver really aren’t the result of an intransigent opposition party, as we have been told, but have been part of a larger scheme from the outset. He certainly came on as if sent by central casting: charismatic, articulate, just black enough, with a smart attractive wife and charming children: just the type the money men would have been looking for to bring their oligarchic scheme to final fruition.”
That paragraph reminded us of what we had written in May of 2008: After reporting how Obama was stating that he was taking no money from federal lobbyists (while raking in millions from federal lobbyists, including those on the payroll of Wall Street), we noted the following:
“The Wall Street plan for the Obama-bubble presidency is that of the cleanup crew for the housing bubble: sweep all the corruption and losses, would-be indictments, perp walks and prosecutions under the rug and get on with an unprecedented taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. (The corporate law firms have piled on to funding the plan because most were up to their eyeballs in writing prospectuses or providing legal opinions for what has turned out to be bogus AAA securities. Lawsuits naming the Wall Street firms will, no doubt, shortly begin adding the law firms that rendered the legal guidance to issue the securities.) Who better to sell this agenda to the millions of duped mortgage holders and foreclosed homeowners in minority communities across America than our first, beloved, black president of hope and change?
“Why do Wall Street and the corporate law firms think they will find a President Obama to be accommodating? … vetting included his remarkable ‘yes’ vote on the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, a five-year effort by 475 lobbyists, despite appeals from the NAACP and every other major civil rights group. Thanks to the passage of that legislation, when defrauded homeowners of the housing bubble and defrauded investors of the bundled mortgages try to fight back through the class-action vehicle, they will find a new layer of corporate-friendly hurdles.”
The "Black Agenda Report," which writes for Black Americans, also noted the following in February 2008:
“The 2008 Obama presidential run may be the most slickly orchestrated marketing machine in memory. That’s not a good thing. Marketing is not even distantly related to democracy or civic empowerment. Marketing is about creating emotional, even irrational bonds between your product and your target audience. From its Bloody Sunday 2007 proclamation that Obama was the second coming of Joshua to its nationally televised kickoff at Abe Lincoln’s tomb to the tens of millions of dollars in breathless free media coverage lavished on it by the establishment media, the campaign’s deft manipulation of hopeful themes and emotionally potent symbols has led many to impute their own cherished views to Obama, whether he endorses them or not.”
And then there was "CounterPunch," which published an entire anthology of articles on the red flags in the Obama candidacy, titled Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, including my article referenced above. The editors, Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, describe the books as follows:
“The election of Barack Obama sparked long-dormant tingles of optimism in even the most entrenched political cynics.
But the promise of an Obama revolution fizzled out even before his inauguration, as the president-in-waiting stocked his cabinet with corporate hacks, cut secret deals with Wall Street titans and plotted a bloody escalation of the senseless war in Afghanistan.
Let this book stand as a painful reminder to those who think anything less than social struggle will net tangible gain.”
Anyone who witnessed Obama’s first press conference as President-Elect knew the fix was in. To his right stood Larry Summers and to his left stood Robert Rubin. The date was November 7, 2008. The public was repulsed by Obama having the gall to put these two on his economic transition team.
Both Rubin and Summers had served as Treasury Secretaries under the presidency of Bill Clinton and pushed for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and deregulation of derivatives, two key events that led to the severity of the 2008 crash. Rubin had gone directly from the U.S. Treasury to the Board of Citigroup, the prime beneficiary of the deregulation, and collected over $125 million in compensation over the next decade. Rubin’s era oversaw a rap sheet at Citigroup that would make Bernie Madoff blush.
When Rubin finally announced his resignation from Citigroup on January 9, 2009, Citigroup shareholders had lost 88 percent in the value of their shares and the U.S. government had propped up the insolvent Citigroup carcass with the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of finance: $45 billion in equity infusions; over $300 billion in asset guarantees; and over $2 trillion in cumulative, below-market-rate loans.
There are wickedly funny passages in Fixers (it would be every bit as entertaining on the big screen as "The Big Short"). One of our favorite passages is the following, about Senator John McCain picking Sarah Palin as his VP running mate on the GOP ticket in the 2008 election:
“Do you want to know what a political death wish made flesh looks and sounds like? Start with a reasonably pretty face concealing a brain evidently empty of all useful knowledge and any fond regard for truth. Add a nasal voice, the kind that Wodehouse says can open an oyster at twenty paces, in which is delivered gaffe after gaffe, often employing some very unusual grammatical constructions, along with a kind of ‘mean girl’ knowingness, and what have you got? Sarah Palin.”
The idea that Senator McCain, a military hero, would willfully, without outside pressure, select Palin to sit a heartbeat away from the Presidency, is highly doubtful. This raises the question, in our mind, if Palin wasn’t simply more insurance for putting Obama in the White House.
Whether there was some former CIA spook fixing the election or a consortium of Wall Street banks and their lobbyist/law firms sluicing money into the Obama campaign and calling the shots on his key posts, here’s where we stand today:
And even researchers in an office of the U.S. Treasury Department are warning that Wall Street is still dangerous to the economy, writing just last week that “counterparty credit risks to the banking system collectively have risen and may suggest a greater systemic risk than is commonly understood.”
- Wall Street received trillions of dollars in secret below-market-rate loans from the Federal Reserve that resulted in at least $13 billion in extra profits to the financial sector, according to "Bloomberg".
- The Obama administration started out with $10 trillion in national debt; it now stands at over $19 trillion.
- Today, one in five children in the United States lives in poverty while the country has the greatest wealth and income inequality since the 1920s.
- Wall Street has not been reformed. It has more derivatives today than at the peak of the crisis, $247 trillion in notional amount with 93 percent of those concentrated at five mega- Wall Street banks: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley.
Unlike in prior Presidential elections, voters actually have a real choice this year. There is one candidate and one candidate only who has no Super Pac, is not reaping windfalls of cash from Wall Street or Big Pharma or Big Oil or corporate lobbyists. That person is Bernie Sanders. Tomorrow, a mini Super Tuesday, will give voters another chance to show if they genuinely want to climb out of a rigged economy run by the Fixers.
Three of Hillary’s Mega-Donors Are in Panama Papers; Another Tied to $6.8 Billion Tax Avoidance Scheme
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