Thursday, February 24, 2011

Financial Fraud Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

Tags: Financial Fraud Wall Street and Banks Not Prosecuted Severely Hurt Pension Plans of States and Teachers Hoodwinking Everyone Crime is White Too

Matt Taibbi has done a great job for Rolling Stone magazine investigating the financial and power brokers. He keeps it simple so we all understand Wall Street did to all of us. When are we going to admit that greed among both Wall Street and Investors has led to this unmitigated disaster that we will live with for a long time ruining the lives of millions of American families. A Wall Street Journal article showed that a large number of Baby Boomers too huge hits and too many sold after the crash and never benefited from the uptick in stocks and bonds due to a huge supply of money from taxpayers and the Federal Reserve. So far we have not felt the inflationary effects because Wall Street Banks are borrowing the money and then buying treasury bonds above zero interest rates they borrowed at. Once they start giving out the money as loans, the money goes into our economy and will lead to inflation in a number of years.

Jim Kawakami, Feb 24, 2011,

Matt Taibbi: "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?" (Complete Interview)

Nobody goes to jail,” "writes Matt Taibbi in his the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth." Here is the complete interview from which we played an excerpt on our Feb. 22 show. Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Matt Taibbi. But before I do, let me read a sentence from a recent paper by Dean Baker, who concludes, "Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009. If pension funds had earned returns just equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds in the three years since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today."

And this—he quotes David Cay Johnston of "The average Wisconsin pension is $24,500 a year, which is hardly lavish. But what is stunning is that 15% of the money contributed to the fund each year is going to Wall Street in fees," which is why we now ask the question, "Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?"

Actually, that’s the title of reporter Matt Taibbi’s new article for Rolling Stone magazine. In the piece, Matt writes, quote, "Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth."

Well, I interviewed Matt Taibbi on Sunday about his report, "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?"

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, Matt Taibbi.

MATT TAIBBI: Thanks for having me back.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re seeing these mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, and there’s other protests that are happening. We see the working poor, the middle class, under tremendous stress, and yet they’re the ones who are being hit hardest, not Wall Street. Explain what has happened. Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, it’s an incredible story. I mean, just to back up and provide some context, I think, for this Wisconsin thing, and especially for the Ohio thing, given what their governor used to do for a living—


MATT TAIBBI: Well, he was an employee for Lehman Brothers, and he was—

AMY GOODMAN: This is Governor Kasich.

MATT TAIBBI: Governor Kasich, yeah, and he was intimately involved with selling—getting the state of Ohio’s pension fund to invest in Lehman Brothers and buy mortgage-backed securities. And of course they lost all that money.

And this, broadly, was really what the mortgage bubble and the financial crisis was all about. It was essentially a gigantic criminal fraud scheme where all the banks were taking mismarked mortgage-backed securities, very, very dangerous, toxic subprime loans, they were chopping them up and then packaging them as AAA-rated investments, and then selling them to state pension funds, to insurance companies, to Chinese banks and Dutch banks and Icelandic banks.

And, of course, these things were blowing up, and all those funds were going broke. But what they’re doing now is they’re blaming the people who were collecting these pensions—they’re blaming the workers, they’re blaming the firemen, they’re blaming the policemen—whereas, in reality, they were actually the victims of this fraud scheme. And the only reason that people aren’t angrier about this, I think, is because they don’t really understand what happened.

If these were car companies that had sold a trillion dollars’ worth of defective cars to the citizens of the United States, there would be riots right now. But these were mortgage-backed securities, it’s complicated, people don’t understand it, and they’re only now, I think, beginning to realize that they were defrauded.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the crime is. Who has profited? Who should be on trial?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, you know, again, the broad crime in all of this was just fraud. They were taking—these banks were taking, again, these subprime mortgages, and they would have these billion-dollar pools of mortgages where, in some cases, 70 or 80 percent of the loans were to people who had no identification or no jobs or who had put no money down into the mortgage.

And then they were taking these loans and applying this phony baloney, hocus pocus math, these derivative instruments, and turning them into AAA-rated investments. And they were marketing, again, these securities to, say, state pension funds as AAA-rated investments, which means credit risk almost zero.

So they took the stuff that they knew was very, very risky and very, very likely to default, and they were going to the state of Wisconsin, the state of Ohio, the state of New York, and saying, "Hey, this is almost as safe as—or in fact, it is as safe as United States Treasury bonds. You should buy this, and you’ll earn a little bit more than you’ll earn if you buy T-bills." The reality was, they were just taking absolutely worthless stuff and sticking it with these people and then fleeing the scene. This is no different than drug dealers who take a bag of oregano and sell it to you as, you know, a pound of weed. That’s exactly the same scam. …

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