Bank of America and JPMorgan, Oh How Illegal Activity Pays
What a surprise. The big banks are not playing by the rules — the rule of law, that is.
The Justice Department announced that it is pursuing a civil lawsuit against Bank of America on the grounds that the bank lied about the quality of the mortgages underlying its mortgage-backed securities (MBS) prior to the housing collapse and financial crisis. The Justice Department is still on a high from its successful civil lawsuit against Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s (NYSE:GS) mid-level toxic securities shill, Fabrice Tourre.
The charges allege out-and-out fraud in Bank of America's soup-to-nuts loan origination and securitization of mortgages. Loans, bad from the start, were knowingly bundled and securitized into trade-able MBS, unbeknownst to buyers.
Best Stocks to Buy Now: A Big Growth Case for Small Banks
While the big banks may have the attention of the Street right now, it's the smaller regional and community banks that are among the best stocks to buy now.
These small bank growth stocks are starting to show dazzling growth as their balance sheets improve dramatically. And they are still very early in the recovery cycle, so there is still plenty of time for individual investors to catch this train…
Why the Dodd-Frank Act Didn't Work
On July 21, the Dodd-Frank Act turned three years old.
But, unlike most three-year-olds who can walk and talk, this one hasn't gotten out of the crib yet…
You see, the Dodd-Frank Act was a promise to protect Americans from the excesses and ruthlessness of Wall Street. It was meant to streamline the regulatory process.
But three years later, we are still waiting for its full implementation.
In fact, as of last week, only 155 of 398 rules required by this law are considered final.
That's because instead of focusing on the systemic problems that caused the crisis, the pen to write the bill ended up in the hands of disconnected agencies and lobbyists.
Instead of fixing the serious problems of current law, Dodd-Frank failed to curtail Wall Street – just a few years after a major financial crisis.
At a time when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, and Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, have pushed for a new Glass-Steagall Act to reduce risk, some voices like Treasury Secretary Jack Lew argue that the Dodd-Frank bill will alleviate the problems of Too Big to Fail, systemic risk, and cronyism.
But we know that such arguments are spurious at best.
If A New Glass-Steagall Act Can Protect Us, Why Is There Opposition?
There has been a huge outpouring of support for Senators John McCain and Elizabeth Warren's idea to reinstate some form of the Glass-Steagall Act, which drew a clear separation between investment banking and commercial banking.
The enthusiasm has managed to vault a wall that many thought impossible: broad bipartisan support.
In fact, from McCain and Warren on down to the right and left, strange bedfellows are signing on.
Whether it's the various Tea Party groups, or MoveOn.Org. Whether it's the Huffington Post or Breitbart, or Bill Clinton, there is plenty of common ground between all of these divergent groups.
Even in Congress itself, there is significant bipartisan support for at least the idea behind Glass-Steagall – that big banks should be broken up, and that those who remain should be absolutely prohibited from, frankly, gambling with our money.
It's perfectly clear that, among the people of this country, there is a real desire to bring banks to heel.
Professor William K. Black, veteran warrior of the Savings & Loan Crisis, put it well when he said that "it violates the core principles of conservatism and libertarianism to extend the federal subsidy (to)… commercial banks via deposit insurance to allow that subsidy to extend to non-banking operations," meaning that we, the taxpayers, shouldn't be forced to subsidize a bank's gambling habit.
After 14 Years of Free-for-All, Glass-Steagall Is Back
Three cheers for Elizabeth Warren!
Yesterday she launched a wire-guided Scud missile at the too-big-to-fail banks.
The freshman senator from Massachusetts, formerly a Harvard Law School professor specializing in bankruptcy law, introduced her "21st Century Glass-Steagall Act" co-sponsored with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Angus King (I-Maine).
And it's got the Big Banks shaking in their boots.
The 21st Century Act would separate institutions with savings and checking accounts, in other words FDIC-insured depository commercial banks, from investment and trading "banks" engaged in capital markets activities, most of which are on the border between speculation and manipulation.
Senators Move to Create 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act
Warren, John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Angus Kin (I-Maine) introduced legislation that would again separate bank's traditional activities (like deposits currently backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.) from riskier activities like investment banking, insurance underwriting, swap dealing, and hedge funds.
Glass-Steagall was repealed by Congress back in 1999.
When the news broke of Warren’s determined attempt to bring back Glass-Steagall last week, it covered front pages across the country and instigated a firestorm of commentary on the future of the U.S. economy.
The problem, of course, is the ability to cut through the hype and understand if financial reform is necessary to fix the U.S. economy.
Rarely do I find myself championing regulatory efforts by the Federal Government, but the financial sector is an entirely different beast from energy, agriculture, and other resource sectors.
But reinstituting key elements of the Glass-Steagall Act is just one step on a long return to sanity for the economy.
New Basel Banking Regulations Mean Every Bank is its Own Cop
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a global group made up of central banks, just came out with its new bank capital standards, the Third Basel Accord (Basel III), to address some of the problems and weaknesses in global financial regulation.
These problems were seen to have been a partial cause of the global financial crisis.
When banking systems adopt the regulations, which are completely voluntary, it's seen as a step towards greater transparency, a more robust system. It's seen as regulators finally getting tough. This is all part of the mad, frantic scramble for… credibility among regulators.
Sounds Good In Theory
The latest round of Basel III regulations, which were approved and adopted by the Fed just last week, call for banks to begin strengthening and improving the quality of their capital reserves. Quantity and quality of capital are absolutely vital to a healthy banking system.
It was the paradigm of the "honest-to-god, AAA mortgage-backed security," with all of its rubbish quality, willfully overstated and overestimated by U.S. ratings agencies, which helped lead us down the path to collapse just five years ago.
So why not have the banks shore up their defenses, take on more capital of good quality?
Abuses at McDonald’s and JPMorgan Chase Help Keep America Poor
Natalie Gunshannon, a McDonald's worker from Pennsylvania, has just won the right to… draw a paycheck. Work-for-pay is a fairly straightforward system that the Western World has been using for the past six or seven centuries, give or take.
Ms. Gunshannon was an hourly employee at a McDonald's franchise in Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Her degree is in massage therapy, but jobs in that field are scarce. A single mother, she took whatever work was available, which brought her to McDonalds, where she worked the line for $7.44 an hour, 30 to 70 hours per week.
After her first pay period, she was given not a paycheck, but a "debit" card loaded with her wages. This card, backed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), could be used anywhere Visa was accepted – including ATMs. It all seemed very convenient.
It's Enough to Make Your Blood Boil
Here are two items that will upset you…
First, back in February, Attorney General Eric Holder christened the unofficial official doctrine of "Too Big to Jail."
He told Congress, "The size of some of these institutions [TBTF banks] becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute – if we do bring a criminal charge – it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy."
Of course, it was only the christening of another neat little name.
Check Out Who's Hiding $32 Trillion in Offshore Accounts
More than two million emails that shed light on the biggest tax dodge in history – trillions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts – have been uncovered by the British newspaper The Guardian and the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Some $32 trillion has been hidden in small island banking hubs which host a bevy of trust funds, shell corporations and other tax havens, the Tax Justice Network estimates.
This money is to the financial world what the Higgs boson and dark matter are to particle physics: It's tough to prove it's there, but the universe doesn't make much sense without it. It's just a matter of connecting the money to the people hiding it.
That's been a tall order… until now.