Saturday, February 28, 2009
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=auZeM63nrgzo&refer=home Arsonists Torch Berlin Porsches, BMWs on Economic Woe (Update1)
Saturday, February 21, 2009
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Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
SEC Charges R. Allen Stanford, Stanford International Bank for Multi-Billion Dollar Investment Scheme
SEC Charges R. Allen Stanford, Stanford International Bank for Multi-Billion Dollar Investment Scheme
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., Feb. 17, 2009 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Robert Allen Stanford and three of his companies for orchestrating a fraudulent, multi-billion dollar investment scheme centering on an $8 billion CD program.
Stanford's companies include Antiguan-based Stanford International Bank (SIB), Houston-based broker-dealer and investment adviser Stanford Group Company (SGC), and investment adviser Stanford Capital Management. The SEC also charged SIB chief financial officer James Davis as well as Laura Pendergest-Holt, chief investment officer of Stanford Financial Group (SFG), in the enforcement action.
Pursuant to the SEC's request for emergency relief for the benefit of defrauded investors, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor entered a temporary restraining order, froze the defendants' assets, and appointed a receiver to marshal those assets.
"As we allege in our complaint, Stanford and the close circle of family and friends with whom he runs his businesses perpetrated a massive fraud based on false promises and fabricated historical return data to prey on investors," said Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "We are moving quickly and decisively in this enforcement action to stop this fraudulent conduct and preserve assets for investors."
Rose Romero, Regional Director of the SEC's Fort Worth Regional Office, added, "We are alleging a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world."
The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in Dallas, alleges that acting through a network of SGC financial advisers, SIB has sold approximately $8 billion of so-called "certificates of deposit" to investors by promising improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates. These rates were supposedly earned through SIB's unique investment strategy, which purportedly allowed the bank to achieve double-digit returns on its investments for the past 15 years.
According to the SEC's complaint, the defendants have misrepresented to CD purchasers that their deposits are safe, falsely claiming that the bank re-invests client funds primarily in "liquid" financial instruments (the portfolio); monitors the portfolio through a team of 20-plus analysts; and is subject to yearly audits by Antiguan regulators. Recently, as the market absorbed the news of Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme, SIB attempted to calm its own investors by falsely claiming the bank has no "direct or indirect" exposure to the Madoff scheme.
According to the SEC's complaint, SIB is operated by a close circle of Stanford's family and friends. SIB's investment committee, responsible for the management of the bank's multi-billion dollar portfolio of assets, is comprised of Stanford; Stanford's father who resides in Mexia, Texas; another Mexia resident with business experience in cattle ranching and car sales; Pendergest-Holt, who prior to joining SFG had no financial services or securities industry experience; and Davis, who was Stanford's college roommate.
The SEC's complaint also alleges an additional scheme relating to $1.2 billion in sales by SGC advisers of a proprietary mutual fund wrap program, called Stanford Allocation Strategy (SAS), by using materially false historical performance data. According to the complaint, the false data helped SGC grow the SAS program from less than $10 million in 2004 to more than $1 billion, generating fees for SGC (and ultimately Stanford) of approximately $25 million in 2007 and 2008. The fraudulent SAS performance was used to recruit registered investment advisers with significant books of business, who were then heavily incentivized to reallocate their clients' assets to SIB's CD program.
The SEC's complaint charges violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Advisers Act, and registration provisions of the Investment Company Act. In addition to emergency and interim relief that has been obtained, the SEC seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from future violations of the relevant provisions of the federal securities laws and ordering them to pay financial penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest.
The Commission acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in connection with this matter.
The SEC's investigation is continuing. The Commission acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in connection with this matter. FINRA independently developed information through its examination and investigative processes that contributed significantly to the filing of this enforcement action.
# # #
For more information, contact:
Rose Romero, Regional Director
We wrapped ourselves in an intellectual security blanket sewn together by our brightest economists and many of their mathematically gifted progeny, the Ph.D. "quants" of Wall Street. We were taken in, as we so often are, by an inflated belief in our own powers. And hubris--as always--was rebuked with catastrophe.
Given the amount of time that the SEC and the media have been sniffing around his operation, today's fraud charges can't have come as much surprise to Allen Stanford. And given that he owns banks in many different jurisdictions (the FT has found entities not only in the US and Antigua, but also New Zealand, Switzerland, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and, of course, Panama), as well as what Matthew Goldstein calls "a number of private jets", one expects that at this point his contingency plan is well underway. http://seekingalpha.com/article/121037-stanford-the-manhunt-begins
The China bulls have commented approvingly on the growth in loans in China, seeing it as a sign of pending recovery, along with an upswing in stock prices. We've pointed out that economist and China commentator Michael Pettis has heard quite a few reports that many of these loans were in fact sham transactions to meet government targets.
And now it gets even better. One analyst estimates that more than 1/3 of the total "new" lending (assuming that the loans were truly extended) may have gone into the stock market.
http://danskeresearch.danskebank.com/link/Meltdown17022009/$file/Meltdown17022009.pdf In conclusion, the crisis in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) is getting out of hand and investors are aggressively exiting CEE markets. The most likely outcome is a very sharp fall in economic activity across the region. Pressure on CEE markets will probably continue until either the EU and/or the IMF intervene decisively.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Sometime this year, taxpayers will receive an Economic Stimulus Payment. This is a very exciting new program that I will explain using the Q and A format:
Q. What is an Economic Stimulus Payment?
A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.
Q. Where will the government get this money?
A. From taxpayers.
Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
A. No, they are borrowing it from China. Your children are expected to repay the Chinese.
Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. The plan is that you will use the money to purchase a high-definition TV set, thus stimulating the economy.
Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China ?
A. Shut up.
Below is some helpful advice on how to best help the US economy by spending your stimulus check wisely:
If you spend that money at Wal-Mart, all the money will go to China.
If you spend it on gasoline it will go to Hugo Chavez, the Arabs and Al Queda
If you purchase a computer it will go to Taiwan.
If you purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala (unless you buy organic).
If you buy a car it will go to Japan and Korea.
If you purchase prescription drugs it will go to India
If you purchase heroin it will go to the Taliban in Afghanistan
If you give it to a charitable cause, it will go to Nigeria.
And none of it will help the American economy. We need to keep that money here in America. You can keep the money in America by spending it at yard sales, going to a baseball game, or spend it on prostitutes, beer (domestic only), or tattoos, since those are the only businesses still in the US.
CBN to suspend bank for illegal forex deals
The Central Bank of Nigeria queried one of the top players in the banking industry on Monday evening, over its foreign exchange dealings, suspected to be full of anomalies.
This is coming on the heels of allegations that the apex bank has not lived up to its responsibility as a regulator.
According to sources, CBN auditors will immediately go into the bank to look through the bank's foreign exchange activities.
If the bank is found guilty, it will be suspended from trading on the forex market, which is still one of money-spinners for banks in these turbulent times.
"The mood is hot now at the CBN in view of the global financial meltdown and its probable effect on the Nigerian economy. So, if anything to suggest round tripping is found in the bank's books, then the bank gets maximum punishment," a source, who asked not to be named, disclosed.
Investigation by our correspondents revealed that many banks were still involved in roundtripping, despite the Central Bank of Nigeria's directive that foreign currencies sourced through its Retail Dutch Auction System must be for end users only.
Round tripping is an arbitrage transaction where retail banks buy foreign currencies from the CBN and resell at the parallel (black) market far above the stipulated two per cent premium allowed by the apex bank.
Meanwhile, the naira remained at N147.70 to the United States dollar at the inter-bank foreign exchange market on Monday.
Traders attributed the stable exchange rate to the uncertain outcome of the Central Bank of Nigeria's Retail Dutch Auction System.
"Most banks were not aggressive in their demand for dollars because of the CBN's auction today (Monday)," one dealer said.
Traders said the outcome of the RDAS would determine the level of activity in the market on Tuesday.
The naira strengthened to N147.70 to the dollar on Friday from N149 on Monday last week after big dollar inflows from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and local conglomerate, Dangote Group, improved liquidity in the system.
At last Wednesday RDAS, the CBN offered $200m at the rate of NI45.30. The apex bank has been consistent with this exchange rate in the last two trading sessions.
Meanwhile, analysts have predicted that the naira might fall further to between N165 and N200.
According to a report by Vetiva Capital Management Limited, the persistent fall in oil prices, diminishing oil production as well as consistent decline in foreign reserves are some of the factors that will lead to a further crash of the naira.
The report stated that the CBN would definitely meet the dollar demand by end-users at the early stage but that as soon as the reserves began to decline without adequate means of replenishment, the naira would suffer significant depreciation.
Vetiva noted that, "We expect that the depreciation of the naira against major economies as witnessed towards the end of 2008 will be sustained in 2009. The CBN seems to have abandoned any effort to support the value of the currency, probably recognising that it would be a prohibitively expensive long term policy to pursue."
Vetiva's position also coincided with that of Citigroup which predicted that the naira might weaken to as much as 15 per cent this year should the price of oil, which accounted for 90 per cent of the nation's export earnings, declined to an average $35 a barrel in 2009.
An economist with the group, David Cowan, said, "Nigeria is very reliant on oil revenue to meet demand for foreign exchange. If the oil price averages around $35 a barrel, then the naira will face significant further depreciation."
The currency lost almost a quarter of its value following a November 26 decision by the CBN to limit sales of dollars to commercial banks to protect its $52bn of reserves as oil revenue shrank and foreign investors sold the nation's assets. Oil has slumped almost 72 per cent since its July record of $147.27 a barrel, cutting Nigeria's export earnings.
"The central bank can't justify using its reserves to defend the naira in a country that is still very poor," said Cowan.
CBN to suspend bank for illegal forex deals
Martin compares the quiet competency and professionalism of the US Airways crews that executed an emergency landing with the gross mismanagement of the Obama White House team that appears to have landed from Mars
Ready for More Bad News?
The economic crisis is even worse than Obama admits.
But this is the real thing. And it's going to drag on much longer than most people think. It will be called the Greater Depression, and it's likely the most serious thing to happen to the country since its founding. And not just from an economic point of view, but political, sociological, and military.
For a number of reasons, wars usually occur in tough economic times. Governments always like to find foreigners to blame for their problems, and that includes other countries blaming the U.S. In the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see violence, tax revolt, or even parts of the country trying to secede. I don't think I can adequately emphasize how serious this thing is likely to get. Nothing is certain, but it seems to me the odds are very, very high for an absolutely world-class disaster. http://www.dailyreckoning.com/2009-another-year-of-shock-and-awe/
Smart money. Dumb money. All kinds of money. Like those geniuses who bought Sam Zell's real estate empire at the top of the market. Practically every one of them is now in trouble. Rents are down – not enough to cover the operating costs and debt service. And what about Sam himself? He put a big chunk of his money into publishing. And now his flagship newspapers are going broke too. Ad revenue is down and shows no sign of recovering – ever. http://www.dailyreckoning.com/the-economic-panic-of-2009/
The Asia-Pacific region is feeling the pain faster than even pessimists expected. China, an economy on which Australia increasingly relies, is looking more vulnerable by the day. The latest sign of that was January's 17.5 percent plunge in exports.
"You guys are in trouble," Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, declared at the same conference that Reddy, Stevens and many Asia-Pacific central bankers attended this week. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601110&sid=aeU.JTMir7vA
Caterpillar CEO Contradicts President on Whether Stimulus Will Allow Him to Re-Hire Laid Off Workers http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/02/doh-caterpillar.html
I copied each full transcript into separate Word documents. After doing that, I deleted the introductions by both men (since those are largely or fully scripted) and then deleted all reporter questions from the transcripts. What you have left are simply the answers that each president offered, off-the-cuff and unscripted, to all questions.
Then I ran Word's readability tool.
Bush's answers were spoken at 7th grade level. Obama's at a 10th grade level. |-( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-nickolas/obamas-press-conf-answers_b_165467.html
Too much a fan of his day job, Schiff's focus is now on expanding his business from six offices to a possible 30 worldwide. Schiff's plans may be put on hold for now, as his expansion relies heavily on the state of the U.S. economy.
"There might not be enough Americans with money left (to invest)," he said. http://www.dariennews-review.com/local/ci_11688012
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Trends Research Website
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
At 2 minutes, 20 seconds into this C-Span video clip, Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania explains how the Federal Reserve told Congress members about a "tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the United States, to the tune of $550 billion dollars." According to Kanjorski, this electronic transfer occurred over the period of an hour and threatened a further $5 trillion to be drawn out triggering a total collapse of the Financial System, which prompted Hank Paulson's emergency $700 billion TARP bailout action. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NMu1mFao3w
http://www.kansascity.com/438/story/1026714.html Wholesale inventories plunge by most in 17 years
What is needed? The answer is: focus and ferocity. If Mr Obama does not fix this crisis, all he hopes from his presidency will be lost. If he does, he can reshape the agenda. Hoping for the best is foolish. He should expect the worst and act accordingly.
Yet hoping for the best is what one sees in the stimulus programme and – so far as I can judge from Tuesday's sketchy announcement by Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary – also in the new plans for fixing the banking system. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9ebea1b8-f794-11dd-81f7-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1
Sunday, February 8, 2009
This week President Obama claimed that failure to pass his economic stimulus bill will have catastrophic consequences for the U.S economy. The reality is the catastrophe will be far greater with his plan than without it. If the trends of January and early February of 2009 continue, the rug will be completely pulled out from beneath the U.S. economy, and the full cost of the President's "economic depressant package" will be apparent to all.
If foreign capital does .... http://seekingalpha.com/article/119199-this-is-just-the-beginning?source=headline1
There is a battle being waged now in the world of economics. This battle is fierce. And no matter who wins, the impact will be felt far and wide. I dub this epoch struggle: "Godzilla vs. King Kong"
I'm not sure who will win, but I do have a favorite. http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article8750.html
Q: Isn't this just a populist, diversionary tactic on Obama's part so that he can spend $900 billion more on his porky projects?
A: Yes. And you of all people should envy his strategic gifts, which were finely honed right beside you at Harvard. Besides, if things get keep getting worse, you will beg Obama for another pay cut, just to hold the line on rising sales of guillotines.
Ten years ago, a quote from Marx would have one deemed a socialist, and dismissed from polite debate. Today, such a quote can (and did, along with Charlie's photo) appear in a feature in the Sydney Morning Herald—and not a few people would have been nodding their heads at how Marx got it right on bankers.
Barron's interviews Ray Dalio, chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates. Listen up: Bridgewater's funds have produced long-term annual returns, net of fees, averaging 15%. In the turmoil of 2008, its Pure Alpha I fund earned 8.7%, while Pure Alpha II delivered 9.4%. This guy knows his stuff.
There's too much in this interview to do it justice with a summary. For those with Barron's subscriptions, I strongly recommend you read the whole thing. For those who can't, here are some of Dalio's key thoughts:... http://seekingalpha.com/article/119250-ray-dalio-a-long-and-painful-depression-barron-s-interview
Two of Switzerland's largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, are set to announce combined losses for 2008 of 29 billion Swiss francs later this week, the Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.
According to the report, UBS will announce an annual loss of 21 billion Swiss francs (14 billion euros, 18 billion dollars) on Tuesday, the largest in Swiss history and reflecting the fact the company was one of the banks hardest hit by the US subprime loan crisis.
Why There Won't Be a Revolution
Americans might get angry sometimes, but we don't hate the rich. We prefer to laugh at them.
Few 21st-century Americans have any real experience with economic populism. That appears to be changing fast. In the 1930s, the demonization of the upper class did not really begin until almost two years after the stock-market crash. We are now six months into our own economic crisis, and signs of populist resentment are already visible: in the perverse fascination with Bernard Madoff's remarkable fraud, the popular outrage at the tax problems of public officials, the growing contempt for the many overseers of the credit markets, the ruined investments of millions of ordinary people, the growing army of the unemployed (still far below the 15% to 25% unemployment of the 1930s, but 7.6% in January and growing fast), the likelihood of a recession that could last not just for months, but for years. These are the preconditions of populist revolts. Mr. Obama's chastisements of bankers and CEOs have been relatively mild compared to the routine denunciations of "economic royalists" in the 1930s. But the longer the crisis goes on and the deeper it grows, the more Huey Long-like challenges to those in power will arise, and the more pressure there will be for national leaders to launch populist battles of their own.
Morgan Stanley is also advising the Fed on the AIG rescue.
In addition to hiring consultants, the Fed and the Treasury have retained Wall Street firms to help manage more than $2 trillion in bailout and emergency-loan programs. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=a2T0fD4Ri17E&refer=home
Saturday, February 7, 2009
"Our position is that, while 'Buy American' may sound good, in fact we're very concerned that if this stimulus legislation contains the 'Buy American' provision, other nations and regions of the world would follow our lead and pass similar provisions," said spokesman Jim Dugan.
"Suddenly, we could find ourselves with an old-fashioned trade dispute similar to the 1930s, and soon global trade could grind to a halt. We are very, very concerned that this 'Buy American' provision could end up leading to a similar set of circumstances that would be detrimental to Caterpillar, and more importantly, to the U.S. economy and the global economy."
Lindsey Graham Whines About Stimulus Bill on Fox News http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMK3lFjzgqw 'the process is broken'
http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article8716.html Stock Markets Fail to Bounce, Food Prices Signalling Higher Commodity Prices
http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2009/02/06/is-inflated-executive-pay-bad-for-democracy/ pay scale in France before guillotine VS US today
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The White House's nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta [pictured above], has earned more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since the beginning of 2008, with some of the payments coming from troubled banks and an investment firm that owns companies that do business with federal national security agencies.
Mr. Panetta received $56,000 from Merrill Lynch & Co. for two speeches and $28,000 for an Oct. 30, 2008 speech for Wachovia Corp. Both firms suffered big losses last year and were acquired by larger banks.
Mr. Panetta reported receiving a $60,000 "Governmental Advisor Fee" from the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping industry. The group lobbies the federal government regarding terrorism laws that affect shipping. http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/posted/archive/2009/02/04/236718.aspx
Daschle, who is not a lawyer, was being paid a million dollars a year by a law firm. As what? Not a lobbyist -- at least, not officially. But it's safe to say that he wouldn't have been offered that sinecure if he hadn't been such a powerful senator. Daschle has juice. He could talk to people, take positions, speak authoritatively. He was an important man who, it goes without saying, needed to have a car and driver at his disposal. In just two years after leaving the Senate, he made something like $5.3 million.... http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2009/02/tom_daschle_a_creature_of_the.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama's presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills. http://www.opednews.com/articles/Small-Change-Obama-s-Betr-by-Dave-Lindorff-090204-344.html
At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.... http://www.alternet.org/workplace/125192/it%27s_not_going_to_be_ok/
Sunday, February 1, 2009
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/google/4413065/Millions-hit-by-Google-breakdown.html Millions hit by Google 'breakdown'
To avoid oppressive civic obligations, the wealthy fled from cities to establish self-sufficient rural estates. http://dieoff.org/page134.htm
"A Dark Age of Macroeconomics"
Quoting an email [from Paul Krugman], economists who "have spent their entire careers on equilibrium business cycle theory are now discovering that, in effect, they invested their savings with Bernie Madoff." I think that's right, and as they come to this realization, we can expect these economists to flail about defending the indefensible, they will be quite vicious at times, and in their panic to defend the work they have spent their lives on, they may not be very careful about the arguments they make. http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2009/01/a-dark-age-of-macroeconomics.html
What Are The People Who Predicted the Financial Crisis Predicting Now?
There are only a handful of people who predicted this financial crisis, or at least its severity. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2008/12/what-do-people-who-predicted-financial.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/world/europe/01russia.html?hp MOSCOW — Protesters held demonstrations throughout Russia on Saturday, offering largely subdued, but pointed criticism of the government's economic policies as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass.
Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets
http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article8593.html Economic & Financial Markets Forecast 2009: Collapsing Global Financial System Ponzi Scheme