As students vie for 2014 internships, Bloomberg finds a fraternity-based network whose Wall Street alumni guide resumes to the tops of stacks, reveal interview questions with recommended answers, offer applicants secret mottoes and support chapters facing crackdowns. Despite apparent crackdowns on cronyism, nepotism, and fraternism; it seems nothing has changed as "secret handshakes" and the fraternity pipeline helps undergraduates beat odds three times steeper than Princeton University’s record-low acceptance rate... "People like people who are like themselves," notes one recruiter, seemingly proven by the fact that JPMorgan employs 140 Sigma Phi Epsilon members with BofA and Wells Fargo even more.
December 23rd, 1913 is a date which will live in infamy. That was the day when the Federal Reserve Act was pushed through Congress. Many members of Congress were absent that day, and the general public was distracted with holiday preparations. Now we have reached the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, and most Americans still don't know what it actually is or how it functions. But understanding the Federal Reserve is absolutely critical, because the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. Since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been 18 recessions or depressions, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by 98 percent, and the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger. This insidious debt-based financial system has literally made debt slaves out of all of us, and it is systematically destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have. The truth is that we do not have to have a Federal Reserve. The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was when we did not have a central bank. If we are ever going to turn this nation around economically, we are going to have to get rid of this debt-based financial system that is centered around the Federal Reserve. On the path that we are on now, there is no hope.
- Traders Seek an Edge With High-Tech Snooping (WSJ)
- Gold Drops Below $1,200 an Ounce for First Time Since June (Bloomberg)
- SAC Manager Guilty as Insider Focus Turns to Martoma (Bloomberg)
- Why Ukraine spurned the EU and embraced Russia (Reuters)
- Target confirms major card data theft during Thanksgiving (Reuters)
- Zuckerberg is no suckerberg: Company to Sell 27 Million Class A Shares While CEO Will Offer 41.4 Million (WSJ)
- Facebook, Zuckerberg, banks must face IPO lawsuit (Reuters)
- Swiss Christmas Trees Feel Chill as Franc Helps Rivals (BBG)
- Iran, six powers to resume nuclear talks after snag (Reuters)
- Dolphins Suffering From Lung Disease Due to Gulf Oil Spill, Study Says (WSJ)
There is a saying: "don't buy the hand that feeds you" but there is nothing in popular aphorism literature about suing the hand that bails you out. Which is precisely what JPM did overnight when it sued the Federal Deposit Insurance Company, claiming the agency was responsible for over $1 billion in liabilities assumed by the bank as part of its takeover of Washington Mutual in 2008. Of course, having been the subject of a relentless battery of lawsuits by every US agency imaginable, many were wondering when JPM would strike back, or rather if it would have the temerity to sue the same government that bailed it out with billions of direct injections and even more billions in FDIC-subsidized bond issuance. The answer is yes, and as JPMorgan alleged in the complaint, the FDIC agreed to shield it from liability from lawsuits claiming failures by Washington Mutual. JPMorgan said it took on only limited liabilities in its purchase of the Seattle-based bank’s assets. What next: Jamie Dimon sues the Fed for forcing it to acquire Bear Stearns' assets at the firesale price of $2 $10 per share, in which the bank assumed Bear's assets if not so much its liabilities - after all there was a government to bail it out for that.
- MOAR: BOJ Said to See Significant Room for More Bond Purchases (BBG)
- Meltdown Averted, Bernanke Struggled to Stoke Growth (Hilsenrath)
- New Mortgages to Get Pricier Next Year (WSJ)
- Republicans to Seek Concessions From Obama on Debt Limit (BBG)
- Hunting for U.S. arms technology, China enlists a legion of amateurs (Reuters)
- Jury Begins Deliberating in Case of SAC Portfolio Manager (WSJ)
- BP to Write Off $1 Billion on Failed Well (WSJ)
- Rajan Unexpectedly Keeps India Rates Unchanged to Support Growth (BBG)
- Thai protesters say they will rally to hound PM from office (Reuters)
- SEC Brings Fewer Enforcement Actions, Slows Early-Stage Probes (WSJ)
During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion. As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control. Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis. We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated. Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding. Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising. Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane. If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become.
Why Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program Failed (Spoiler Alert: Thank Bank Of America et al)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 19:41 -0500
Back when the Executive and Congress at least pretended not to abdicate all power to the Fed, one of the centerpiece programs designed to boost the housing market for the benefit of the poor (as opposed to letting Ben Bernanke make marginal US housing a rental industry owned by a handful of private equity firms and hedge funds), was Barack Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which attempted to prevent foreclosures by lowering distressed borrowers’ mortgage payments. Under the program, homeowners would be given trial modifications to prove they can make reduced payments before the changes become permanent. The program was a disaster as of the 3 million foreclosures that were targeted for modification in 2009, only 905,663 mods have been successful nearly five years later - a tiny 13% of the 6.9 million who applied (still, numbers which Obamacare would be delighted to achieve). Part of the reason: the program's reliance on the same industry that sold shoddy mortgages during the housing bubble and improperly sped foreclosures afterward. But there was much more. For the definitive explanation of everything else that went wrong, we go to Bloomberg's Hugh Son whose masterpiece released today explains how and why once again the banks - and especially one of them - won, and everyone else lost.
We've all read countless explanations of investor psychology in a general sense, but rarely does anyone put their name to a calamity, or at least their nom de plume. We recognise it when exuberance makes charts go vertically up or when stone cold fear pushes them ruthlessly down, but our ego inevitably makes us shy away admitting that we take part in any function of it - "that's those other sheep". We're merely unemotional observers, until we aren't. Is anyone going to admit they were buying in the final moments before the last bitcoin crash? Unfortunately, our brains are hard-wired to get us into investing trouble.
Curious how much the various banks who stood to be impacted by or, otherwise, benefit from either a concentration or dilution of the Volcker rule? According to OpenSecrets, which crunched the numbers, here is how much being able to continue prop trading meant to some of the largest US banks and lobby groups:
- American Bankers Association: $6.495 million
- JPMorgan: $4 million
- Wells Fargo: $4.440 million
- Citigroup: $4.240 million
- Independent Community Bankers of America: $3.581 million
- Bank of America: $2 million
Not bad considering the loophole-ridden Volcker Rule will effectively permit "hedge" books (where an army of lawyers paid $1000/hour defines just what a hedge is) to continue piling on billions of dollars in wildly profitable, Fed reserve funded trades.
And so it is done (as we detailed here)... and due to be put in place as of April1st 2014 (rather ironically). The 100-plus-pages of rules and regulations prohibit two activities of banking entities: (i) engaging in proprietary trading; and (ii) owning, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with a hedge fund or private equity fund. But the kicker...
"requires banking entities to establish an internal compliance program designed to help ensure and monitor compliance with the prohibitions and restrictions of the statute and the final rule."
Great! Because self-regulation worked so well in the past for the financial services industry.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The quarterly Flow of Funds report by the Fed has been released and the latest household net worth numbers are out. While not nearly quite as dramatic as last quarter's wholesale dataset revision, which saw all of America suddenly worth $3 trillion more primarily due to a change of how "pension entitlements" (formerly "pension reserves") are calculated (more more in the full breakdown from September), with the resulting total net worth rising to a total of $74.8 trillion, according to the just released data, in the third quarter, US housholds, or rather a very tiny subset of them, saw their net worth rise once again, this time to $77.3 trillion from a revised $75.3 trillion.
- Glass-Steagall Fans Plan New Assault If Volcker Rule Deemed Weak (BBG) ... "if"? The banks control the legislators and regulators...
- Cellphone data spying: It's not just the NSA (USA Today)
- Major tech companies push for limits on government surveillance (Reuters)
- Shanghai Warns Kids to Stay Indoors for Seventh Day on Smog (BBG)
- Protesters fell Lenin statue, tell Ukraine's president 'you're next' (Reuters)
- Everyone must be flying private these days: EADS to cut 5000-6000 jobs, close Paris HQ in restructuring (FT)
- Big Players Trade 'Upstairs' (WSJ)
- There’s no way to tell how many people who think they’ve signed up for health insurance through the U.S. exchange actually have (BBG)
- Slower China inflation reduces worries of tighter policy (Reuters)
It was inevitable that a few short days after Wall Street lovingly embraced Bitcoin as their own, with analysts from Bank of America, Citigroup and others, not to mention the peanut gallery vocally flipflopping on the currency after hating it at $200 only to love it at $1200 that Bitcoin... would promptly crash. And crash it did: overnight, following previously reported news that China's Baidu woild follow the PBOC in halting acceptance of Bitcoin payment, Bitcoin tumbled from a recent high of $1155 to an almost electronically destined "half-off" touching $576 hours ago, exactly 50% lower, on very heave volume, before a dead cat bounce levitated the currency back to the $800 range, where it may or may not stay much longer, especially if all those who jumped on the bandwagon at over $1000 on "get rich quick" hopes and dreams, only to see massive losses in their P&Ls. Which incidentally, like gold, is to be expected when one treats what is explicitly a currency, instead as an asset, with delusions of grandure that some greater fool will pay more for it tomorrow than it is worth today.
Bubbles are created when investors do not recognize when rising asset prices get detached from underlying fundamentals, but perhaps George Soros' perspective on bubbles is most prescient: "financial markets, far from accurately reflecting all the available knowledge, always provide a distorted view of reality. The degree of distortion may vary from time to time. Sometimes it's quite insignificant, at other times it is quite pronounced. Every bubble has two components: an underlying trend that prevails in reality and a misconception relating to that trend. When a positive feedback develops between the trend and the misconception, a boom-bust process is set in motion. Eventually a tipping point is reached when the trend is reversed; it then becomes self-reinforcing in the opposite direction. Typically bubbles have an asymmetric shape. The boom is long and slow to start. It accelerates gradually until it flattens out again during the twilight period. The bust is short and steep because it involves the forced liquidation of unsound positions." Does an asset bubble currently exist? Ask anyone and they will tell you "NO." However, maybe it is exactly that tacit denial which might just be an indication of its existence.