A criminal conspiracy by any other name…

I stumbled today, on the stock broker fraud blog which apparently keeps track of all the dirt on Wall Street. After reading an article about former UBS Securities LLC Executive Director Mitchell Guttenberg, who was ordered to “forfeit $15.81 million in alleged illegal profits, as well as serve 78 months in prison” for an insider trading scheme, which also involved UBS stock analysts, a trader, a hedge fund manager, and other individuals, I wondered, why does the RICO Act not apply here?

According to this article, Guttenberg and the 12 other individuals, “mostly former employees at Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp, and Bear Stearns Co., Inc., were criminally charged for their involvement in the insider trading ring. Investigators say the participants tried to conceal their illegal actions by conducting meetings at restaurants, using disposable cellular phones, and coming up with coded text messages.”

Are they drug dealers or traders? To some people, money is a drug. In this case, it should be treated as such.

Were they throwaway phones, or were they stupid enough to use their own?

But it gets better.

Another article, concerning Auction-Rate- Securities, involved 12 states which banded together to form a “multi-state Task Force dedicated to finding out whether Wall Street investment firms had misled investors when persuading them to invest in the ARS market.”

I anxiously read on to see how much jail time these people would do, and discovered the answer was zero.

The punishment for this crime that involved 12 states? “11 major Wall Street investment banks have said they will buy back over $51 billion in ARS from charities, retail investors, and small companies.”

And the list of these companies, with their ARS hotlines?

Bank of America 1-866-638-4183
Deutsche Bank 1-866-926-1437
Citi 1-866-720-4802
JP Morgan 1-866-450-8470
Goldman Sachs 1-888-350-2857
Merrill Lynch 1-888-706-1381
UBS 1-800-253-1974
Morgan Stanley 1-800-566-2273
Wachovia 1-866-283-794

That was in November 2008. When did they get the first of the TARP money, and their bonuses, and their huge salaries?

Are they on the UBS list of unnamed offshore accounts?

And on the same site:

UBS Financial Services, Inc., UBS Securities, LLC, and Citigroup have reached finalized settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay tens of thousands of ARS investors almost $30 billion. The settlements will resolve SEC charges that the companies misled investors about the risks involved with auction rate securities.

The SEC’s complaint accused UBS and Citigroup of misleading customers by telling them ARS were liquid, safe investments and failing to warn them of the growing dangers when the market started to fail. When the ARS market froze in February, the SEC says both firms left tens of thousands of clients holding billions of dollars in illiquid ARS.

These finalized settlements will restore about $22.7 billion in liquidity to UBS clients who invested in ARS and some $7 billion to Citigroup investors. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox says investors will get back “100 cents on the dollar on their ARS investments.” Both firms will buy ARS from affected customers at PAR. Customers that sold their ARS under the par difference will be paid between par and the ARS sale price. This is the largest settlement in SEC history.

That was December 22, 2008……and the TARP money?

We as taxpayers, should demand equal protection under the law. They should be charged with the criminal conspiracy that this truly is and sent to prison – 20 years to life, with their assets seized and put into the TARP Rebate Fund.

No wonder they needed that TARP money to be spent so rapidly and with no accounting for where it went. No, it wasn’t spent on bonuses, IT WAS SPENT TO PAY BACK THE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THEY DEFRAUDED!!

And Geithner, the tax cheat, was in on that deal.

He should resign. They should all be investigated for criminal conspiracies, the whole financial sector, but most especially, the members of the Too-Big-to-Fail-Club.

They seem to be the worst offenders.

Addendum. I don’t know that this is where the money was spent, but if they didn’t loan it out, and they didn’t spend it on bonuses….well, it’s a good bet.

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Follow the yellow gold road…..

What a couple of days it’s been in the financial world. Allen Stanford, scammer extraordinaire, whereabouts still unknown, is now known to have contributed large sums of money to congressional recipients, to vote against a financial services antifraud bill that would have linked the databases of state and federal banking, securities and insurance regulators. The bill died in the Senate.

Biggest recipients of his cash?

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. ($45,900); Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. ($28,150); Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. ($27,500); and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas ($19,700). Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, also received $41,375.

The full list is here and here.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign fund received only $4600 and it was immediately donated, yesterday, to a Chicago charity, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But the other big story is the deal Swiss UBS Bank made with the feds. Accused of assisting U.S. citizens avoid income taxes, UBS Bank has agreed to lift the veil of secrecy and identify “certain” clients. This could be 17,000 of their 20,000 clients whose combined deposits are worth $20 billion dollars.

In July 2008,Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mi) was calling for them to clean up their act. According to The Consumerist Levin told ABC News “UBS’s banking license should be revoked until the bank “cleans up its act.”” He listed the following as what the bank does to conceal its clients names and assets.

* Code Names for Clients
* Pay Phones, not Business Phones
* Foreign Area Codes
* Undeclared Accounts
* Encrypted Computers
* Transfer Companies to Cover Tracks
* Foreign Shell Companies
* Fake Charitable Trusts
* Straw Man Settlors
* Captive Trustees
* Anonymous Wire Transfers
* Disguised Business Trips
* Counter-Surveillance Training
* Foreign Credit Cards
* Hold Mail
* Shred Files

Prepared by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, July 2008.

For the record, Levin took no money from Stanford or his PAC. I’ll bet he even pays his taxes – all of them. Can he be Treasury Secretary?

Reuters reports the deal with UBS goes like this:

Swiss bank UBS AG has agreed to a deal with the U.S. Justice Department that would let the bank avoid tax-violation charges in exchange for identifying some of its U.S. account holders and paying $780 million in fines.

Here are the key terms of the deal:

– UBS, under orders by Swiss market regulators, is to give the United States identities and account information of “certain” U.S. customers. Details are to be filed under seal with U.S. federal court and turned over as soon as the court accepts the agreement.

– UBS agrees to pay $780 million in fines, interest and penalties. This includes $200 million to be paid to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The remainder is to be paid to the Justice Department over 18 months, with options to pay early or extend the terms up to four years.

– UBS acknowledges that it helped U.S. taxpayers open accounts that concealed their identities from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. About 17,000 of 20,000 U.S. cross-border clients concealed their identities and the existence of their accounts, with $20 billion in assets, from the IRS, the Justice Department said.

Some of these clients are unindicted co-conspirators.

The business generated about $200 million a year in revenue for UBS from 2002 to 2007, it said.

– UBS agrees to quit providing cross-border banking services to U.S. clients with undeclared accounts.

– After 18 months, the U.S. government will recommend dismissal of charges against UBS providing it honors the terms of the agreement.

The Stanford saga, in the meantime, continues to rock the world of the wealthy.

Venezuela seized a local bank affiliated with the Stanford Group, after there was a rush to withdraw funds through online banking. According to Reuters,

Depositors withdrew cash using Internet banking services. The bank takes deposits and makes loans only in the OPEC nation’s local currency.

“Most depositors of Stanford Bank Venezuela are from the (highest) income classes. They move their funds on the Internet, and this allowed for a massive withdrawal that pushed the bank into a precarious state,” Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez told reporters.

“The authorities were forced to take the decision to intervene and there will be an immediate sale,” he added.

And in Antigua, the Associated Press reports that customers were turned away from the Stanford bank there, because its assets were frozen. Depositors were arriving by private jet to withdraw their cash and were panicking when they discovered they couldn’t. One man, who owned a software firm, complained that his life savings was in that bank.

Let me guess. There is no F.D.I.C. insurance in Antigua.

It would seem this is just the beginning (of the end?).

Wonder how many of our congresspeople have offshore accounts? We already know they have an aversion to paying taxes.

Wonder if Geithner has one?

But most of all, I wonder if anyone who is caught will go to jail, go directly to jail, not pass go, and not collect $200.

And second I would like to know, will their assets be seized?

If the answer to the second question is yes, I would recommend to the Treasury Department and President Obama, that the assets seized from anyone in the financial industry caught up in these, or any future messes uncovered by the IRS and the FBI, be dumped into an account called the TARP Rebate Fund, which recoups the cash for the taxpayers, from the cheats and thieves who bought us this mess in the first place. (Oh, did I say bought, I meant brought – Freudian slip). And any congresspeople who return campaign contributions from any of these cheats, should also be dumped into this fund.

As a matter of fact, start with Geithner‘s payments, Daschle‘s Kellefer‘s and Solis‘. It would be a good start.

And any congress person who is found to have an offshore account in the UBS debacle, should be bounced from their office, forbidden from holding any public office anywhere in the U.S. or its territories, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

These people all need to do serious jail time. Nothing like seized assets and jail time to straighten up a class of people.

Is there a law against “betraying the public trust?” Because if there isn’t there should be.

Sentence: 20 to life in a Supermax prison. Enjoy. You built it.

Excellent explanation of the Israeli media spin

For those who don’t understand the true cost of media “spin”, here is a well-written explanation by Yonatan Mendel that even the most clueless could probably understand.

A small excerpt:

In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely injured in IDF shootings.’ Is this a fib? ‘The Palestinians claim that Israeli settlers threatened them’: but who are the Palestinians? Did the entire Palestinian people, citizens of Israel, inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, people living in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab states and those living in the diaspora make the claim? Why is it that a serious article is reporting a claim made by the Palestinians? Why is there so rarely a name, a desk, an organisation or a source of this information? Could it be because that would make it seem more reliable?….
Another example: in June 2006, four days after the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from the Israeli side of the Gazan security fence, Israel, according to the Israeli media, arrested some sixty members of Hamas, of whom 30 were elected members of parliament and eight ministers in the Palestinian government. In a well-planned operation Israel captured and jailed the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, the ministers of finance, education, religious affairs, strategic affairs, domestic affairs, housing and prisons, as well as the mayors of Bethlehem, Jenin and Qalqilya, the head of the Palestinian parliament and one quarter of its members. That these officials were taken from their beds late at night and transferred to Israeli territory probably to serve (like Gilad Shalit) as future bargaining-chips did not make this operation a kidnapping. Israel never kidnaps: it arrests.

The Israeli army never intentionally kills anyone, let alone murders them – a state of affairs any other armed organisation would be envious of. Even when a one-ton bomb is dropped onto a dense residential area in Gaza, killing one gunman and 14 innocent civilians, including nine children, it’s still not an intentional killing or murder: it is a targeted assassination. An Israeli journalist can say that IDF soldiers hit Palestinians, or killed them, or killed them by mistake, and that Palestinians were hit, or were killed or even found their death (as if they were looking for it), but murder is out of the question. The consequence, whatever words are used, has been the death at the hands of the Israeli security forces since the outbreak of the second intifada of 2087 Palestinians who had nothing to do with armed struggle.

Read on yourself, it’s fascinating and disturbing. Read our newspapers, and watch the action words…and the modifiers. Talk about disturbing….

We don’t have an independent press, essential in a democracy. That’s why we came so close to tyranny.

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