Tag Archives: fraud

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

Krugman Now Sees the Perversity of Economics’ “Culture of Fraud”

By William K. Black

Paul Krugman has written an article entitled “Culture of Fraud” about the Romney economics team.

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Who is Steven Krystofiak

By William K. Black

“My name is Steven Krystofiak, President of the Mortgage Brokers Association for Responsible Lending.”  That is how Krystofiak began his written statement to the Federal Reserve concerning mortgage fraud.  It is a follow-up to his oral testimony at a Federal Reserve hearing on June 16, 2006 at the FRB San Francisco entitled: “Responsible Lending and Informed Consumer Choice, Public Hearing on the Home Equity Lending Market.”  Continue reading

Dimon Lambastes Loans and Expresses His Devotion to Derivatives

By William K. Black

The ongoing U.S. crisis was driven largely by financial derivatives.  Nine of America’s systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) failed or had to be bailed out – Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Fannie, Freddie, AIG, Countrywide, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual (WaMu).  The SDI failures were primarily due to losses caused or aided by the sale and purchase of enormous amounts of fraudulent derivatives, and deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization proved exceptionally criminogenic.  The Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 and the Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act of 1999, respectively, made credit default swaps (CDS) into a regulatory black hole and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act’s prohibition against banks mixing commercial and investment banking. Continue reading

William K. Black: Abacus Bank Indicted for Mortgage Fraud – More Prosecutions to Come?