If someone is just finding out last week that Wall Street is profiting from the crisis it created, then I have only one question for them – "what rock have you been living under for the last two years?"
I’ve been shining a bright light on this since I first joined NewGeography.com to cover finance. From one of my first articles in November 2008, where I explained the nuances of financial innovations – “Who stands to gain? … Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley …. You can do the math from there.” – to recent blogs on the impact of stimulus and bailout spending – “Goldman Sachs … even got transaction fees for managing the Treasury programs that funded the bailouts.” – I hope that it has been more obvious than painful that you have to take personal responsibility for your finances because you can’t rely on Wall Street to do it for you.
Last week, the SEC charged Goldman Sachs with civil fraud. On Friday, a group of investors filed a lawsuit against Goldman’s executives for behaving in an “unlawful” manner and for “breaches of fiduciary duties” – meaning they were reckless with other people’s money. Goldman is also being sued by the Public Employee’s Retirement System of Mississippi for lying about the real value of $2.6 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS). I remind you that there’s a good chance that Goldman (and other Wall Street banks) were and are selling MBS that don’t have mortgages behind them – as I like to put it, there’s no “M” in their “BS”.
In a nauseating twist to the story, AIG (according to sources for the Business Week article) insures Goldman’s board again investor lawsuits – so AIG may be paying the costs of defending Goldman’s executives in addition to any fines or settlements on the cases. AIG is still on bailout life support from US taxpayers. In December 2009, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York took $25 billion worth of AIG preferred stock as partial payback for the $182.3 billion bailout.
Even less shocking to readers of NewGeography.com should be the story that the SEC lawyers were busy surfing the internet for pornography when they should have been preventing this stuff from happening in the first place. I wrote an article last February about bailed-out Wall Street bankers spending taxpayer money on prostitutes. Those SEC staffers will need to be up to date on all things unholy when they head for the door that leads them to more lucrative jobs on Wall Street.
Like the arsonist who gets the insurance payoff after burning down his own house, the Wall Street bankers profited from transaction fees in creating the crisis, profited from the bailout payoffs funded by the U.S. taxpayers and they continue to profit from their credit derivatives as the whatever was left standing begins to collapse around us. Like most Americans, I think I’d get some sense of satisfaction from seeing someone in handcuffs over what has been done to the value of our savings and the global reputation of our capitalist system.