Tag Archives: fraud

Floyd Norris’ Apologia for Citi’s Frauds

By William K. Black

I have just written a column about the New York Times’ financial journalist, Floyd Norris’ August 20, 2014 column decrying attacks on those who detect and seek to sanction elite frauds.  Norris’ focus was on the Chinese government attacks on whistleblowers who “detect” elite frauds.  Norris bemoaned that those who detect elite fraud suffer far more than those that commit it.

My column pointed out that the practice of elite frauds, in league with their protectors in government and the media, attack those that detect and seek to sanction elite frauds in every country.  Indeed, I showed that Norris had aided and abetted the SEC’s leadership’s smears of Gary Aguirre, the SEC whistleblower who detected evidence of what he (and his superiors) considered likely fraud by elites.  His SEC superiors, however, blocked the investigation when they discovered it would lead to John Mack, the soon-to-be CEO of Morgan Stanley, one of the world’s largest investment banks.

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Europe’s Lousy Bank Loans Expose the “Recovery” Myth

By William K. Black

One of the great lies of the financial industry is that it is the engine of Main Street’s growth.  Giving the finance industry an enormous share of total business profits was supposed to super charge Main Street’s growth.  It has never delivered on this promise.  The truth is the opposite.  The efficiency condition for a middleman like finance is that its size and profits should be minimized.  Finance’s fraud epidemics blew up the world economy and devastated Main Street.  Finance is a parasite that saps Main Street.  The latest example of this comes in a New York Times article about European bank’s bad loans.

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UPDATE: Bank of America Fined Another $16 Billion for Fraud

By L. Randall Wray

Bank of America just agreed to pay another $16 Billion fine for one of its frauds—selling trashy securities to its investors. Another day, another fraud exposed. No surprises there. This is so routine it barely deserves a headline.

According to Bloomberg, that raises the total it has agreed to pay for its mortgage lending frauds to $70 billion. Most of this is related to its purchase of Countrywide, where Mairone oversaw much of the fraud. See here.

BofA rewarded Mairone for creating Countrywide’s “Hustle” fraud by hiring her. So far that woman’s criminal expertise contributed toward mounting costs to BofA of $70 billion. Quite an accomplishment!

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Credit Suisse’s Guilty Plea: The WSJ Uses the Right Adjective to Modify the Wrong Noun

By William K. Black

The Wall Street Journal has editorialized about Credit Suisse’s guilty plea in a piece entitled “If Credit Suisse really is a criminal, why protect it from regulators?”  More precisely, and confusingly, the full title is:

“Holder Convicts Switzerland

If Credit Suisse really is a criminal, why protect it from regulators?”

The U.S. Saved Switzerland and Its Banks

I’ll begin by responding to the WSJ’s weird claims about Switzerland.  Far from “convict[ing] Switzerland,” the U.S. Fed bailed out the Swiss Central Bank at the acute phase of the crisis (by making large unsecured loans to it in dollars) so that it in turn could provide dollars to its two massive, insolvent, and fraudulent banks (UBS and Credit Suisse).  The Treasury, with the support of Secretaries Paulson and Geithner, used AIG to secretly bail out not only Goldman Sachs but also UBS (to the tune of $5 billion).  The unconscionable deal was so toxic that the heads of each of the three U.S. financial regulatory agencies involved (Treasury, the Fed, and the NY Fed) deny that they had any involvement in the decision – it’s the Virgin Bailout.

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How to Prosecute the Elite Bank CEO that Led the Frauds that Drove the Crisis

By William K. Black

Step one: Understand the three “control fraud” epidemics that drove the crisis.

Control fraud occurs when the person that controls a seemingly legitimate entity uses it as a “weapon to defraud.”  In finance, accounting is the “weapon of choice.”  Lenders engaged in accounting control fraud display the four “ingredients” of the fraud “recipe.”

  1. Grow massively by
  2. Making loans at a premium yield that are so bad that they will produce losses
  3. Employing extreme leverage and
  4. Providing only trivial allowances for loan and lease losses (ALLL)

The recipe produces three “sure things.”  The lender will report record profits in the near term, the controlling officers will promptly be made wealthy through modern executive compensation, and the firm will suffer catastrophic losses.  The recipe is also an ideal means to hyper-inflate a financial bubble in real estate, which can delay loss recognition for many years.  Minor variants on this recipe drove the savings and loan debacle and the Enron-era frauds.

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The Taylor Rule: Ignore Fraud Epidemics and Worship Markets

By William K. Black

I recently posted a detailed article in response to Raj Chetty’s lament that scientists make fun of economics’ pretense to science.

The thrust of my article was that the problem was not that economics was inherently incapable of becoming more scientific.  The problem was that so many economists wear ideological blinders that recurrently cause them to perform a parody of the scientific method.

Chetty claimed that economists who are “testing precise hypotheses” in quantitative studies that exploit natural experiments are (finally, in 2013) “transforming economics into a field firmly grounded in fact.”  Chetty’s metaphor is that economics is like epidemiology.  (One assumes that his column is posted in the CDC’s common areas for the general amusement of epidemiologists.)

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JPMorgan: Fish Rot from the Head

By William K. Black

The New York Times’ spin of the tentative settlement of JPMorgan’s latest myriad felonies begins early and runs throughout the article.  JPMorgan and Attorney General Eric Holder have reached a common meme on their settlement:  the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Holder are stalwarts who have demonstrated their toughness and JPMorgan is a model corporate citizen.  The inconvenient facts that the senior officers of JPMorgan, Bear Stearns (Bear), and Washington Mutual’s (WaMu) grew wealthy through the frauds that drove the financial crisis and that JPMorgan’s senior officers will not be prosecuted and will not even have to repay the proceeds of their crimes never appear in the article.

A word of caution is in order: I am discussing an article that is the product of leaks from DOJ and JPMorgan’s press flacks about a tentative deal, so reality is certain to differ from the spin.  This article is a longer discussion of the settlement than my October 22, 2013 CNN op ed.

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“Pervasive” Fraud by our “Most Reputable” Banks

By William K. Black

A recent study confirmed that control fraud was endemic among our most elite financial institutions.  Asset Quality Misrepresentation by Financial Intermediaries: Evidence from RMBS Market.  Tomasz Piskorski, Amit Seru & James Witkin (February 2013) (“PSW 2013”).

The key conclusion of the study is that control fraud was “pervasive” (PSW 2013: 31).

“[A]lthough there is substantial heterogeneity across underwriters, a significant degree of misrepresentation exists across all underwriters, which includes the most reputable financial institutions” (PSW 2013: 29).

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Why are there no famous financial whistleblowers in this crisis?

By William K. Black

This column discusses one of the more subtle issues raised by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) civil fraud action against Bank of America (B of A).  The issue was so subtle that of the three articles about the lawsuit that I choose to review the night after the suit was filed, only the NYT article mentioned one of the most important aspects of the suit – the key role that the whistleblower played in making the action possible.  The AP and the WSJ articles ignored the fact.

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How “Brazen” does a Bankster’s Fraud have to be before he’s Prosecuted?

By William K. Black

I’ll get the obvious out of the way first and then turn in future columns to the aspects of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil suit against Bank of America (B of A)/Countrywide that are vital to understand but are more subtle.  The obvious issue arises from the facts that the DOJ alleges that its investigation has found.  The complaint and the DOJ press release state that elite financial criminals committed tens of thousands of “brazen” frauds targeting U.S. government funds.  Continue reading