Occupy Wall Street, Consider This My Gift to You…

2 | By Shah Gilani

Out of far left field, I see something coming that I never expected.

It’s more like the coming together of pieces of a puzzle that have eluded us for too long.

By the way, Occupy Wall Street, if you’re listening, and I hope you are, and you’re still floundering (which I know you are) without a cause that anybody can really wrap their heads around, drop your drums, chants, and wanderings, and make the coming together of this puzzle what you’re protesting.

And make what could result what you are demanding.

Because, really, this could be the mother lode.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing six former executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of playing down the risk to investors of their firms’ aggressive fast-forward into subprime mortgages… which caused them to implode spectacularly.

Two separate civil suits, filed last Friday, allege that the executives “knowingly misled investors” who owned shares in the companies and were thus deprived of critical information against which meaningful investment decisions are generally made.

The two wards, currently under U.S. conservatorship (life support attended by a wet-nurse), were themselves spared being sued, on account of their signing civil non-prosecution agreements and promising to cooperate and not dispute allegations (and also not have to admit nor deny wrongdoing). Yet the SEC is seeking financial penalties, disgorgement, and an order barring guilty parties from serving as officers or directors of any public companies in the future against the implicated executives.

The SEC faces an uphill battle based on one word – “subprime.”

The problem is, subprime has never been legally defined.

You know what it means, I know what it means, everybody knows what it means, without knowing its exact definition. But if there’s no definition of subprime, defense lawyers will counter that it’s not possible to sue based on a standard that has never been defined.

How about we compare mortgages to cars and subprime to clunkers. If you’re on my used car lot and I offer you two cars at the same price and don’t tell you one is a clunker, is that fair? You wouldn’t need me to define “clunker.” If I said one was a clunker, you would simply choose the other car; after all, it’s the same price.

There is a difference, there’s a big difference.

Over on the Fannie and Freddie lots between 2006 and 2007, they were loading up on clunkers and not telling anyone what they were stocking. In fact, they were saying things like, “basically (we) have no subprime exposure” in the single-family realm.

They lied.

One of the reasons they were loading up on subprime was because Wall Street banks were eating their lunch by buying up subprime loans, packaging them, and selling them to investors hand over fist, and Fannie and Freddie wanted in on that very lucrative business. It’s not that they hadn’t dabbled in subprime before; they had. But as they saw stresses in the marketplace on the better mortgages in their portfolios, they still loaded up on far weaker credits; also known in the business as SUBPRIME.

So what’s next?

There are going to be a lot of emails and other testimony coming out about who knew what when, and who lied to who to make how much.

It’s going to be fun to watch this thing unfold.

But the whole point of this piece of the puzzle coming to light is that, to make their bonuses bigger and their options worth more, these executives leveraged their essentially “private” companies knowing that their losses would be “socialized” (paid for by taxpayers) if their bets fell apart.

Their lies are no different than the lies told to investors by the big banks during the credit crisis (and most of the time, for that matter).

Yes, if the SEC wins their cases, there’s hope that the lying executives of our biggest banks (and, if there is a God, the liars at the Federal Reserve, too) will be brought to justice for misleading not only their investors, and the American public that bailed them out, but also Congress (not that they would ever lie), who crafted legislation to save us from another financial catastrophe without knowing how the banks and the Fed lied to us all.

Thanks to Bloomberg LP and Fox News Networks LLC – who sued the Fed to get them to cough up data under the Freedom of Information Act – we know just how much they all lied.

We now know the bankers were telling lies to our faces while being propped up by the backdoor boys at the Fed. Heck, most Fed regional bank presidents didn’t know, the Treasury Secretary didn’t know. Nobody but the bankers and the Fed knew that they were lying to us.

Again, courtesy of Bloomberg, here’s what they were saying, when they were saying it, and how much money they got from the Fed to keep their doors open on the exact dates that their borrowings peaked:

  • On September 21, 2008, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack said, “Morgan Stanley is in the strongest possible position.” By September 29, 2008, they had borrowed $107 billion from the Fed and took another $10 billion in TARP money.
  • On January 16, 2009, Citicorp CEO Vikram Pandit said, “We have an irreplaceable franchise.” By January 20, 2009, they had borrowed $99.5 billion from the Fed and took $45 billion in TARP money.
  • On January 22, 2009, Bank of America CEO Kenneth D. Lewis said, “The diversity and strength of our company is allowing us to continue to invest in our business to drive future profit growth.” By February 26, 2009, they had borrowed $91.4 billion from the Fed and took $45 billion in TARP money.
  • On December 16, 2008, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said, “Our deep and global client franchise, experienced and talented people and strong balance sheet position our firm well.” By December 31, 2008, they had borrowed $69 billion from the Fed and took $10 billion in TARP money.
  • On February 23, 2009, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said, “We believe we have a fortress balance sheet.” By February 26, 2009, they had borrowed $48 billion from the Fed and took $25 billion in TARP money.
  • On March 6, 2009, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said, “We couldn’t feel better about the future.” Meanwhile, as of February 26, 2009, they had borrowed $45 billion from the Fed and took $25 billion in TARP money.

They are all liars. They should all be prosecuted for misleading their investors, the public, and Congress.

It was these very banks that were feeding crap to Fannie and Freddie and at the same time competing with them to grow the whole pie for all their bonuses and stock options.

It was a giant scheme – don’t you get it?

And because they are such good liars they, the banks, and the Fed will tell us and Congress that we can’t handle the truth and they lied to us to protect us from the reality of how bad things really were.

Really? We need to be protected from the truth so we can continually be lied to so they can all make more money?

Sure, that’s why total assets held by the country’s above-named biggest banks have risen 39% since 2006. That’s why average banker pay in 2010 was the same as it was in 2007. That’s why banks spent 33% more money lobbying Congress from 2006 through 2010. That’s why Dodd-Frank isn’t completed and never will be. That’s why America has become a sinkhole.

And speaking of sinkholes…

No, I’m not going to point to that former MF Global leader Jon Corzine, who used to brag that he co-authored Sarbanes-Oxley when he was a U.S. Senator (such an august body!), which hopefully he will be hung by, along with the entire gallery of rogues above who deserve the gallows… no, not him.

Time out…

In case you Occupy Wall Streeters missed the other pieces of the puzzle, there was the list of lies the bankers foisted on us while being aided and abetted by the lying Fed and how they should all come under the axe of Sarbanes-Oxley, after all, it is still the law of the land. Those are the pieces of the puzzle that need to come together.

But, alas, I digress once again; back to Freddie and Fannie.

No doubt you knew that Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, a House member since 1979, author of the Contract With America, and the distinguished first House member in history (he will like this, he is an historian, did you know?) to be disciplined (and fined $300,000) for ethics violations. (He actually faced 84 charges during his, did I say “distinguished,” term, and quit before he could be kicked out of that, did I already say “august,” body).

When he “quit” he said, “I’m willing to lead, but I’m not willing to preside over cannibals.” Good for him! Because once freed, the august historian was called upon to eat at the august table of Freddie Mac.

Of course, he didn’t approach them. He says, “I was approached to offer strategic advice.” Nice work for $1.6 million if you can get it, being an “historian” I mean, and offering The Freddie …”advice on precisely what they didn’t do.”

He actually said that.

Oh, what they didn’t do, now I get it.

The Newton bomb must have been talking about Freddie not raising the fees it charged back in 1995.

You probably don’t remember, but back then some actually, really august members of the House wanted Freddie and Fannie to raise their fees to make them more competitive with private mortgage outfits. There was serious concern back then that the Government Sponsored Enterprises were too enterprising and, with their de facto government backing, could raise money cheaper than private outfits and outcompete them in their rather large business space.

But Newt-to-the-rescue – the same Newt who said, “I’ve never done a favor for Fannie or Freddie” saw to it that the proposed fees would never see the light of day. Ah, all in a day’s work over at our august Capitol.

Is he a liar? I would never accuse anyone of being a liar, you know me… so let me put it nicely… He is a liar.

Where was I?

Oh, have a Happy Holiday… and if you don’t have any presents to give out, you can always pass this along as a pillow to any of the cold kids camped out with their Occupy Wall Street posters as comforters.

Seriously, Happy Holidays!

And one more thing. There won’t be an Insights & Indictments in your mailbox this Sunday morning… I just don’t have the heart to do that on Christmas.


2 Responses to Occupy Wall Street, Consider This My Gift to You…

  1. David Ohman says:

    Mr. Gilani: It is quite unlikely that we will ever meet…unfortunately, however, I can, without question, state veritably that you are one of the finest commentators that I have ever encountered, & I have encountered many in my 60 years. I just love this most recent piece. Many people tell me that I am just an asshole because I know what they do not & you have won my respect for being at my level of assholiness. Your dry humor & wit combined with the obvious disdain for the “ruling elite”, the anathema of the private man, & your literary skills make an exemplary read. Please do not discontinue your style of critique; I just love it!!! Apologize for the coarse words, they just come naturally I guess when I contemplate these folks you speak of. Best of the holiday season to you & yours.
    Best Regards
    David Ohman

  2. Jn Wagner says:

    Gee, Shah, you sound pretty bitter but where are you going with this? Just getting something off your chest? We know how the liberals like to do social experimentation, and that it is a miserable failure all the time. And they have no problem getting the ‘other’ side to get dirty with them, damn near impossible with all the dirt in the Congress. All of them have some blame, all of them. But I’d sure like to see the liberals get their just due, just once. And I’d like to see the media finally act like they care about the USA as well. What is the chance of that happening? I hope there is a way to quit your updates if this is what I can expect each time. I see enough finger pointing from the media every day, but I see no solutions forthcoming.

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