Law Firm that Silenced Harvey Weinstein Accusers also Involved in SIVs that Tanked Citigroup

Matthew Garrahan dropped a bigger bombshell in the Financial Times yesterday than even he realizes. Garrahan named the law firm that had crafted a gag order in 1998 to silence two women from ever speaking about their encounters with Harvey Weinstein. One woman, Zelda Perkins, was an assistant to Weinstein in London and charged him with egregious sexual harassment. The other unnamed female colleague charged Weinstein with sexual assault. The two were paid $125,000 each and given an iron-clad gag order. The terms of the gag order were so confidential that the women were not even allowed to have a full copy of what they had agreed to, just a summary of some of its terms.
The law firm representing Weinstein with the settlements and gag orders (officially called non-disclosure agreements) was Allen & Overy – the London derivatives powerhouse that also signed off on the Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs) that played a significant role in helping to blow up Citigroup in 2008, resulting in the largest taxpayer bailout of a bank in financial history.
In 2007, according to Standard & Poor’s Structured Finance research reports, Citigroup was managing the following Structured Investment Vehicles that were incorporated in the Cayman Islands and not consolidated on Citigroup’s balance sheet: Centauri Corp., Beta Finance Corp., Sedna Finance Corp., Five Finance Corp., and Dorada Corp. In addition, according to press reports, Citigroup had created two more SIVs in 2006: Zela Finance Corp. and Vetra Finance Corp. The SIVs contained approximately $80 billion of mostly toxic debt, much of which ended up back on Citigroup’s balance sheet. Allen & Overy was the London counsel to Citigroup on these SIVs.
You don’t have to take our word for this. One of Allen & Overy’s own lawyers actually bragged on the law firm’s website about the key role it played in the ‘fascinating time’ of the financial crisis – the most devastating economic collapse since the Great Depression that left millions of Americans out of work and foreclosure notices on their front door.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on October 24, 2017.

Two of the Biggest Bailed Out Derivative Banks, Citi and Merrill, Get Fined for Breaking Derivatives Rules

Over the past month, with little media attention, both Citigroup and Merrill Lynch have received fines from regulatory bodies for failure to properly report their trading in derivatives – an opaque trading arena that played a significant role in bringing down both firms during the financial crisis. As reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2011, Citigroup received $2.5 trillion in cumulative, secret low cost loans from the Federal Reserve during the 2007-2010 financial crisis while Merrill received $1.9 trillion. These loans, many at almost zero interest rates, were made without the authorization or awareness of Congress. (See GAO chart below.) The loans to the two firms were on top of the publicly disclosed and Congress-approved TARP bailout funds.
Significant portions of the money loaned to Citigroup and Merrill Lynch were authorized by the Federal Reserve to be funneled to the broker-dealer subsidiaries of the firms in London – where it found its way into pursuits that remain undisclosed to this day. The GAO noted in its report:
‘…without more complete documentation, how assistance to these broker-dealer subsidiaries satisfied the statutory requirements for using this authority remains unclear. Moreover, without more complete public disclosure of the basis for these actions, these decisions may not be subject to an appropriate level of transparency and accountability.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade By Pam Martens and Russ Marte.

One River CIO “We’re Willing Participants In Our Own Demise”

With the world’s focus falling on Beijing this week, where president Xi Jinping give a glowing account of China’s future during the 19th Party Congress, boasting that ‘the banner of scientific socialism with Chinese characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see,” not all are impressed by China’s vision of the world in which China sees itself as increasingly taking over from the US as the world’s superpower. And it’s not just stories about China’s neverending behind the scenes bailouts of anything that may telegraph a hard landing for the economy (as decribed in “China’s Government Is Expected To Buy 24% Of All Residential Real Estate For Sale In 2017“); it’s the country’s entire financial system, which Kyle Bass has been shorting for nearly two years now but which he has failed to recognize now holds the entire world hostage: if it goes, so does the global financial system, unleashing a worldwide depression the likes of which have not been seen.
Here is Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Mgmt, explaining why everyone is wrong about the $35 trillion Chinese financial system, and yet how Beijing has figured out a way to become a parasite on the global financial system, resulting in an outcome in which “we’re willing participants in our own demise.”
Excerpted from One River’s latest Weekend Notes:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 22, 2017.

Unprecedented Housing Bailout Revealed, As China Property Sales Drop For First Time In 30 Months

Back in March, we explained why the “fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” The answer was simple: for the Chinese population, and growing middle class, to keep spending vibrant and borrowing elevated, it had to feel comfortable and confident that its wealth will keep rising. However, unlike the US where the stock market is the ultimate barometer of the confidence boosting “wealth effect”, in China it has always been about housing: three quarters of Chinese household assets are parked in real estate, compared to only 28% in the US with the remainder invested financial assets.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 21, 2017.

Get Ready To Party Like It’s 2008

Apparently Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, has threatened Congress with stock crash if Congress didn’t pass a tax reform Bill. His reason is that the stock market surge since the election was based on the hopes of a big tax cut. This reminded me of 2008, when then-Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO, Henry Paulson, and Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, paraded in front of Congress and threatened a complete systemic collapse if Congress didn’t authorize an $800 billion bailout of the biggest banks.
The U. S. financial system is experiencing an asset ‘bubble’ that is unprecedented in history. This is a bubble that has been fueled by an unprecedented amount of Central Bank money printing and credit creation. As you are well aware, the Fed printed more than $4 trillion dollars of currency that was used to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage securities. But it has also enabled an unprecedented amount of credit creation. This credit availability has further fueled the rampant inflation in asset prices – specifically stocks, bonds and housing, the price of which now exceeds the levels seen in 2008 right before the great financial crisis.
However, you might not be aware that western Central Banks outside of the U. S. continue printing money that is being used to buy stocks and risky bonds. The Bank of Japan now owns more than 75% of that nation’s stock ETFs. The Swiss National Bank holds over $80 billion worth of U. S. stocks, $17 billion of which were purchased in 2017. The European Central Bank, in addition to buying member country sovereign-issued debt is now buying corporate bonds, some of which are non-investment grade.

This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on October 19, 2017.

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts – Stock Option Expiration on Friday – Anything Goes

“Wall Street did not accidentally run a barge aground and leave a small oil slick on the Hudson River. Wall Street did not accidentally release tainted lettuce that sickened a few dozen people.
What Wall Street did was intentional and criminal: it financially engineered a toxic subprime house of cards which it knew from its own internal reviews was going to collapse; it then molded the toxic product into inscrutable bundles; it sold the bundles to unsuspecting investors around the globe while making side bets that it would all come crashing down.
Then, after causing the greatest financial collapse in the United States since the Great Depression, Wall Street’s unrepentant scoundrels paid themselves billions of dollars in bonuses with taxpayer bailout funds.”
Pam and Russ Martens, Wall Street On Parade
There will be a stock options expiration for October on this Friday.
The touts are talking up stocks this week. I’ll take that as a good sign to take profits out of equities if you have them. We are nearing what is likely to be at least a short term top.
The bullish argument is that the Fed will keep supplying easy money to Wall Street, and they and their minions will keep piling into stocks because they have no other choice. That is sounding a bit tired at this point.

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 18 OCTOBER 2017.

The Power Players Behind Silencing Wall Street Reformers

America has now been through various iterations of ‘it’s time to stop bashing Wall Street’ by writers who seem to easily get air time or plenty of print space to make their case. An OpEd in the New York Times today is the latest in this endless series. We’ll get to that column shortly, but first some necessary background.
Wall Street did not accidentally run a barge aground and leave a small oil slick on the Hudson River. Wall Street did not accidentally release tainted lettuce that sickened a few dozen people. What Wall Street did was intentional and criminal: it financially engineered a toxic subprime house of cards which it knew from its own internal reviews was going to collapse; it then molded the toxic product into inscrutable bundles; it sold the bundles to unsuspecting investors around the globe while making side bets that it would all come crashing down. Then, after causing the greatest financial collapse in the United States since the Great Depression, Wall Street’s unrepentant scoundrels paid themselves billions of dollars in bonuses with taxpayer bailout funds.
One of the largest wrongdoers of this era, Citigroup, received the largest taxpayer bailout in history (over $2.5 trillion in loans, cash infusions and asset guarantees) and while this was occurring, one of its executives, Michael Froman, was staffing up the administration of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama, including an accepted recommendation for the head of the Justice Department.
The 2007-2009 financial crash was more than the product of greed. There was both knowing and criminal wrongdoing, but none of those responsible have gone to jail. None of the regulatory gaps that allowed this to happen have been rectified. The biggest Wall Street banks have grown even bigger and remain too-big-to-fail; Wall Street is still paying the rating agencies for their Triple-A ratings; highly speculative Wall Street firms are still allowed to hold trillions of dollars in taxpayer-backstopped insured deposits in the commercial banks that they are allowed to own under a Byzantine bank-holding company structure with thousands of far-flung subsidiaries around the globe; and a handful of Wall Street banks continue to house trillions of dollars of derivatives inside their insured depository banks – something the public was assured would end under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on October 18, 2017.

Goldman Is Allowing Its Clients To Bet On The Next Financial Crisis

Just over a decade ago, as the S&P was hitting all time highs and there was a line around the block of 30-some year old hedge fund managers, desperate to put other people’s money in various ultra risky investments just so they could pick a few excess bps of yield over Treasurys – a situation painfully familiar to what is going on now – Goldman had an epiphany: create new synthetic products that have huge convexity, i.e., provide little upside (such as a few basis points pick up in yield) versus unlimited downside, link them to the shittiest assets possible and sell them to gullible, yield-chasing idiots (collecting a transaction fee) while taking the other side of the trade (collecting a huge profit once everything crashes). The instruments, of course, were CDOs, and not long after Goldman sold a whole of them, the financial system crashed and needed a multi-trillion bailout from which the world has not recovered since.
Ten years later, Goldman is doing it again, only instead of targeting subprime mortgages, this time the bank has focused on quasi-insolvent European banks.
And just like right before the last financial crash, Goldman is once again allowing its clients to profit from the upcoming collapse, or as Bloomberg puts it, “less than a decade after the last major banking crisis, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are offering investors a new way to bet on the next one.”
The trade in question is a total return swap, a highly levered product which is similar or a credit default swap but has some nuanced differences, which targets what are known as Tier 1 , or AT1 or “buffer” notes issued by European banks, and which usually are the first to get wiped out when there is even a modest insolvency event (just ask Banco Popular), let alone a full blown financial crisis.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 12, 2017.

Peak Housing Bubble: The Big Short Is Back

Wash, rinse, repeat. The American public never gets tired of the destructive abuse it suffers from Wall St. The deep sub-prime mortgage market is roaring back and, with it, the nuclear bomb-laden derivatives that triggered round one of The Big Short de facto financial system collapse:
It’s an astonishing comeback for the roughly $70 billion market for synthetic CDOs, which rose to infamy during the crisis and then faded into obscurity after nearly destroying the financial system. But perhaps the most surprising twist is Citigroup itself. Less than a decade ago, the bank was forced into a taxpayer bailout after suffering huge losses on similar types of securities tied to mortgages.
Citigroup is leading the charge this time around, instead of Bear Stearns and Lehman: Citi Revives The Trade That Blew Up The System In 2008. Oh, and do not be mistaken, the financial ‘safeguards’ legislated by Congress and widely heralded by Obama and Elizabeth Warren are completely useless.

This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on September 27, 2017.

Russian Depositors On Edge After Second Major Bank Fails In Under A Month

If once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is a full-blown collapse in the financial system, then Russia may be getting close.
Just three weeks after Russia bailed out its largest and very politically connected private bank, Otkritie, after an unexpectedly acute bank run resulted in the bank’s near-collapse, already nervous Russian depositors shifted their attention to another domestic lender, and earlier today Russia’s B&N Bank, the country’s 12th biggest lender by assets, also sought a bailout from the central bank. While it is unclear how much this bailout would cost Russian taxpayers, when the central bank took over Otkritie last month, it said it might need up to $6.9 billion, the biggest ever bailout in the country.
B&N Bank, which is controlled by Russian oligarch Mikhail Gutseriev and was not on the central bank’s list of systemically important lenders, said it had under-estimated the problems within the banks it had bought during an expansion drive. ‘Our objective is, with the support of the central bank … to conduct an effective financial rehabilitation of the bank,’ said Mikail Shishkhanov, who was named as chairman of B&N Bank, whose assets account for 2 percent of the Russian banking system, according to ratings agency Fitch.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 20, 2017.

Who Gets Hit by Mortgage Losses in Harvey and Irma Areas?

‘We need to ask for a policy change because the burden with these losses is too big.’ Somebody is going to pay for losses on mortgages of homes that were destroyed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. It’s a just a question of who.
The taxpayer is on the hook, along with some investors. But then there are the servicers of mortgages guaranteed by the Government National Mortgage Association, for short Ginnie Mae. The largest of them is Wells Fargo, but they mostly include smaller non-banks such as PennyMac and Quicken Loans. The amounts could be large. And now they’re asking for a bailout of sorts.
In total, 4.3 million properties with nearly $700 billion in outstanding mortgage balances are located in FEMA-designated disaster areas in Texas and Florida, according to a preliminary estimate by Black Knight Financial Services:
Disaster areas of Hurricane Harvey: 1.18 million mortgaged properties with $179 billion in unpaid mortgages. Disaster areas of Hurricane Irma: 3.14 million mortgaged properties with $517 billion in unpaid mortgages. Many of these homes survived mostly unscathed. So the mortgage balances of homes that have been severely damaged or destroyed remain uncertain but are significant.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Sep 19, 2017.

Fearing Contagion, Russia Bails Out Bondholders in its Biggest Bank Collapse Yet

‘The panicky mood has been dampened down,’ as other banks are rumored to be teetering.
True to the playbook of bank bailouts, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) decided to bail out Bank Otkritie Financial Corporation, the largest privately owned bank in the country, and the seventh largest bank behind six state-owned banks.
The Central Bank put in an undisclosed amount of money in return for at least a 75% stake. This is likely to be Russia’s biggest bank bailout ever, well ahead of the current record holder, the $6.7 billion bailout of the Bank of Moscow in 2011.
Otkritie and its businesses would operate as usual, the Central Bank said. The banks obligations to creditors and bondholders, which include other Russian banks, would be honored to avoid contagion.
The controlling shareholder of Otkritie bank is Otkritie Holding, with a 65% stake. The bank had grown by wild acquisitions, grabbing other banks, insurers, non-pension funds, and the diamond business of Russia’s second largest oil producer Lukoil. Otkritie Holding is owned by executives of Lukoil, state-owned VTB bank, Otkritie, and other companies. So clearly, this bank is too big to fail.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Aug 30, 2017.

Social Security requires a bailout that’s 60x greater than the 2008 emergency bank bailout

/ August 11, 2017
A few weeks ago the Board of Trustees of Social Security sent a formal letter to the United States Senate and House of Representatives to issue a dire warning: Social Security is running out of money.
Given that tens of millions of Americans depend on this public pension program as their sole source of retirement income, you’d think this would have been front page news…
… and that every newspaper in the country would have reprinted this ominous projection out of a basic journalistic duty to keep the public informed about an issue that will affect nearly everyone.
But that didn’t happen.
The story was hardly picked up.
It’s astonishing how little attention this issue receives considering it will end up being one of the biggest financial crises in US history.
That’s not hyperbole either – the numbers are very clear.
The US government itself calculates that the long-term Social Security shortfall exceeds $46 TRILLION.
In other words, in order to be able to pay the benefits they’ve promised, Social Security needs a $46 trillion bailout.
Fat chance.

This post was published at Sovereign Man on Simon Black.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac May Require $100 Billion In A New Crisis

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Snake Hole Lounge. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
According to the results from the annual stress test of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac released today by their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the ‘GSEs’ which were nationalized a decade ago in the early days of the crisis, would need as much as $100 billion in bailout funding in the form of a potential incremental Treasury draw, in the event of a new economic crisis.
***
Bear in mind that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgages must reside somewhere. If not Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s balance sheet, then on the balance sheets of lenders (like Wells Fargo and Bank of America), or some other financial entity. Or FHA insurance fund.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on August 8, 2017.

IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro and apologises for the immolation of Greece

The International Monetary Fund’s top staff misled their own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments in Greece, became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory.
This is the lacerating verdict of the IMF’s top watchdog on the fund’s tangled political role in the eurozone debt crisis, the most damaging episode in the history of the Bretton Woods institutions.
It describes a ‘culture of complacency’, prone to ‘superficial and mechanistic’ analysis, and traces a shocking breakdown in the governance of the IMF, leaving it unclear who is ultimately in charge of this extremely powerful organisation.
The report by the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) goes above the head of the managing director, Christine Lagarde. It answers solely to the board of executive directors, and those from Asia and Latin America are clearly incensed at the way European Union insiders used the fund to rescue their own rich currency union and banking system.
The three main bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland were unprecedented in scale and character. The trio were each allowed to borrow over 2,000pc of their allocated quota – more than three times the normal limit – and accounted for 80pc of all lending by the fund between 2011 and 2014.

This post was published at The Telegraph

Earnings Rise with Boost from Falling U.S. Dollar But Consumers Will Bear the Brunt of Rising Prices

There seems to be an unlimited supply of methods in which the rich in America keep getting richer and the average Joe picks up the tab. (Think about the $16 trillion secret bailout of Wall Street by the Federal Reserve from 2007 to 2010 for the quintessential example.)
Yesterday, Fortune Magazine ran this sobering headline: ‘The Wealth Gap in the U. S. Is Worse Than In Russia or Iran.’ The article quotes Richard Florida, author of The New Urban Crisis, as follows:
‘Inequality in New York City is like Swaziland. Miami’s is like Zimbabwe. Los Angeles is equivalent to Sri Lanka. I actually look at the difference between the 95th percentile of income earners in big cities and the lower 20%. In the New York metro area, the 95th percentile makes $282,000 and the 20th percentile makes $23,000. These gaps between the rich and the poor in income and wealth are vast across the country and even worse in our cities.’
Against that backdrop comes news from FactSet last Friday that with 57 percent of the companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index reporting actual earnings results for the second quarter of 2017, ‘ten sectors are reporting year-over-year earnings growth, led by the Energy, Information Technology, and Financials sectors.’ FactSet adds this: ‘The only sector reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings is the Consumer Discretionary sector.’ That would be the sector in which the average Joe lives.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade By Pam Martens and Russ Marte.