Category Archives: William K. Black

Not with a Bang but a Whimper: DOJ Says it Cannot Prosecute “Rocket Science” Frauds

By William K. Black

This is the way the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) greatest strategic prosecutorial failure ends, not with a bang but a whimper that it is too hard to prosecute “rocket science” frauds.  The context is the ritual Bloomberg exit interview with the senior DOJ official going off to make his new fortune.  The lucky fellow this week is Deputy Attorney General James Cole.  This genre of interview is designed to allow the man in the revolving door to announce his great accomplishments as a prosecutor, or in this case, non-prosecutor.  Cole gamely claims that zero prosecutions constitutes a brilliant success because DOJ’s civil cases “have resulted in banks paying huge fines and altering their behavior.”

“Holder today praised Cole as his ‘indispensable partner’ since taking the deputy’s job in January 2011. ‘Jim’s leadership and ingenuity have been critical in attaining historic results on behalf of the American people,’ Holder said in a statement.”

Continue reading

Krugman’s Bashes Progressives for Criticizing Obama on Grounds that He Criticizes Obama

By William K. Black

Paul Krugman’s admirers would never list modesty as one of his characteristics. He has written a column “In Defense of Obama” that begins by explaining that his criticisms of President Obama were correct, but that unidentified others’ criticisms of Obama constitute “trash talk.”

Specifically, Obama “came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain.” Obama sought to produce a self-inflicted disaster by desperately trying to reach a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans that would have inflicted austerity on our Nation in 2012, “slash[ed] Social Security and [raised] the Medicare [eligibility] age.” As even Krugman admits, we were saved from this catastrophe “only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions” to achieve the Grand Bargain. What Krugman omits in the tale is that it was also a revolt by Democratic progressives against the Grand Bargain that saved Obama and the Nation.

Continue reading

Deal Book Says Citi “Cannot Afford” to Run an Honest Bank in Mexico

By William K. Black

Deal Book, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s ethics-free paean to painless elite bank frauds – all the wealth and none of the accountability – has plumbed new depths in its coverage of Citi’s latest frauds.  It has literally written that Citi “cannot afford” to run an honest bank in Mexico.

I’ll put aside for another day the obvious point that Citi does not run an honest bank in the U.S. so the authors’ implicit assumption that Citi’s problems arise from a corrupt Mexican culture is false and bigoted.  For purposes of analysis only, I will discuss the logical implications of the Deal Book’s “Blame it on Mexico” thesis. That thesis does not lead the NYT authors to ask Citi’s leaders to discuss which of three options it chose given that it cannot afford to run an honest bank in Mexico.

  • To run an honest bank in Mexico anyway, or
  • To lead a movement to clean up banking and politics in Mexico, or
  • To stop banking in Mexico

Continue reading

EU Ideologues “Crowd Out” Sanity

By William K. Black

It is often the small things that best illustrate insanity.  On October 13, 2014, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Jyrki Katainen spoke to emphasize one message:

“[The EU’s leaders] ‘don’t want the [European Investment Bank] EIB crowding out private investment.’  He said the EIB should be used to leverage money from the private sector, ‘and play a part in big infrastructure projects,’ notably ones that have been delayed.”

It’s helpful to situate this smaller example of economic insanity within the broader context of the insanity of austerity inflicted by those same EU leaders.  The general insanity is that the EU politicians are the most economically illiterate and extreme member of the troika.  I just wrote a column explaining that they are bitterly attacking Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) for (in their warped interpretation) becoming apostate on the subject of austerity.  The IMF, at least many of its professional economists, left the one truth faith of the austerians long ago when it began publishing research showing that fiscal stimulus was a great success and even its leadership began to warn against austerity. 

Continue reading

The EU Austerians Attack Each Other

By William K. Black

As things go from bad to worse in the eurozone the putative adults have begun to fight openly in front of the kids.  The putative adults, of course, have refused to act like adults for six years and instead have lived in a fantasy world in which austerity – bleeding the patient – is the optimal response to a recession.  As many of us have been warning for six years, this is a great way to create gratuitous recessions and even the Great Depression levels of unemployment in three nations of the periphery with 100 million citizens.

Italy has been forced by German demands for austerity into a third recession in six years, with France likely to experience the same fate.  Even Germany has stagnated and could fall into recession.  Instead of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the three horses that make up a troika consist of the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Commission (EC).  The troika combined to force the entire eurozone to inflict austerity in response to the Great Recession.

Continue reading

Hold Your Wallet When the Swedish Central Bank Prize Rewards “Clever”

By William K. Black

The Swedish Central Bank’s (the “Bank”) prize in economics has gone to Jean Tirole.  It is always good to test such an award by looking at the writings of the recipient in an area in which the reader has particular expertise.  In my case, that would include the Savings and Loan debacle, financial regulation, and control fraud.  Tirole’s book: The Theory of Corporate Finance was published on January 1, 2006 during the heart of the three raging epidemics of accounting control fraud that were hyper-inflating the world’s largest financial bubble and about to create the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

As I have long emphasized and will be explaining at greater length in a book about the failures of economics and economists as exemplified by far too many of the recipients of the Bank’s Prize, economics is the only discipline in which the understanding of the field’s subject of study has gone backwards.  In particular, the praxis recommended by economists has proven highly criminogenic and is the primary explanation for why we suffer recurrent, intensifying crises, the rise of crony capitalism that cripples democracy and ethics, and spiraling inequality and low growth in the regions that suffer the greatest predation by our parasitical financial centers.  Tirole wrote at the ideal time to judge his understanding of corporate finance as it was actively causing these catastrophes.

Continue reading

We Now Know what Form of Bank Fraud at JPMorgan it Takes to Alarm President Obama

By William K. Black

President Obama called no emergency meeting when he learned that JPMorgan and 15 other of the world’s largest banks had rigged LIBOR for years – distorting the prices on over $300 trillion in transactions.  He called no emergency meeting when he learned that JPMorgan and over 20 other huge lenders fraudulently sold Fannie and Freddie hundreds of billions of dollars in toxic mortgages.  Same non-result when JPMorgan and a dozen huge banks rigged bids on the issuance of municipal debt to rip off hundreds of government entities.  Same non-result when the big banks filed hundreds of thousands of fraudulent affidavits in order to foreclose on homeowners illegally.  Same nothing when he learned that over 20 huge lenders made the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) list as the “worst of the worst” lenders and that Attorney General Eric Holder refused to prosecute any of their senior bank officers who led the frauds.  Same nothing when he learned that our home mortgage lenders had created “an open invitation to fraud” through making millions of fraudulent liar’s loans.  Another big nothing when Obama learned that the same banks controlled by fraudulent officers had deliberately created a “Gresham’s” dynamic by blacklisting honest appraisers who refused to inflate appraisals.

Continue reading

Capital “Can’t be Gamed” – Except Whenever the Bank CEO Wants To

By William K. Black

On October 6, 2014, the Wall Street Journal, only three days ago, published an editorial claiming that regulatory capture was “inevitab[le]” and that we should give up on regulation and rely instead on “simple laws that can’t be gamed” such as an increased capital requirement for banks.  I wrote a two piece response to the editorial.  What I just discovered (though it bears an October 7, 2014 date on the WSJ website) is that one day after the editorial claimed that asset and liability values (the inputs that define “capital”) “can’t be gamed” they presented data indicating that corporations frequently game asset values and that private auditors frequently fail to follow former audit procedures to detect and prevent the overstatement of asset values.  The title of the article is “Audit Deficiencies Surge” and the first two sentences contain the key data.

“Auditors at the largest U.S. accounting firms failed to follow proper procedures in more than four in 10 audits, according to the latest inspections by the U.S. government’s audit watchdog. That was more than double the rate four years earlier.”

Continue reading

EU Austerity Bites the Austerians

By William K. Black

You know the austerians are panicking when the temple devoted to the worship of austerity, the Wall Street Journal, runs a story with the subtitle:  “Eurozone’s Largest Economy Has Its Worries, but Isn’t on Brink of Collapse.”  We can all sleep well at night because while Germany has screwed up its economy and the eurozone economy with self-destructive austerity it “isn’t on brink of collapse.”

“August’s shocking 4% decline in German industrial production versus July doesn’t signal an economy falling off a cliff. But the outlook for Germany—and by extension for the eurozone—is far from bright.

***

Germany’s second-quarter gross domestic product was disappointing, registering a contraction of 0.2% on the quarter. August’s data put in question the modest rebound many economists are expecting in the third quarter. Surveys of economic sentiment have been declining: Markit’s manufacturing purchasing managers index for September entered contraction territory, at 49.9. Weaker global demand and concerns about the tensions between Russia and Ukraine are to blame. If this unpleasant mix persists, then growth seems unlikely to pick up.”

Continue reading

If this is “Regulatory Capture” May the Lord Smite Us with It – And May We Never Recover!

By William K. Black

In Fiddler on the Roof, Perchik and Teyve have this exchange:

Perchik: Money is the world’s curse.

Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!

I was reminded of this when reading the Wall Street Journal editorial claiming that “regulatory capture” was “inevitab[le]” and that we should therefore replace financial regulation with “simple rules” that “can’t be gamed.”

In my first installment I showed that the WSJ’s “simple rules” not only can be gamed – they are invariably gamed massively in the epidemics of accounting control fraud that cause our recurrent, intensifying financial crises.  This installment refutes the “inevitability” of “regulatory capture.”  As I promised to explain, I can personally attest that regulatory capture is not “inevitab[le]” even in circumstances that are ripe for capture.  Further, “regulatory capture” has no definition and economists use it and the term “rent-seeking” as sloppy swear words to describe regulatory actions that are the opposite of regulatory capture.  I conclude by showing that we know how to avoid harmful “regulatory capture,” but the ideologues that oppose effective regulation deliberately chose anti-regulatory leaders who create a self-fulfilling prophecy of regulatory failure.  The WSJ editors and neo-classical economists are the jockeys who insure that their horse loses – and then blame the horse.

Continue reading