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Politicians Slash Budget of Watchdog Agencies ... Guaranteeing that Financial Fraud Won't Be Investigated or Prosecuted

George Washington's picture




 

Washington’s Blog

As I noted
last year, you can tell how interested Congress and the White House are
in uncovering the truth by looking at how much money is actually
budgeted for investigation:

 

The government spent $175 million investigating the Challenger space shuttle disaster.

 

It spent $152 million on the the Columbia disaster investigation.

It spent $30 million investigating the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

 

The government only authorized $15 million for the 9/11 Commission.

 

And
how much has the government authorized for the Financial Crisis
Inquiry Commission? You know, the commission charged with getting to
the bottom of what caused the financial crisis?

 

Just $8 million.

 

These figures don't account for inflation. For example, the Challenger investigation cost over $300 million in today's dollars.

 

You
can tell alot about the questions which the government is truly
interested in finding answers to by the amount of money it authorizes
for the various investigations.

 

The lack of any real interest in uncovering - let alone prosecuting - financial fraud is again on display.

Specifically, as the Wall Street Journal reports today (via MarketWatch):

The
Commodity Futures Trading Commission has halted development of a
technology program used to flag suspicious trading because of an $11
million cut in its technology budget, increasing rancor within the small
agency about how it should spend its money.

***

The
tensions offer a taste of spending battles to come at the CFTC and
Securities and Exchange Commission if, as seems increasingly likely,
Congress refuses to increase the agencies' funding to deal with new
mandates created by the Dodd-Frank financial-reform act.

These
squabbles have a long history, and often involve budget-process bluffing
and gamesmanship between Congress and regulators. The regulators say
it's different this time because of the extensive new responsibilities
they have been handed under last year's Dodd-Frank legislation. The two
agencies say they need another 1,200 staff in total to implement and
enforce the sweeping financial overhaul.

"If the requested budget
increases are not granted, we will manage within our allocated
resources but we'll face a lot of bad choices," Luis Aguilar, a Democrat
SEC commissioner, said in an interview.

Such tough choices are
already being faced by the CFTC, which has cut $11 million from this
year's technology budget, some of which was supposed to help the agency
expand an automated surveillance system to examine trades in the futures
market.

The system is used to scan millions of trades, looking
for patterns that suggest potentially illegal activity. It has only a
"handful of alerts, when we need dozens of them," according to someone
familiar with the situation.

"It's something we should already
have had," Mr. O'Malia, the Republican, said in an interview.
"Technology is important in every investigation. We need to look at
massive amounts of data, millions of trades."

***

Enforcement
work at the SEC is also suffering from an austerity drive, say SEC
officials. A ban on nonessential travel has left a number of
investigations "in limbo," according to a person familiar with the
situation. The person said that foreign bribery cases are being hit
particularly hard, because of the need for overseas travel to
investigate the allegations.

Complex accounting-fraud cases are also being affected by curbs on the use of expert witnesses, the person said.

"We've
had budget freezes before. But this level of clampdown, with every
nickel being flyspecked before we can spend it, is unprecedented in my
experience," the person said.

Mr. Aguilar warned that the current
funding squeeze was "debilitating" for the SEC. "The adverse impact
that it has cannot be overstated," he said.

Rep. Scott Garrett
(R., N.J.) a top member of the House Financial Services Committee, last
month argued that the big spending increases being sought by the
agencies "would further the mindset that our nation's problems can be
solved with more spending, not more efficiency."

***

Both
the CFTC and SEC took on extra staff last year, in anticipation of
budget increases pledged—but not guaranteed—by Congress to meet their
new responsibilities under the Dodd-Frank law. Now they are being forced
to cut other spending to meet their higher staffing costs.

The
CFTC on Thursday discussed rules to curb "disruptive trading" required
by the Dodd-Frank Act. But the agency says it will be unable to use new
powers it has under the act to tackle fraud and manipulation unless it
is given more funding.

"We've had this terrible track record [on
prosecuting manipulation cases] because the law has not been strong
enough," said Bart Chilton, a Democratic CFTC commissioner.

"We finally got the authority we needed and now we're not going to be able to use it," Mr. Chilton said.

It
is very telling that we have enough money to extend the Bush tax cuts,
to throw boatloads of cash at the big banks so that they can give lavish
bonuses, and to continue fighting never-ending wars on multiple fronts
giving no-bid contracts to favored contractors, but we can't scrape
together a little spare change to fund the regulators and prosecutors.

The economy cannot stabilize unless fraud is prosecuted. But the folks in D.C. seem determined to turn a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans.

 

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Thu, 05/12/2011 - 06:46 | 1266912 designerhandbag...
designerhandbagsoutlet's picture

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Fri, 02/25/2011 - 21:29 | 998743 Cistercian
Cistercian's picture

 Hi George.I like your stories usually...but this one is irrelevant.

  They are not prosecuting the bastards now...they might as well close the SEC et al and just use the saved money for(fill in .gov criminality here).

  Just kidding...hey, how about firing the entire TSA!That would be nice!

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 20:27 | 998576 f16hoser
f16hoser's picture

I love the way Obama puts his money where his mouth is. Or lack of money. Just more lies and deceit from the teleprompter-in-chief!

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 20:15 | 998532 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

GW

Why are you calling for MORE FUNDING of regulators when you know 3 patent facts already; Regulators don't prosecute even when given clear evidence as in Madoff; all Regulators have failed to uncover any big corruption or fraud as in Wall Street Mortgage fraud; even though systemic mortgage fraud, systemic accountancy fraud and systemic securities fraud is public domain the Regulators sit on their hands, stick their heads up their arses and whistle Dixie.

What part of fuking useless constantly failing corrupt clowns/crones don't you understand GW ?

Namely instead of dealing with truth that ALL funding to regulators is a waste of money your suggestion is we spend more (ie. waste more). We've already got dumb, you want to double up on dumb and spend more on it!! What does that make you GW ....?

There is a Regulator that works very efficiently and guess what, bonus time, it's FREE. it's called the FREE market. It kills all corruption because the corrupt and incompetent get run out of business (bankruptcy). If the frauds are guilty then customers or investors report them to an already in situ system called the Police. 

You don't need ANOTHER police called financial regulators and ANOTHER layer of useless laws. The Free Market works if you let it. Shutter the fuking useless failed 100 times regulators. Got it sunshine???

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 20:29 | 998584 Kelly
Kelly's picture

What part of fuking useless constantly failing corrupt clowns/crones don't you understand GW ?

 

Yeah, what part don't I get too.

 


Fri, 02/25/2011 - 19:54 | 998494 f16hoser
f16hoser's picture

Well, at least they've come to the conclusion that US regulators are a waste of time and money. I'm glad actually. This should collapse the system quicker.....

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 18:01 | 998090 JR
JR's picture

Excellent story until the quip about Bush tax cuts. 

Obviously, when criminals are in control, they’re going to shut off regulation.  That could steam roll into something awful; put someone like William Black of s&l fame in and it could ruin your whole day.

The bankers and their bailouts and bubbles left millions of Americans in the wake of multiple criminal enterprises. Practically no perpetrator of these crimes has been brought to justice even though millions have suffered loss of income, jobs, homes, businesses…and yes, life.

And speaking of criminals, it is high time that the individuals taking over America’s financial establishment, executive offices and all-important government policy are identified, not as rich men, not as recipients of the Bush tax cuts, not as power elites or even financiers; these men, the current Rothschild-Rockefeller operatives, are ruthless criminals.

And to suggest that they are a smart, well-placed Wall Street brain trust is to miss their real identification and intent.  They are blackmailing, bribe-pushing, diamond-wearing pimps.  And the only difference between them and the street mugger is the size of the take.

And by the way, Jeffrey Immelt of GE may pay some taxes, but the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds certainly don’t pay taxes. When the billionaires of the world are listed, these guys don’t even show up; and the IRS refuses to list them in its income charts “because they’d be so easily identified.”

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Bush tax cuts actually shifted the total tax burden farther toward the rich so that in 2000-2004, total income tax paid by the top 40% of income-earners grew by 4.6% to 99.1% of the total.

And according to the Maclver Institute of Wisconsin, “Democrats unhappy with the Bush tax cuts neglect to mention that only 25% of the benefits went to those making $250,000 per year or more. When they talk about taxing the rich to pay for the deficit, they mean the middle class. Prior to the enactment of the Bush tax cuts, 33 million Americans were non-taxpayers of the federal income tax. After the Bush tax cuts, total non-taxpayers of the federal income tax jumped to a staggering 52 million. How many middle-class families will feel like “the rich” when the Bush tax cuts expire?”

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 22:15 | 998834 JimS
JimS's picture

JR: most of what you say is true, to a point. The "rich" do not pay FICA taxes, so, to say the "income tax" is totally paid by the "rich" is disingenuous, at best. For the last 40 years the Social Security Trust Fund has been robbed year in, and year out, under Democrats and Republicans. The robbery has occurred in order not to raise other taxes. But, we continue to do all the things (wars, tax cuts, bailouts, etc.) that would require increased taxes. I am getting disgusted hearing ex-Senator Simpson talking about SS Entitlements, as the asshole didn't pay anything into SS while he was in the Senate. Thus, since he is "RICH", he doesn't need to collect any SS payments, ever. But the bigger point, which you failed to put into the "income tax" equation, is this: maybe the top 40% pay 99.1% ( I am not quite sure that is totally true) of the income tax, but they own 99.999999999999999999% of all the WEALTH. So, they really are not paying their "fair share".

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 23:44 | 998956 JR
JR's picture

Thanks for the excellent comment, Jim.

The point is the middle class is paying for the country – the RICH (and I don’t mean the people who earn $150,000 or couples who earn $250,000) do not pay, as you say.

But lots of people in the lower 60% (the figures are from American Thinker) who pay only .9% of the nation's income taxes own property. Even the “poor.”

According to facts from The Heritage Foundation about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau :

“Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car (31 percent own two or more cars), air conditioning (80 percent), a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, automatic dishwashers (33%) and a microwave (89%). He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded (more than 67 percent of ‘poor’ households have two or more rooms per person).

"'Poor’ American children eat more meat than higher-income American children and average protein intake 100 percent above the recommended levels. Obesity is the predominant health hazard to America's ‘poor’ children. ‘Poor’ children in this country grow up to be on average one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the average G.I. who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.”

There are two main reasons that American children are poor, says Heritage: “Their parents don't work much, and fathers are absent from the home. In good economic times or bad, the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year.” 

And you’re right, about Simpson. He should be put in jail, IMO.  It’s true, he didn’t pay into SS – he and the other senators and representatives get lavish multi-million dollar pensions – in fact full retirement after one term!

Let the people who created this financial crisis suffer – let Simpson go and get the money from them.  His solution is “we all need to suffer” for what they did.  He’s an ex-Senator; why doesn’t he do something right for a change – go after Hank Paulson, and Jamie Dimon, and Lloyd Blankfein and Robert Rubin and Dick Fuld – and stop this “it’s all over now, we all need to buckle down and suffer.”  Will Blankfein suffer?  No. Simpson wants the people on SS to suffer for what Blankfein and Paulson, Barney and Dodd, Greenspan and Bernanke, et al., did. 

This was his same solution to illegal immigration.

I’m to the point I can’t bear the man.

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 17:39 | 998017 ZerOhead
Fri, 02/25/2011 - 17:20 | 997944 falak pema
falak pema's picture

a) How much spent for Patriot act investigations?

b) Interesting to learn how much they have earmarked for the upcoming Julian Assange criminal investigation which is in their pipeline.

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 19:42 | 998442 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

And heres good old Tony Haywards BP (British Petroleum) again... stealing billions!!!!

Remember Tony of Gulf of Mexico fame? :)

Comparing redacted cables to the originals, it becomes clear that The Guardian is covering up for BP. In 07BAKU1268, The Guardian removed an assessment that “it was BP who was acting illegally”. In 08BAKU671, another anti-BP sentence was removed: “It is worth noting that within the AIOC Consortium there is a perception that operator BP grossly mishandled the rate of return issue, costing the Consortium billions of dollars over the life of the PSA and significantly emboldening SOCAR in its relationship with the Consortium.” Guardian readers will never learn that Azerbaijanis are angry because BP was colluding with GazProm and the Russians to undermine Azerbaijan's interests. In cable 07ASTANA919, The Guardian removed incriminating material showing that Western companies give bribes: “The internal investigation revealed that from 1998 to 2003, former employees caused the company to pay $5.2 million to agents with the intent that these payments would influence Kazakhstani officials to allow the company to obtain business.”

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 19:33 | 998424 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

Why am I not hearing back from you?

Here's an excerpt...

Bill Keller confesses that before publishing, his “colleagues were invited to a windowless room at the State Department, where they encountered an unsmiling crowd. Representatives from the White House, the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the F.B.I. and the Pentagon gathered around a conference table. Others, who never identified themselves, lined the walls.” Keller reveals that US authorities actually vetted the NY Times “news” release and that corresponding orders were conveyed to the London outlet.

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 17:42 | 998028 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

This one is for you.

The Guardian caught in the act altering Wikileak documents to protect corrupt politicians and businesmen.

Enjoy!

http://www.counterpunch.org/shamir02252011.html

Nice to see you back...

Lets dance!

Sat, 02/26/2011 - 05:21 | 999365 falak pema
falak pema's picture

My my! you're really cheek to cheek with the 'inside the inside' ring of conspiracy and mayhem crowd. I only worked for 'Mad' magazine. I'm way out of my class with these jokers, hoker-pokers. It's a madder world every day. By the way dancing cheek to cheek in Central park is very dangerous for undercover operators. So I thing I'll go back to putting on my 'Mad' hat and invisible coat!

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