WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Monday urged the Senate to approve legislation that would reveal who is behind election campaign advertising, and chided Republicans for opposing a measure he said would protect American democracy.
You remember the big to-do about Goldman Sachs and how the United States Securities and Exchange Commission brought a so-called landmark fraud case against the mighty Wall Street firm? If you followed the legal soap opera, you were entertained with congressional hearings, thrilled by the lurid stories and dazzled by all the posturing and pandering. Then, at the eleventh hour, as the Gulf leak was capped, as FinReg was about to be signed, the Hollywood ending came into play as the case miraculously settled for something like half a billion dollars.
According to some in the press, the settlement was a major victory for the SEC. Initial stories would have you believe that the government ground Goldman to its knees and extracted both a big-bucks settlement from the brokerage firm and an admission of fraudulent conduct. Almost a blockbuster summer movie.
Despite it all, I didn’t award five stars. Frankly, I’d seen the plot before and found the whole thing anticlimactic, if not formulaic. I gave it three stars. Save your money. Wait for the DVD release.
In my recent Huffington Post column: “Daniel Dravot, Goldman Sachs, and the SEC“, my disgust with Goldman was made quite clear:
There is nothing alleged in the Complaint that Goldman or any of the parties and participants should point to with particular pride. It is back-stabbing and double-dealing, no matter how permissible those acts may legally have been. The simple fact that you can do something is not, in and of itself, a compelling reason to do it…
As such, please, I am no apologist for Goldman. Moreover, no one should attempt to minimize the loathsome nature of the charged conduct. All of which leaves me shocked as I read the defenses of the Goldman settlement now emerging from a number of Wall Street pundits — many of them who would normally be seen as liberal in their political outlook. While I can understand that the right might attack what it would view as anti-business aspects of the case, I’m puzzled as to why some on the left have flocked to the SEC’s defense.
As I stated in my Huffington Post piece:
Moreover, read Paragraph 3 of the Consent:
Goldman acknowledges that the marketing materials for the ABACUS 2007-ACI transaction contained incomplete information. In particular, it was a mistake for the Goldman marketing materials to state that the reference portfolio was “selected by” ACA Management LLC without disclosing the role of Paulson & Co. Inc. in the portfolio selection process and that Paulson’s economic interests were adverse to CDO investors. Goldman regrets that the marketing materials did not contain that disclosure.
While you may think you understand what Goldman acknowledges, I’m not sure that most folks appreciate the artfulness of this dodge. Goldman acknowledges that the ABACUS marketing materials were incomplete. Do you see anything that says that they were fraudulent? Do you see anything that says that Goldman distributed the materials in a fraudulent manner? Hmmm… I didn’t think so. What Goldman does consent to is the characterization that it made “a mistake.” Goldman also regrets that its marketing materials were incomplete.
Am I missing something? The admission of a “mistake” by Goldman Sachs is a major coup for the SEC? Let’s forget, for the moment, that I’m a three decade veteran of Wall Street regulation — both as a former attorney with two regulatory organizations and as a private practitioner representing both defrauded investors and industry clients. Put aside the legalese of this issue. Who among you actually believes that in admitting to a “mistake” that Goldman admitted to fraud?
One of the burdens of getting older is that what some call “history” is simply your recollection of events in your life. It’s not a stale memory proscribed by the four corners of a yellowed, fragile newspaper or now quaint black-and-white photos. It’s different than that. You were there. You saw it unfold. It’s part of the fabric of your life.
Perhaps those who now describe the word “mistake” as some heroic admission are a tad too young to recall another time, when another high-profile story filled the news. Once upon a time, there was this former, disgraced American President: Richard Nixon. He would not admit that his role in the Watergate affair was more than a mere “mistake.” That far but no further. He did not commit a crime. He did not defraud the American public.
Clearly, in the passage of some four decades, standards have changed — legal, regulatory, and, sadly, journalistic. There was a time when admitting to a mistake wasn’t enough. It was a mealy-mouthed equivocation. It was an evasion intent on drawing the line short of fraud or criminality. Today, if you believe some reporters and bloggers, that same word grants the SEC a huge victory.
Alas, as I said, the burdens of aging.
Let me quote from the now famous interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon. You tell me if this doesn’t best frame the debate as to whether Goldman’s admission of mere “mistake” is a significant concession:
David Frost: You have explained how you have got caught up in this thing, you’ve explained your motives: I don’t want to quibble about any of that. But just coming to the substance: would you go further than “mistakes” — the word that seems not enough for people?
Richard Nixon: What word would you suggest?
David Frost: My goodness, that’s a… I think that there are three things, since you asked me. I would like to hear you say… I think the American people would like to hear you sa … One is: there was probably more than mistakes; there was wrongdoing, whether it was a crime or not; yes it may have been a crime too. Second: I did — and I’m saying this without questioning the motives — I did abuse the power I had as president, or not fulfil the totality of the oath of office. And third: I put the American people through two years of needless agony and I apologise for that. And I say that you’ve explained your motives, I think those are the categories. And I know how difficult it is for anyone, and most of all you, but I think that people need to hear it and I think unless you say it you are going to be haunted by it for the rest of your life.
“Great Interviews of the 20th Century: ‘I have impeached myself.” Edited transcript of David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon broadcast in May 1977 at Guardian.co.uk at http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2007/sep/07/greatinterviews1
Read more: Fabrice Tourre, Goldman Sachs, Frost/Nixon, Wall Street, Goldman Sachs Fraud, Richard Nixon, Settlement, Wall Street Reform, David Frost, Bill Singer, Securities and Exchange Commission, Mistake, BrokeAndBroker.Com, Business News
What does a family facing bankruptcy need more than anything?
According to Ohio Representative John Boccieri the answer is easy: guns!
Tomorrow the U.S. House is expected to take up Representative Boccieri’s “The Protecting Gun Owners in Bankruptcy Act of 2010,” a bill that would guarantee that the guns of individuals facing bankruptcy would be exempt from the claims of creditors. Not surprisingly, the bill is supported by the National Rifle Association.
As Boccieri explained in a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking co-sponsors:
In these difficult times, it is vital that Congress maintain individuals’ constitutional property rights. Some property rights are secure; clothing, pets, or crops can be deemed exempt from repossession. Other property rights, however, are ignored, most notably 2nd Amendment rights.
The Protecting Gun Owners in Bankruptcy Act of 2010 will allow consumer bankruptcy debtors to exempt firearms from the claims of creditors. Specifically, the measure would permit firearms held primarily for the personal, family or household use of the debtor to be exempt from the claims of creditors under federal exemption law. In those states that allow a debtor to use federal exemption law, this provision would prevent a trustee from selling a debtor’s firearms to satisfy the claims of creditors.
While Congress works to pull our nation out of this economic recession, many people across the nation continue to struggle with depleted savings and increasing financial restraint. Residents of areas hit particularly hard by the recent economic downturn must make hard choices to sustain their families, and are often forced to file bankruptcy. Many times this results in individuals seeing their assets reclaimed and sold to pay off their debt, with creditors paying little regard to their well-being.
Contrary to Representative Boccieri’s NRA-endorsed image of armed heads of housholds being able to “sustain their familes” through financial calamity with the comforting reassurance of a firearm, the presence of guns in households experiencing bankruptcy or other financial distress actually enhances the risk of suicide or murder-suicide. According to the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS)–the only federal data that details such information–more than 12 percent of firearm-related murder-suicides and suicides were precipitated by financial problems. Media accounts of murder-suicides also often include descriptions of the financial struggles, including bankruptcy, that precede such desperate acts:
Representative Boccieri says his bill is needed because “gun owners in America facing bankruptcy have no choice but to relinquish the protection secured for them by the U.S. Constitution.” Yet, far from offering protection, firearms are by far the weapons most commonly used in murder-suicide. Studies confirm that firearms are used in approximately 90 percent of murder-suicides. At the same time, guns are rarely used to justifiably kill criminals. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports, in 2008 firearms were used only 204 times by private citizens to justifiably kill a criminal during the commission of a felony in the United States.
While Representative Boccieri’s bill promises to protect the firearms of bankrupt gun owners, the question remains: Who will protect their families?
Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing at all. And during these times of fear and insecurity for many, it may just be the sanest thing to do. Leave that money in the bank. Don’t try to over-do anything. Stay still. Meditate.
Like the eye of the hurricane, it is stupid to go outside and check on the damage. The (financial) storm ain’t over yet! Only those who had not lived through a hurricane before, (or had not taken heed of the stories of those who are older and wiser) went out during the eye of the storm.
This does not translate as being afraid but rather as being wise. All of those folks who think that they are getting a deal right sifting through the rubbish now for a cheap buy have not seen the way the second half of the hurricane whips around almost out of nowhere, and does much more damage than the first bout. One has to look beyond quick fixes and fast cash.
Read books. Read Upton Sinclair and George Orwell. Read history about the 1930’s, the Weimar Republic, and a LOT about China (I recommend Sterling Seagraves’ The Power on the Rim). Watch old films (they are almost always better than new ones! And often play in those tiny art house cinemas which need your support!). The best one I have seen lately was Hitchcock’s last film made in the UK before moving to Hollywood (and I would argue better than what came later). It is called, “The Lady Vanishes”…and the hints of what is to come is very similar to what is going on today. What is most wonderful is that the hero is an old woman. Old people know a lot! Listen to them! If we were to go to war or through an even more serious Depression, I would want to have the advice of old folks who have been through it before, not some young know it all who could not survive without a television or convenience store!
I actually have some faith in the fact that the hardest hit areas which have had to bet on resilience and sometimes doing nothing at all will come out ahead first. As with leap-frog technology in the poorest parts of the world, there was no infrastructure there to begin with and people just had to make do. We don’t know how to make do anymore…or very few of us do. And we don’t know when to simply slow down and stop.
Making do has to do with living with less, but that does not mean life is less worth living. During the last big hurricane which hit Houston, my parents were reachable afterwards via a cell phone charged on the car battery. And when I spoke to them each day, they sounded so calm, happier than usual, reading and dining by candlelight, sitting out on the back porch until the sun went down. Sleeping when it was dark and enjoying the hurricane barbeque dinners with their neighbors.
Life slowed down. The television didn’t work. They were reminded of their childhoods when there was no air-conditioning and people simply lived at the pace that made sense in the hot and humid South. (Thank God my sister provided the coolers full of ice!)
There was time to visit and do nothing…il farniente..which is my personal goal for the last half of my life. Not to do nothing, but to remember to do nothing…which is the time when inspirations are born, and life and loved ones are appreciated the most.
It takes a lot of effort to try to control all the time, focus on profits and growing even when it may be time to think smaller and more sustainable. There’s so much waste when energy is expended turning nothing into nothing and all those extra zeroes are still…nothing.
Look around at all you already have, and learn how to make do.
It’s all about Balance. And sometimes it’s about…Nothing at All.
Read more: Upton Sinclair, Hurricanes, Depression, Making Do, Il Farniente, Arthouse Cinemas, Weimar Republic, Meditation, Financial Crisis, Hitchcock, 1930s, Leap Frog Technology, China, George Orwell, Living News
LONDON — Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is publishing an insider account of the global financial crisis, his first book since being ousted from office.
Brown, who lost a national election in May after almost three years as U.K. chief, will set out the measures the legislator believes current leaders must take to avert a return to recession.