As PFG Falls, a Return to the MF Global / Eric Holder Connection and How to Keep an Investigation StaleSubmitted by EB on 07/10/2012 07:56 -0400
Wasendorf take note: step 1, become powerful governor and/or senator (editor of SFO magazine won't cut it); step 2, hire Blankfein's lawyer for key personnel who can throw you under the bus
UPDATE 2: Have no fear though since as recently as January 2012, the CFTC did not find any "material breaches of customer funds protection requirements" at FCMs (firms like PFGBest)
UPDATE 1: Account-holders may not be so surprised to find who is the custodian for the PFGBest FX accounts: none other than huge MFGlobal fans, JPMorgan!
Remember when the entire segregated account fiasco was supposedly fixed in the aftermath of the November 2011 MF Global bankruptcy, and where regulators: the CFTC, the SEC, the CME, and anyone you asked, swore up and down this would never happen again? Turns out that 7 months later, the spirit of MFG has struck again, only this time with one letter switched: it is now known as PFG, as we suggested first 3 hours ago when we broke the story. From the just filed affidavit by Lauren Brinati who is working with the National Futures Association, which in turn has just filed notice prohibiting PFGBest from operating further, and freezing all of its accounts: "On July 9, 2012, NFA made inquiry with US Bank and learned that rather than the $225 million that PFG had reported as being on deposit at US Bank just days earlier, PFG had only approximately $5 million on deposit at U.S. Bank." Translation: another $220 million segregated account pillage, in the vein of none other than Jon Corzine and MF Global.
The money has now officially vaporized.
Despite BoE's Tucker telling us this morning that there is no need to look at any other market but LIBOR, it appears the world has moved on from this debacle of indication of anything. As we pointed out here, the 'stability' of LIBOR given everything going on around it is incredulous (whether due to the ECB's crappy-collateral standards-based MROs or the Fed's FX swap lines - since unsecured interbank financing is now a relic of the pre-crisis 'trust' era). Furthermore, as we discussed yesterday, the machinations of the LIBOR market and calculations (which Peter Tchir delves deeply into below) suggest that this not the act of a lone assassin suggesting quite simply that complaining or suing Barclays is redundant - any Libor-related suits (from the public or the government/regulators) must sue all the submitters or it misses the critical facts of the manipulation.
Back in January, an article by Reuters' head financial blogger on the topic of the Greek bond restructuring, which effectively said that Greeks have all the leverage, prompted us to pen Subordination 101 (one of the year's most read posts on Zero Hedge), in which we patiently explained why his proposed blanket generalization was completely wrong, and why litigation arbitrage in covenant heavy UK-law bonds would be precisely the way to go into the Greek restructuring. 4 months later, those who listened to us made a 135% annualized return by getting taken out in Greek UK-law bonds at par, whereas those who listened to Reuters made, well nothing. What is amusing, is that such examples of pseudo-contrarian sophistry for the sake of making a statement, any statement, or better known in the media world as generating "page views", no matter how ungrounded in financial fact, especially from recent Loeb award winners, is nothing new. To wit, we go back to May 29, 2008 where courtesy of the same author, in collaboration with another self-proclaimed Twitter pundit, we read "Defending Libor" in which the now Reutersian and his shoulder-chipped UK-based academic sidekick decide that, no Carrick Mollenkamp and Mark Whitehouse's then stunning and quite incendiary discoveries on Liebor are actually quite irrelevant, and are, to use the parlance of our times, a tempest in a teapot. His conclusion: "What the WSJ has done is come up with a marginally interesting intellectual conundrum: why is there a disconnect between CDS premia, on the one hand, and Libor spreads, on the other? But the way that the WSJ is reporting its findings they seem to think they’re uncovering a major scandal. They’re not." Actually, in retrospect, they are.
Last week it was the Fairness Distributor In Chief threatening China with WTO action over its unfair duties on US car imports. Before that it was Europe trying to protect its crumbling trade at all costs with its primary trade partner. Now, it is China's turn to retort to the world's beggars, and all those who just happen to ravenously import its iWares with the reckless abandon of a gadget junkie. FT reports: "Beijing has threatened swift retaliation against a range of European Union industries if Brussels presses ahead with an investigation into government subsidies granted to two Chinese telecoms equipment companies. The Chinese threat was delivered at a meeting with EU trade officials in Beijing late last month that was arranged at the behest of Chen Deming, China’s commerce minister, to try to defuse a brewing trade dispute that is straining commercial relations between the two sides. Instead, it collapsed into acrimony, with the Chinese warning their EU visitors that they would respond to any investigation of Huawei and ZTE Corp by probing subsidies granted to European agriculture, automotive, renewable energy and telecoms companies. “Put it this way: it’s not like they went for a beer after and watched football,” one person briefed on the meeting said." None of this is new: recall China Lays Out Conditions Under Which It Will Bail Out Europe; Does Not Want To Be Seen As "Source Of Dumb Money" in which Li Daokui "added that Beijing might also ask European leaders to refrain from criticising China’s currency policy, a frequent source of tension with trade partners." Looks like we can scrap those "China bails out Europe" (ignore the fact that the Chinese economy itself is imploding for a second) rumor in perpetuity.
By now we can only hope (pun intended) that everyone has seen the David Einhorn chart showing the circularity of the European "summit-based" decisionmaking process - somewhat relevant since we have had 21 summits since 2008 and Europe has never been in a condition quite as bad as last week when a historic move by the ECB to lower the deposit rate to zero and the refi rate below the critical threshold of 1.00%... and nothing happened. (that's not quite true: JPM, Goldman and Blackrock all made it quite clear European money markets are now officially dead). However, as the following empirical analysis from Credit Suisse shows, the "Einhorn" chart is not just a conversation piece at cocktail parties: there is an actual trade pattern which has made traders lots of money, and which makes Eurocrats the best friends of not only Belgian caterers, but short-sellers everywhere: go long into a summit when the clueless algos read headlines and send risk soaring, only to short the inevitable fizzles days if not hours later.
Steve Forbes has a message for a nation dominated by increasingly short-term decisions made on Wall Street and in Washington D.C., and by ever greater economic, financial and currency instability. As long as America continues moving away from sound money; away from sound financial and economic policies; and, ultimately, away from freedom, its future grows more dim. The dot-com and housing bubbles followed by the 2008 financial crisis and the most severe economic decline since the Great Depression serve as powerful lessons. A future of bigger government, higher taxes, more burdensome regulations, less consumer choice and more unrealistic government promises requires more and more Federal Reserve play money. Steve Forbes has a quintessentially American policy prescription rooted in American history. The answer to America’s economic problems is—and has always been—new wealth creation. New wealth creation doesn’t come from the government or from the Federal Reserve’s printing press. New wealth creation is what happens naturally with stable money based on the gold standard, lower taxes on individuals, a simplified tax code, reduced bureaucracy and free markets.
Recent economic data, and especially today's unemployment numbers reveal the powerlessness of the Fed in the face of underlying economic problems that they fail to understand. The Fed has tried every trick in the book for the past 4 years to revive the economy only to see it continue to weaken. Unfortunately they only know how to do one thing—print. The ultimate effect of this will be more economic stagnation, not real economic growth. Here is why.
Central Banks came, stood and delivered… just not much more, although the (nightly) POBC cut (1 YRS by 31 to 6% and deposits by 25bp to 3%) had not really been foreseen. Second Chinese cut in as many month, the last one having been on 07 Jun (as well just ahead of the ECB meeting, then by 25 basis points to 3.25% and 6.31%). The Chinese move was good for a small uptick, rapidly squashed by the European serving.
ECB quarter cut and BoE GBP 50bn additional QE to GBP 375bn both already in the valuation ramp-out of late.
Then came the ECB press conference…
Three weeks ago, before Lieborgate broke and the world finally understood what so many had been warning about for so long, we noted something else: that not only was LIBOR manipulated and fudged daily between 2005 and 2008, but as the chart in the attached post shows, it has been gamed every single day in 2012 as well. More importantly, we noted something else - the transition at the top of the British Bankers Association: the organization responsible for compiling LIBOR submissions from member banks, and reporting what the daily Libor fixing is. Because in the second week of June, the BBA's new head became... the former head of lobbying for none other than Morgan Stanley, Anthony Browne, a firm which itself was just caught red-handed manipulating rating agency "independent ratings" to benefit its bottom line (and which itself miraculous was downgraded by less than what the market expected in order to allow it to avoid several billion in collateral calls). And what did Anthony do at Morgan Stanley until June 12: he was head of Government relations for Morgan Stanley for Europe, Middle East and Africa and was previously an economic and business adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson. That's right - "head of government relations" for a rather prominent TBTF bank, being put in charge of daily Libor fixing. But everyone is shocked, shocked, that gambling has been going on here for years.
In honor of the FDIC releasing the living wills for banks, we thought we’d offer up a shorter version that the banks could use. You're welcome.
The Fed, by buying Treasuries is making insolvent banks even more insolvent. It is a short-term gain (liquidity) for a long-term disaster: banks need as much collateral as they can get their hands on right now. And with Treasuries rallying (raising the value of the banks' assets) any aggressive Fed program to take Treasuries out of the system would be a MAJOR step towards another solvency Crisis a la 2008.
Wonder who was pushing Barclays to manipulate its rate? Why none other than the English Fed. From BBG:
- BARCLAYS SAYS BANK OF ENGLAND CALLED ON OCT. 29, 2008 ON LIBOR
- BARCLAYS SAYS DIAMOND MADE NOTE OF CALL
- BARCLAYS SAYS DIAMOND RECEIVED CALL FROM PAUL TUCKER
- BARCLAYS SAYS TUCKER SAID `CERTAIN' BARCLAYS DIDN'T NEED ADVICE
- BARCLAYS SAYS TUCKER SAID DIDN'T ALWAYS NEED TO BE SO HIGH (Supposedly LIBOR)
- BARCLAYS SAYS DEL MISSIER CONCLUDED INSTRUCTION HAD BEEN GIVEN
- BARCLAYS SAYS DEL MISSIER TOLD RATE SETTERS TO LOWER RATES
In other words, a central banks was directly and indirectly involved in manipulating interest rates. Say it isn't so. Fast forward two months when the BOE's Tucker testifies that the Chairsatan made him do it.
There is a saying that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. Today, the San Fran Fed's John Williams, and by proxy the Federal Reserve in general, spoke out, and once again removed all doubt that they have no idea how modern money and inflation interact. In a speech titled, appropriately enough, "Monetary Policy, Money, and Inflation", essentially made the case that this time is different and that no matter how much printing the Fed engages in, there will be no inflation. To wit: "In a world where the Fed pays interest on bank reserves, traditional theories that tell of a mechanical link between reserves, money supply, and, ultimately, inflation are no longer valid. Over the past four years, the Federal Reserve has more than tripled the monetary base, a key determinant of money supply. Some commentators have sounded an alarm that this massive expansion of the monetary base will inexorably lead to high inflation, à la Friedman.Despite these dire predictions, inflation in the United States has been the dog that didn’t bark." He then proceeds to add some pretty (if completely irrelevant) charts of the money multipliers which as we all know have plummeted and concludes by saying "Recent developments make a compelling case that traditional textbook views of the connections between monetary policy, money, and inflation are outdated and need to be revised." And actually, he is correct: the way most people approach monetary policy is 100% wrong. The problem is that the Fed is the biggest culprit, and while others merely conceive of gibberish in the form of three letter economic theories, which usually has the words Modern, or Revised (and why note Super or Turbo), to make them sound more credible, they ultimately harm nobody. The Fed's power to impair, however, is endless, and as such it bears analyzing just how and why the Fed is absolutely wrong.
Replacing old impaired debt with new impaired debt does not generate growth. Borrowing more money will not reverse financial death spirals. Sorry, Bucko--Europe is still in a financial death spiral. Friday's "fix" changed nothing except the names of entities holding impaired debt. We can lay out the death spiral dynamics thusly: