The MK2 Grenade: Mike Krieger And Max Keiser Take On The World Of Financial Crime


There is a reason why WWII legendary “pineapple” grenade bore the initials MK2. Those who enjoy the works of Mike Krieger and Max Keiser are in for a treat, with this 2 for the price of 1 (technically for the price of zero) interview of Krieger by Keiser, as the MKs of the world unite, and take on financial fraud.

From Mike Krieger of Libertyblitzkrieg:

In case you missed it, Josh Brown recently published a list via the Huffington Post of what he believes are the 25 most dangerous people in financial media.  He definitely got the first two slots correct.  At the very top are Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, who unrelentingly publish their “Financial War Reports” daily here.  At the number two position, is Zerohedge, the best financial site on the web.  I have been fortunate enough to have collaborated with Max, Stacy and Zerohedge for the past two years and it has been an extremely rewarding experience.  To get to the point, below is my just released latest interview on the Keiser Report.  I think it’s the best one we’ve done in a while.  Enjoy!

Guest Post: The Origin Of Money


Submitted by John Aziz of Azizonomics

The Origin Of Money

Markets are true democracies. The allocation of resources, capital and labour is achieved through the mechanism of spending, and so based on spending preferences. As money flows through the economy the popular grows and the unpopular shrinks.  Producers receive a signal to produce more or less based on spending preferences. Markets distribute power according to demand and productivity; the more you earn, the more power you accumulate to allocate resources, capital and labour. As the power to allocate resources (i.e. money) is widely desired, markets encourage the development of skills, talents and ideas.

Planned economies have a track record of failure, in my view because they do not have this democratic dimension. The state may claim to be “scientific”, but as Hayek conclusively illustrated, the lack of any real feedback mechanism has always led planned economies into hideous misallocations of resources, the most egregious example being the collectivisation of agriculture in both Maoist China and Soviet Russia that led to mass starvation and millions of deaths. The market’s resource allocation system is a complex, multi-dimensional process that blends together the skills, knowledge, and ideas of society, and for which there is no substitute. Socialism might claim to represent the wider interests of society, but in adopting a system based on economic planning, the wider interests and desires of society and the democratic market process are ignored.

This complex process begins with the designation of money, which is why the choice of the monetary medium is critical.

Like all democracies, markets can be corrupted.

Whoever creates the money holds a position of great power — the choice of how to allocate resources is in their hands. They choose who gets the money, and for what, and when. And they do this again and again and again. 

Who should create the monetary medium? Today, money is designated in the ivory towers of central banks and allocated through the banking system. Historically, in the days of commodity-money, money was initially allocated by digging it up out of the ground. Anyone with a shovel or a gold pan could create money. In the days of barter, a monetary medium was created even more simply, through producing things others were happy to swap or credit.

While central banks might claim that they have the nation’s best democratic interests at heart, evidence shows that since the world exited the gold exchange standard in 1971 (thus giving banks a monopoly over the allocation of money and credit), bank assets as a percentage of GDP have exploded (this data is from the United Kingdom, but there is a similar pattern around the world).

Clearly, some pigs are more equal than others:

Giving banks a monopoly over the allocation of capital has dramatically enriched banking interests. It is also correlated with a dramatic fall in total factor productivity, and a dramatic increase in income inequality.

Very simply, I believe that the present system is inherently undemocratic. Giving banks a monopoly over the initial allocation of credit and money enriches the banks at the expense of society. Banks and bankers — who produce nothing — allocate resources to their interests. The rest of society — including all the productive sectors — get crumbs from the table. The market mechanism is perverted, and bent in favour of the financial system. The financial system can subsidise incompetence and ineptitude through bailouts and helicopter drops. 

Such a system is unsustainable. The subsidisation of incompetence breeds more incompetence, and weakens the system, whether it is government handing off corporate welfare to inept corporations, or whether it is the central bank bailing out inept financial institutions. The financial system never learned the lessons of 2008; MF Global and the London Whale illustrate that. Printing money to save broken systems just makes these systems more fragile and prone to collapse. Ignoring the market mechanism, and the interests of the wider society to subsidise the financial sector and well-connected corporations just makes society angry and disaffected.

Our monopoly will eventually discredit itself through the subsidisation of graft and incompetence. It is just a matter of time.

Barclays Chairman Is Lie-borgate’s First Victim


Three weeks ago we mocked, rightfully so, the utter joke that is Liebor, which had been unchanged for just over 3 months. Nobody cared, certainly not the British Banker Association. This was not the first time: our first allegations of Liebor fraud and manipulation started over three years ago. There were others too. Nobody certainly cared back then. Now, in the aftermath of the Barclays lawsuit, and “those” e-mails, everyone suddenly cares. And a few days after the first public exposure of Lie-borgate, the first victim has been claimed: as numerous sources report, Barclays’ Chairman Marcus Agius wil step down immediately. From the WSJ: “Political and investor pressure has mounted on the management of U.K.-based Barclays since the settlement was announced Wednesday. The announcement of Mr. Agius’s departure could come as soon as Monday, said one of the people. Mr. Agius, 65 years old, a British-Maltese banker who formerly worked at Lazard Ltd., has led the bank since 2007, steering Barclays through the 2008 financial crisis and avoiding the direct state bailouts that were needed by many of its global peers.” While the sacrifice of a scapegoat is expected, what we don’t get is why the Chairman: after all by the time Agius became Chair of the British bank, the bulk of the Libor fixing alleged in the FSA lawsuit had already happened. And of course, with Bob Diamond having succeeded John Varley as CEO in 2010, one can easily claim that in this first (of many) confirmed Liebor transgression there really is nobody at fault who can be held accountable. Of course, Barclays is merely the first of many. We fully expect Lieborgate to spread not only to other British BBA member banks, but soon to jump across the Atlantic, where CEOs who have been with their banks for the duration of the entire Libor-fixing term will soon find themselves under the same microscope.

From WSJ:

Over the weekend, the U.K. government ordered an independent review of how Libor is set that is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

 

“It’s very important [the review] takes all of the actions necessary, holding bankers accountable… making sure there’s proper transparency, making sure the criminal law can go wherever it needs to uncover wrongdoing,” Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC television Saturday.

 

Business Secretary Vince Cable said there should also be a criminal investigation into the Libor-fixing scandal.

 

“[The public] just can’t understand why people are thrown into jail for petty theft and these guys just walk away having perpetrated what looks like conspiracy,” Mr. Cable said told Sky television Sunday.

 

“I’ve been told the [Serious Fraud Office] is having a fresh look at the evidence,” Mr. Cable said.

 

Bank of England Gov. Mervyn King on Friday called for the current system for calculating Libor to be scrapped. Libor rates are calculated for different currencies each day under the auspices of the British Bankers’ Association using quotes submitted by banks on a panel, based on the banks’ estimated borrowing costs.

The biggest irony in all of this what nobody talks about: namely that Liebor has been completely irrelevant since 2009, when virtually all unsecured liquidity funding would come from central banks. In a world where Interbank lending has long been dead, Libor is merely the latest anachronism of free capital markets now that everything has been replaced by central planning.

Finally, if Barclays stock can tumble 20% in 3 days for the simple crime of interest rate rigging, we can only thank our lucky stars that the Federal Reserve has still not succumbed to the temptation to IPO itself.

77% of JP Morgan’s Net Income Comes from Government Subsidies


JP Morgan’s credit rating would be much lower without government backing.

As Bloomberg noted last week:

JPMorgan benefited from the assumption that there’s a “very high likelihood” the U.S. government would back the bank’s bondholders and creditors if it defaulted on its debt, according to the statement. Without the implied federal backing, JPMorgan’s long-term deposit rating would have been three levels lower and its senior debt would have dropped two more steps, Moody’s said.

And as the editors of Bloomberg pointed out a couple of weeks ago:

JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fundand our own analysis of bank balance sheets. The money helps the bank pay big salaries and bonuses. More important, it distorts markets, fueling crises such as the recent subprime-lending disaster and the sovereign-debt debacle that is now threatening to destroy the euro and sink the global economy.

 

***

 

With each new banking crisis, the value of the implicit subsidy grows. In a recent paper, two economists — Kenichi Ueda of the IMF and Beatrice Weder Di Mauro of the University of Mainz — estimated that as of 2009 the expectation of government support was shaving about 0.8 percentage point off large banks’ borrowing costs. That’s up from 0.6 percentage point in 2007, before the financial crisis prompted a global round of bank bailouts.

To estimate the dollar value of the subsidy in the U.S., we multiplied it by the debt and deposits of 18 of the country’s largest banks, including JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. The result: about $76 billion a year. The number is roughly equivalent to the banks’ total profits over the past 12 months, or more than the federal government spends every year on education.

 

JPMorgan’s share of the subsidy is $14 billion a year, or about 77 percent of its net income for the past four quarters. In other words, U.S. taxpayers helped foot the bill for the multibillion-dollar trading loss that is the focus of today’s hearing. They’ve also provided more direct support: Dimon noted in a recent conference call that the Home Affordable Refinancing Program, which allows banks to generate income by modifying government-guaranteed mortgages, made a significant contribution to JPMorgan’s earnings in the first three months of 2012.

Way to suck at the government teat, Mr. self-proclaimed free market champion.

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