It wasn't long after three former General Electric Co. executives were convicted of rigging auctions for municipal-bond investment contracts that they received the ultimate sendoff: A 7,400-word torching in Rolling Stone magazine by Matt Taibbi, the writer who branded Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with the nickname "vampire squid." "Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia," Taibbi began his June 2012 opus about Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm. "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." Then came a surprise last week, right before Thanksgiving. A federal judge ordered the men released from prison.
Back in August, we joked that in the Tesla press-release the one most often used word was Non-GAAP (43 times). Conveniently, we provided a word cloud of the company's Q2 release for the visual learners to grasp just this. That TESLA's earnings were an epic non-GAAP adjustment joke was only further cemented by the fact that the company itself provided a bridge between its GAAP and Non-GAAP earnings. Now, the euphoria is over and the story is different, as not only has the company's self-reported and erroneous record of making the safest car in the world gone up in flames, but the momentum appears terminally broken and following today's most recent 11% drop, TSLA stock could soon be headed for double digit territory again. More importantly, however, the end of the momentum story means that those who care about such anachronisms as fundamentals can once again look beneath the hood of TSLA to get the true story of what is really going. There, with the help of Bloomberg's forensic accounting sleuth Jonathan Weil one uncovers nothing but cockroaches.
Bloomberg's Jon Weil, who has compiled the following stunning array of lies regarding the DOJ's enforcement activity disclosed by none other than its head, Eric Holder, is far too kind when he says that the "fast and furious" Holder owes the American people an apology. What we really owes is at least a resignation (and frankly much more, but it is too early on Monday to become too politically incorrect). And considering that the DOJ in its now former employee Lanny Brauer's words refused to prosecute those banks which were deemed "too big to prosecute", the lying here has now became a meta phenomenon, as the DOJ is effectively caught lying about lying. How many more meta levels of higher up fraud "inception" can Holder take this, before the American people finally demand his head, metaphorically-speaking of course? Sadly, judging by the response to unprecedented scandals coming out of this administration so far, the answer is... more.
The following story from Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil should be familiar to anyone who i) wanted to get rich quick; ii) wasn't too willing to read the small print, and iii) put their faith in a TBTF bank. Or simply watches South Park. Jon recounts the story of "Philip L. Ramatlhware, an immigrant from Botswana who went to a Citigroup branch in downtown Philadelphia one day five years ago to open a regular bank account. He was 48 years old at the time and disabled, after being hurt in an accident as a passenger on a Greyhound bus. In April 2008, he received $225,000 in a settlement for his injuries, part of which went to pay legal fees. He was holding the settlement check when he walked into the branch. Immediately he was referred to a broker for a “financial consultation,” according to an arbitration claim he filed against Citigroup. The broker assured him the money would be invested in “guaranteed” funds and that he could have access to them whenever the need arose, the complaint said. Ramatlhware gave him $150,000 to invest. The broker put $5,000 into a bank certificate of deposit, bought a $133,000 variable annuity and invested the rest in a series of mutual funds. Less than six months later, Ramatlhware had lost $40,000, according to the complaint."
Until now, we have refrained from trying to explain Fedspeak to the masses. The truth is it's not opaque. It's not indecipherable. It's simple. Or at least you can choose to believe it is, as we have. At last week’s press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke fielded questions from reporters employed by some of the world's most esteemed news organizations. Here is a summary, translated from Fedspeak into ordinary American English and heavily condensed for easy tweeting.
The short but profitable tale of how 483,000 private individual have "top secret" access to the nation's most non-public information begins in 2001. "After 9/11, intelligence budgets were increased, new people needed to be hired, it was a lot easier to go to the private sector and get people off the shelf," and sure enough firms like Booz Allen Hamilton - still two-thirds owned by the deeply-tied-to-international-governments investment firm The Carlyle Group - took full advantage of Congress' desire to shrink federal agencies and their budgets by enabling outside consultants (already primed with their $4,000 cost 'security clearances') to fulfill the needs of an ever-more-encroaching-on-privacy administration.
Suddenly it should be dawning on a lot of Europeans that deposit-guarantee limits matter. In Slovenia, the maximum is 100,000 euros per depositor, the same as in Cyprus. (Deposit- insurance programs vary among the 17 countries that use the euro.) For a few days last week, it looked as if customers at Laiki and Bank of Cyprus would lose even some of their insured deposits, which would have been a sacrilege. That plan was scrapped, but could resurface elsewhere for all we know should some genius at the German Finance Ministry insist upon it. The one constant among bailouts of euro-area countries is that there is no rhyme or reason, much less fairness, in the way many details get worked out... So far, there have been no signs of a mass exodus in countries such as Italy or Spain. But deposit migrations can happen slowly, with lots of time passing before they appear in official statistics. Or maybe little will change and most bank customers will go on believing “it can’t happen here,” until one day it does.
HP said that more than $5bn of yesterday's gargantuan write-down was due to "serious accounting improprieties" but as Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil states "the numbers don't make sense". With only $3.5bn of total assets on their balance sheet as Q2 2011, a $5bn 'fraud' would seem tough to swallow - and HP has far from forthcoming on any details. Perhaps the fault lies within (as opposed to without) as Weil notes HP recorded $6.6bn of goodwill (the plug between market price and the above-market price HP paid) - which was later revised to $6.9bn; now HP is writing down that goodwill - and blaming it on financial fraud from Autonomy. "HP didn't record the goodwill because it was lied to by Autonomy. HP recorded the goodwill because it knew Autonomy's identifiable assets were worth much less than it paid." It seems to Weil (and to us) that HP's management want the 'obvious-to-the-world write-downs required for goodwill and intangibles' post such a huge 'over-pay' to appear to be someone else's fault.
In today's episode of blast from the past, Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil takes us on a time journey, which presents the Too Big To Fail bank problem from a different perspective: that of the Cocaine Cowboy roaming the streets of Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just like today's big banks they were untouchable; just like today's banks they were collaborating and existing in perfect symbiosis with the Federal Reserve; just like today the Cocaine Cowboys existed in an untouchable vacuum courtesy of endless bribes to the local law enforcement and judicial officials, and just like today, the TBTF institution du jour isn't "merely an economic problem. It is a great moral failing of our society that poisons our democracy." Back then, Ronald Reagan stepped in just when Miami (whose real estate market had soared in 1979-1981 courtesy of rampant crime and money laundering: hint hint NAR anti money-laundering exemptions) was about to be overrun, forming a task force that in the nick of time restored law and order. Today we are not that lucky, as there is not a single politican willing to risk it all just to eradicate the modern version of a classic scourge: only this time they don't hand out 8 balls; they give away 0% introductory APR cards and 3 Year NINJA Adjustable Rate Mortgages. Both however get you hooked for life: either on drugs or on debt. Will someone step up this time and form a task force to eliminate the second coming of the Cocaine Cowboy? Sadly, we don't think so. At least not until the next great crash happens.
Criminal Inquiry Shifts To JPMorgan's Mispricing Of Hundreds Of Billions In CDS: Is Dimon The Next Diamond?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/16/2012 19:09 -0500
On the last day of May, when we first learned via Bloomberg that there was even the scantest likelihood that JPM may have been massaging its CDS marks within the (London-based of course) CIO organization - the backbone of hundreds of billions in notional exposure, and thus a huge counterfeited benefit to trader bonuses and corporate earnings - we wrote, "The Second Act Of The JPM CIO Fiasco Has Arrived - Mismarking Hundreds Of Billions In Credit Default Swaps" in which we explained precisely how this activity would and did take place, precisely why other traders caught doing the same are on the verge of being thrown in jail, precisely why everyone else does it, and precisely why the biggest CDS self-reporting and client/banker owned-organization (this is where images of Libor should appear), MarkIt, may well be implicated in everything - very much in the same way that the BBA is the heart of Lie-borgate. Because unlike all other allegations of impropriety, most of which rely on Level 2 and Level 3 assets whose valuations are in the eye of the oh so very sophisticated beholder (in this case JPM) who has complex DCFs and speaks confidently when explaining marks to naive, stupid outsiders (in other words baffles with bullshit), when it comes to one of the last places where Mark to Market is still applicable and used: the OTC CDS market, and where daily P&L records are kept, it will take any regulator, enforcer, or criminal investigator precisely 1 minute to find out if there was fraud, or gambling, going on here. Most importantly, it opened up the firm to a criminal investigation. Which as Reuters reports, is precisely what has now happened.
While JPM may or may not have succeeded in burying its deeply humiliating CIO fiasco at the expense of two things: i) a loss of up to 25% in recurring net income and ii) Jamie Dimon proudly throwing numerous of his key traders under the regulatory bus as scapegoats because it took the firm until July 12 to realize that its entire CDS book was criminally mismarked, thus confirming a "weakness in internal controls" (a statement not only we, but Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil vomits all over), the truth is that one way or another, Jamie Dimon will find a way to reposition his prop trading book somewhere else, even if it means far smaller and less obtrusive profits for the next several years. Yet there is a way to virtually make sure that Jamie Dimon is never allowed to trade as a hedge fund ever again, and in the process risk insolvency and yet another taxpayer bailout. Ironically, it is JPMorgan itself that tells everyone precisely what it is.
Either Dimon misled the public about the gravity of the festering trades during his company’s first-quarter earnings call last month. Or he didn’t know what was happening inside the bowels of his own company. History tells us the latter is the norm for Wall Street bosses, though it’s hard to say which is worse.
... but not from us: after all we are known for being biased, which in the mainstream media parlance means calling it like it is. No - instead we leave it to none other than Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil who does as good a job of being "biased" as we ever could: "Egan-Jones, which has been in business since 1992, could have continued operating as an independent publisher of ratings and analysis, not subject to government oversight or control. Instead it chose to play within the Big Three’s system, exposing itself to regulation and the whims of the SEC in exchange for the government’s imprimatur. Now it’s paying the price." And not only that: as the most recent example of Spain just shows, where Egan Jones downgraded Spain 9 days ago and was ignored, but well ahead of everyone else, only to be piggybacked by S&P, and the whole world flipping out, it has become clear: calling out reality, and the fools that populate it, is becoming not only a dangerous game, but increasingly more illegal. Then again - this is not the first time we have seen just this happen in broad daylight, with nobody daring to say anything about it. In fact, this phenomenon tends to be a rather traditional side-effect of every declining superpower. Such as the case is right now...
For every semi-positive data point the bulls have emphasized since the market rally began, there's a counter-point that makes us question what all the fuss is about. The bulls will cite expanding US GDP in late 2011, while the bears can cite US food stamp participation reaching an all-time record of 46,514,238 in December 2011, up 227,922 participantsfrom the month before, and up 6% year-over-year. The bulls can praise February's 15.7% year-over-year increase in US auto sales, while the bears can cite Europe's 9.7% year-over-year decrease in auto sales, led by a 20.2% slump in France. The bulls can exclaim somewhat firmer housing starts in February (as if the US needs more new houses), while the bears can cite the unexpected 100bp drop in the March consumer confidence index five consecutive months of manufacturing contraction in China, and more recently, a 0.9% drop in US February existing home sales. Give us a half-baked bullish indicator and we can provide at least two bearish indicators of equal or greater significance. It has become fairly evident over the past several months that most new jobs created in the US tend to be low-paying, while the jobs lost are generally higher-paying. This seems to be confirmed by the monthly US Treasury Tax Receipts, which are lower so far this year despite the seeming improvement in unemployment. Take February 2012, for example, where the Treasury reported $103.4 billion in tax receipts, versus $110.6 billion in February 2011. BLS had unemployment running at 9% in February 2011, versus 8.3% in February 2012. Barring some major tax break we've missed, the only way these numbers balance out is if the new jobs created produce less income to tax, because they're lower paying, OR, if the unemployment numbers are wrong. The bulls won't dwell on these details, but they cannot be ignored.
Few men have a resume quite like Jon Corzine. Not only has Corzine served in the U.S. Senate and been governor of New Jersey, he has also been the CEO of Goldman Sachs and the recently imploded brokerage firm MF Global. The insider blood filtrated through cronyism and the endless squandering of the public dime flows heavily through his veins. When MF Global went belly up back in the fall, Corzine was finally revealed for the inept, overly connected bureaucrat he really is. Corruption seemingly follows the former Senator, Governor, and banker like shadows on a sunny day. Earlier this week, New Jersey was declared the least corruptible state in the union much to the surprise of, well, everyone. But as the great Jonathan Weil pointed out, the methodology in the study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity was horribly flawed.