Taibbi Is Back With The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

Tyler Durden's picture

Matt Taibbi strikes again.

The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

How America's biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy - until they were caught on tape

Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won't hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you're probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government's massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties – not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo.

But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.

The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.

In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business. What's more, in the manner of old mob trials, Wall Street's secret machinations were revealed during the Carollo trial through crackling wiretap recordings and the lurid testimony of cooperating witnesses, who came into court with bowed heads, pointing fingers at their accomplices. The new-age gangsters even invented an elaborate code to hide their crimes. Like Elizabethan highway robbers who spoke in thieves' cant, or Italian mobsters who talked about "getting a button man to clip the capo," on tape after tape these Wall Street crooks coughed up phrases like "pull a nickel out" or "get to the right level" or "you're hanging out there" – all code words used to manipulate the interest rates on municipal bonds. The only thing that made this trial different from a typical mob trial was the scale of the crime.

USA v. Carollo involved classic cartel activity: not just one corrupt bank, but many, all acting in careful concert against the public interest. In the years since the economic crash of 2008, we've seen numerous hints that such orchestrated corruption exists. The collapses of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, for instance, both pointed to coordi­nated attacks by powerful banks and hedge funds determined to speed the demise of those firms. In the bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Alabama, we learned that Goldman Sachs accepted a $3 million bribe from J.P. Morgan Chase to permit Chase to serve as the sole provider of toxic swap deals to the rubes running metropolitan Birmingham – "an open-and-shut case of anti-competitive behavior," as one former regulator described it.

More recently, a major international investigation has been launched into the manipulation of Libor, the interbank lending index that is used to calculate global interest rates for products worth more than $3 trillion a year. If and when that case is presented to the public at trial – there are several major civil suits in the works here in the States – we may yet find out that the world's most powerful banks have, for years, been fixing the prices of almost every adjustable-rate vehicle on earth, from mortgages and credit cards to interest-rate swaps and even currencies.

But USA v. Carollo marks the first time we actually got incontrovertible evidence that Wall Street has moved into this cartel-type brand of criminality. It also offered a disgusting glimpse into the enabling and grossly cynical role played by politicians, who took Super Bowl tickets and bribe-stuffed envelopes to look the other way while gangsters raided the public kitty. And though the punishments that were ultimately handed down in the trial – minor convictions of three bit players – felt deeply unsatisfying, it was still a watershed moment in the ongoing story of America's gradual awakening to the realities of financial corruption. In a post-crash era where Wall Street trials almost never make it into court, and even the harshest settlements end with the evidence buried by the government and the offending banks permitted to escape with no admission of wrongdoing, this case finally dragged the whole ugly truth of American finance out into the open – and it was a hell of a show.

1. THE SCAM

This was no trial scene from popular lore, no Inherit the Wind or State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson. No gallery packed with rapt spectators, no ceiling fans set whirring to beat back the tension and the heat, no defense counsel's resting a sympathetic hand on the defendant's shoulder as opening statements commence. No, the setting for USA v. Carollo reflected the bizarre alternate universe that exists on Wall Street. Like so many court cases involving big banks, the proceeding looked more like a roomful of expensive lawyers negotiating a major corporate merger than a public search for justice.

The trial began on April 16th in a federal court in Lower Manhattan. The courtroom, an aerielike setting 23 stories up, offered a panoramic view of the city and the East River. Though the gallery was usually full throughout the three-plus weeks of testimony, the spectators were not average citizens come to witness how they had been robbed blind by America's biggest banks. Instead, there were row after row of suits – other lawyers eager to observe a long-awaited case, one that could influence the outcome in a handful of civil suits pending across the country. In fact, the defendants themselves, whom the trial would reveal as easily replaceable cogs in a much larger machine of corruption, were barely visible from the gallery, obscured by the great chattering congress of prosecution and defense attorneys.

Only the presence of the mostly nonwhite and elderly jury, which resembled the front pew of a Harlem church, served as a reminder that the case had any connection to the real world. Even reporters from most of the major news outlets didn't bother to attend. The judge in the trial, the right honorable and amusingly cantankerous Harold Baer, acknowledged that the case was not likely to set the public's pulse racing. "It is unlikely, I think, that this will generate a lot of media publicity," Baer sighed to the jury in his preliminary instructions.

Read the full article at Rolling Stone

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BeetleBailey's picture

Only 5 years for these fucking punk-banksta asswipes. Jesus H.!

janus's picture

big props to mad-matt!

mighty warrior in 'the fight' (to begin all other fights).

can't wait to read the rest...

jan,

this may be enough for me to renew my RS subscription.

janus

pods's picture

I think that Taibbi is on to something with this.

Every time the taxman comes looking for property taxes or a city wants to float a bond, someone will bring up how the people are going to get screwed.

Happening in my small town with a bond issue being floated.

People will and are waking up to the reality that everyone has a hand in their pocket and that some banker has drilled a small hole in the bottom of our collective piggy bank and is catching the pennies slipping out.

pods

Joe Davola's picture

Agreed.

 

I figure most of public pension deals are just dripping with fraud also.  Governor/Mayor/County Executive is more than willing to commit the pension to some shyster who paid for all their lap dances at the super bowl. The shyster drills the money into bonds with unrealistic yields so the Duly Elected People's Representative(s) can underfund pensions.  Gov/Mayor/CE can then righteously claim they saved the taxpayers, all the while setting them up for a bigger bill down the road.  Tell me Ed Rendell, that is how it works, right?

MachoMan's picture

Don't puss out with an "i figure"....  you know...  this is certainty...  this is how we got here...  slow at first, then all of a sudden.

Joe Davola's picture

Sorry, my T-count may be low today.

 

I did forget the parts about the public employees supporting the elected official with endorsements, and the inflated yield bonds being the stuffee component of the Magnetar deals.

Shizzmoney's picture

Good point, pods.  Max Keiser even said himself that both the ECB and Wall St banks like Goldman have been using debt by sovereigns to extract wealth via "Office Space" style.

The best trick that the Devil had was convinced the world he didnt exist.

Westcoastliberal's picture

I like Max but the thought of he and Stacy Herbert in con-gress somehow displeases me.

irishlink's picture

why did this even make it to court,? Something smells fishy here ,,,,Is the TPTB trying to send a message that all is well in the USofA and the Financial system when it is truly rotten to the core or it is a warning to the mandarins in the banking world not to get too cocky in their Ivory Towers

CommunityStandard's picture

Lawyers.  They are the ones who have no allegiences, are not afraid to play dirty, and go wherever they can make a buck.  They can't ever take on the big guys, but a few low level guys?  Easy.  And to stretch out the case for years and years?  Even better.

Judge Arrow's picture

Yes, why - well, crookss depend on stupidity - and they probably figured this case was too invisible to matter -  and too recondite to be understood - the proscecuters here had to be low level true believer guys who went under the AG radar, too - one can't be cynical enough when hearing this stuff

km4's picture

Love Taibbi's ending....

Over the years, many in the public have become numb to news of financial corruption, partly because too many of these stories involve banker-on-banker crime. The notorious Abacus deal involving Goldman Sachs, for instance, involved a hedge-fund billionaire ripping off a couple of European banks – who cares? But the bid-rigging scandal laid bare in USA v. Carollo is a totally different animal. This is the world's biggest banks stealing money that would otherwise have gone toward textbooks and medicine and housing for ordinary Americans, and turning the cash into sports cars and bonuses for the already rich. It's the equivalent of robbing a charity or a church fund to pay for lap dances.

Who ultimately loses in these deals? Well, to take just one example, the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Finance Authority, the agency that issues bonds for the state's hospitals, had their interest rates rigged by the Carollo defendants on $17 million in bonds. Since then, more than a dozen New Jersey hospitals have closed, mostly in poor neighborhoods.

As Carollo showed us, in open court, this is what Wall Street learned from the Mafia: how to reach into the penny jars of dying hospitals and schools and transform their desperation and civic panic into fat year-end bonuses and the occasional "big lunch." Unlike the Mafia, though, they were smart enough to do their dirt without anyone noticing for a very long time, which is what defense counsel in this case were talking about when they argued that towns and cities "were not harmed" by the rigged bids. No harm, to them, means no visible harm, i.e., that what taxpayers didn't know couldn't hurt them. This is logical thinking, to the sociopath – like saying it's not infidelity if your wife never finds out.

mkkby's picture

"Since then, more than a dozen New Jersey hospitals have closed, mostly in poor neighborhoods."

Wow.  That cuts to the chase.  HANG THE BASTARDS!

Tirpitz's picture

Taibbi and the Rolling Stones magazine have replaced the Wall Street Journal and Barron's long ago in investor related content.

King_of_simpletons's picture

WSJ and Barrons are accomplises and a diversion/propaganda tool for these bankster crooks.

JR's picture

Hey, Matt, can't we all just get along?

midgetrannyporn's picture

The Federation wants a piece of the action.

Hubbs's picture

Damn, this Taibbi guy really knows how to nail the story right on the head...in terms that even I can understand.  

First came the vampire squid, then these bloodsucking hagfish. What piece of slime from the depths will Taibbi be able to haul in next?

 

 

Bob's picture

He already fished out BAC a couple times, finding it "A raging hurricane of theft and fraud."

 

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/8145-matt-taibbi-bank-of-america-is-a-raging-hurricane-of-theft-and-fraud

albeit "Too crooked to fail."

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bank-of-america-too-crooked-to...

Take your eyes off them for 10 seconds and guaranteed, they'll be into some shit again: This bank is like the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend, maxing out your credit cards in the three days you spend at your aunt's funeral. They're out of control, yet they'll never do time or go out of business, because the government remains creepily committed to their survival, like overindulgent parents who refuse to believe their 40-year-old live-at-home son could possibly be responsible for those dead hookers in the backyard.

msjimmied's picture

LOL! I read Taibbi for his wonderfully colorful language, he paints visuals with it! I don't know how many were sending out sensor probes to see what the reaction was on various sites after the "Vampire Squid" piece, but you get a pretty good read as to the blog's level of evolution with their comments. You knew where they stood. But that's just one subject, I've bookmarked every article that made me stop and open a good bottle of wine so I could savor the glorious download. Anyhoo...the first few days, there was a flurry of smear campaigns deriding Taibbi and who he works for. An army of trolls was dispatched to sites all over the virtual universe to diminish him. Then we had the incredibly verbose Lucas Van Praag trying to take him down with words longer than his dick. There were very erudite BS filled articles in the Atlantic, and other places I will not research and pull them up now, I do have a lazy gene...I must admit for a while I was worried, I had little faith in our people, but I was wrong. Goldman's reputation has not been the same since, or the banking industry for that matter. 

Westcoastliberal's picture

Makes you wonder how many other "deals' like this are currently in progress under the radar.  We need to clone Taibbi to the 100th power.  A free, active press is one of the cornerstones of democracy; too bad we don't have much of one left.

Crack-up Boom's picture

Superlative article!  Just wish more people would read it.  Maybe Taibbi should go on "Dancing wth the Stars" ...

realitybiter's picture

I thought the scam was going to be straight out of Goodfellas:

"......and now the guys gotta come up with Paulie's money every week....trouble with the bills, the cops, whatever.....business bad -so what FU pay me...and then run up the  bills....who cares, no one is getting paid anyway....and then finally, when there is nothing left, you bust the joint out, you light a match...."

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPtjyqgZAUk

 

 

Isn't this how banking works in America?  You screw over as many people as possible, extracting as much wealth from them as possible, and in the end you BK them and collect on the insurance....either through deceibt in BK, or taxpayers...FU, pay me!!

slewie the pi-rat's picture

the goobermints spend a lotta money don't they?

and lobbyists and special intersts pay them a lotta money to suggest how they might spend it better for thePeople don't they?

this IS the system which TPTB are trying to keep from FAILING

protect yourself as you think best

try to remember that even on zH, the election (prez) is about who is gonna boss this mess and control the rules and their politically- and status-selective enforcement

very much like controlling opinion, which is done by these same people using the very same boilerplate legal controls which is why the only people interested in this case were boilerplate lawyes such as we might fund at the SEC and the CFTC and consumer divisions and so on

tyranny by boilerplate

for every dollar these guys stole, there was some muddle-headed nanny in charge of giving it away for us

same as in the courtroom, really

the reason these guys went down is that this case was singled out and kept from being moved to a "better mafia court-location" ot a "better mafia-owned prosecutor"

the poor jurors may never figure out wtf happened here   L0L!!!

dizzyfingers's picture
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Mortgage Rates: Another Week, Another Record Low

by CalculatedRisk on 6/21/2012 03:55:00 PM

CustomersMan's picture

 


Dear Mr. Dimon, Is Your Bank Getting Corporate Welfare? (A: Yes)


2012-06-21bloomberg.com

 

`` JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund and 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. How can all this be? Let's take it step by step.''

original article

 

shovelhead's picture

Pulitzers for Matt and Tylers too.

Rolling Stone gets the story the fin-rags won't touch.

Again. Wonder why?  (snark)

adr's picture

So what did they get, 5-10 years for stealing billions?

Death to any three letter executive is the only sentence worth pursuing.

disabledvet's picture

I thought the Mafia specialzed in raising your rates not lowering. Like for example the Government.

tony bonn's picture

god bless you, matt!!!!!!!!!! you are a hero

i have seen the mentality of these b-school students first hand....they learn their arrogance and win at any cost philosophy at home, in school, and business.....it is entrenched and cultivated by our racketeering education system...america is royally fucked unless it finds the moral high ground and courage to punish these wall street assholes.....the very same scum who murdered john kennedy through the bush crime syndicate.....

veyron's picture

"the bid rigging was so incredibly common the defendants simply forgot to be ashamed of it" Makes me sick

The Alarmist's picture

GE Capital ... so the sacrificial lamb for Wall Street is essentially a group of not ready for prime time dupes from Off-Wall-Street.

CustomersMan's picture

"Whistles Were The Only Thing Not Being Blown By Wells Fargo"

2012-06-21 — mfi-miami.com Seen on ImplodeOMeter

 

Steve Dibert illustrates rather colorfully how far afield Wells' feigned innocence is from the truth -- ``I can tell you that on the wholesale lending side we were also enticed with "special perks" by lenders.  Both Wells Fargo and Countrywide aggresively enticed us to write large volumes of sub-prime loans.  Where Wells Fargo offered their retail loan officers trips to family friendly 5-Star Caribbean resorts, the perks we received on the wholesale lending side more resembled a Hunter S. Thompson novel filled with naked women, booze and drugs.''

original article

10044's picture

This dude is playing with fire, poor sud thinks he lives in a free society

RECISION's picture

... so, nothing we didn't already deduce anyway...

Just proof.

Northeaster's picture

I raised this issue with my local press/media last year, no response.

My guess is they have no one on staff that remotely understands any of this, hell, I barely do. However, in my neck of the woods, the entire systems stinks. City property sold off to a PE firm that also uses a law firm lobby that also represents the city on the bond issuance. Nothing to see here right?

No one gives a fuck, or they're too ignorant, don't care, or are like me, just don't have the expertise to dig deeper to expose it. Anyone that has an interest and knows this arena, let me know, I'll post it all the players right here. 

rosiescenario's picture

If anyone told you 6 years ago that the only magazine willing to publish financial truth was RS, you'd wonder what loony bin they'd escaped from.

 

RS is also the mag which published Kennedy's expose on the pharma meeting with CDC to cover up vaccine problems.

Of course, no surprise here, the CDC's board of directors is made up of all the big name pharmaceutical companies.

BlackholeDivestment's picture

MARKET MAKER"S DEATH LIST 

To make a good point

(of protest)

 ...to the Muppets and their Puppeteers, there should be an internet page called MMDL.

(password known among Fight Club C4I as ''2 down load virus'' lol)

All the names of the usual suspects need to be posted with their profile in corruption and given ratings...

(called; ''I'm in the Moody's'' Lol)

...from

''drill teeth like you are POTUS on NDAA Bath Salts''

...to ''Terminate with TD 2012 Private Drone Prejudice''.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbC_571dksE

...and this one is for you Mr.Down Arrow---> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWK4N5LIUWk

W10321303's picture

No Problem! The Seton Hall Law School already determined that there is NO legal liability.

The GODFATHER Clinton made certain of that....

Can we say SPECULATION, boys and girls?

world_debt_slave's picture

the longest running cartel of criminals is the NY FED, END THE FED!

Conax's picture

It's great that a story like this comes out in Rolling Stone. If it had been in a Wall street rag nobody but the rats of Wall street would have seen it.

I'm glad it isn't too long, the readers of RS wouldn't stick with it to the end. Matt packs a lot of info into a concise article. I don't read RS, so thanks to Tyler for for posting it. Zh is on top of things for us.

Tom Green Swedish's picture

This wasn't obvious before?  Why did WAMU, Wachovia, National City, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers fail, while the others did not. There was enough bailout money for all of them. The system is rigged.  Wall Street is right in the middle of the Mafia's main turf. This was obvious 50 years ago. Maybe the government should just nationalize all banks just like they did with "numbers" aka The Lottery.  It's not like these bankers are so skilled they do good at their job.  They lost this country trillions of dollars, because their computer do 70 percent of the work and they just sit back and relax, and make guesses on what will happen.  We  might as well make a random person the one with the money to gamble.  It's like sitting at a roulette table and saying bet on black 25 because I think thats where its going. 

fuu's picture

"The courtroom, an aerielike setting 23 stories up, offered a panoramic view of the city and the East River."

I feel like we're in The DaVinci Code here.

tom a taxpayer's picture

Matt - You deserve a Pulitizer. You also deserve a Pugilister, to be created in your honor as a fighter, a boxer, a gladiator!

holdbuysell's picture

Bank locally...keep the money inside the community.

The added bonus is you starve the Chase's of the world of needed assets to run their schemes.