Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Banks Were Always Banking on Clinton

More and more it seems likely that the Democratic Party candidate for the presidency is Hilarity Clinton. Nor should we be surprised since she was always the front-runner with the whole Democratic Party machine behind her. But there were also other supporters leading the charge to make Clinton the nominee.

In a country which imprisons more of its people than virtually any other nation on Earth a single Wall Street executive was prosecuted and jailed. In 2008 the bubble burst.  Property values collapsed, followed by the American economy.  $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth disappeared.  Nine million workers lost their jobs.  Five million families were evicted from their homes. Many New York banks faced insolvency, their portfolios bloated with nearly worthless mortgage-based derivatives—so-called “troubled assets.” Beyond question the New York banks were guilty of massive criminal behavior, but Attorney General Holder dusted off the directive he’d written eight years previously in the Clinton Administration.  The Holder Doctrine directed the Department of Justice to consider “collateral consequences” in its prosecutions.  If such consequences were sufficient, criminal indictments were to be rejected in favor of other remedies. Holder’s Department chose, therefore, to negotiate with each bank a financial penalty to be assessed in lieu of criminal proceedings.  The agreements required no admission of guilt, they guaranteed no further prosecution, and the documentation of illegal behavior was permanently sealed. The penalties were paid with corporate funds.  Goldman Sachs’ penalty was $550 million: it could recover that much in about three weeks of trading.  No corporate executives were jailed, no damning personal records of felonious behavior were established, no personal fines levied, no salaries reduced, no bonuses denied.

Clinton has often in the past praised Wall Street for its role in creating the nation’s wealth and assured the banks they were not the main reason for economic instability, “not by a long shot,” she said but that it was homeowners who “should have known they were getting in over their heads.” Clinton places the blame for the recession upon the victims of Wall Street who were  targeted specifically by large, profit-seeking financial institutions because they were low-income immigrants and people of color lacking financial literacy. Clinton applauds Wall Street for creating wealth for Wall Street because none of it trickled down to ordinary Americans. When running for president in 2007, Clinton did make a few campaign speeches attacking the tax breaks loop-hole for hedge-fund and private-equity executives. However as senator, not only did Clinton hold no leadership position in the movement to close this loophole, she did not even sign her name onto the legislation that would. Contrary to her rhetoric today, she was not a torchbearer in the fight against de-regulation and the recklessness on Wall Street. The Politico website reports she was a passive by-stander. The Boston Globe wrote, “Hillary Clinton was hands-off on Wall Street,” and Samuel Baptista, a lobbyist for Morgan Stanley while Clinton was in the Senate, says, “She just didn’t have a lot of interest.” As former Democratic Representative Brad Miller explains, “What Wall Street wanted then was for everyone to look the other way. And to a large extent, we did.”

Clinton argues that the omission of a promise to “break up the banks” in her Wall Street plan is not a weakness, since she will bust them up “if they pose systemic risks, and I’ve said that I would do that if that became the case.” The big banks are now even larger than they were in 2007-08. As Forbes website explains, “Financial reform didn’t work. Banks today are bigger and more opaque than ever, and they continue to trade in derivatives in many of the same ways they did before the crash, but on a larger scale and with precisely the same unknown risks. The Financial Stability Board’s 2015 report lists eight U.S. banking behemoths that are considered to be too big to fail, which means they pose, as Market Watch reports, “a threat to the global economy and financial stability if they were to collapse.” If Clinton believes that the large financial institutions are not already “systemic risks” then that is cause for concern about her judgement. The Guardian reports, “…Even the most favorably inclined observer would have to acknowledge that Dodd-Frank hasn’t done a terribly impressive job.” The former Bank of England governor says in his new book that imbalances in the global economy makes a crash inevitable. Mervyn King, who headed the bank between 2003 and 2013, believes the world economy will soon face another crash as regulators have failed to reform banking. He said without understanding what caused the crash, politicians and bankers would be unable to prevent another, and lays the blame at the door of a broken financial system. “The crisis was a failure of a system, and the ideas that underpinned it, not of individual policymakers or bankers, incompetent and greedy though some of them undoubtedly were.” Clinton is advocating for minor reform of the system. Wall Street executives themselves are not worried. Guggenheim Partners’ Jaret Sieberg recently wrote in a note to clients that, “We continue to believe Clinton would be one of the better candidates for financial firms.”

A few weeks after her swearing in, Secretary of State Clinton was called to Switzerland by the Swiss Foreign Minister.  They discussed a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service against UBS, the Swiss banking international colossus (761 locations in the U.S.). Back in Washington Secretary Clinton interceded.  The impact of the suit was reduced by 90%. In subsequent years UBS paid Bill Clinton $1.5 million in speaking fees, for eleven separate appearances.  Hillary Clinton earned $225,000 for another one.  Also in subsequent years UBS contributed $540,000 to the Clinton Foundation. She has earned $2.9 million in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Ameriprise, Apollo Management Holdings, CIBC, Fidelity Investments, Golden Tree Asset Management, and UBS. Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy on April 12, 2015.  By September 30, Wall Street banks had contributed to her campaign a total of $6.42 million. The Clintons benefited immensely from Wall Street’s political contributions: $11.17 million for Bill’s 1992 campaign; $28.37 million for his 1996 re-election; $2.13 million for Hillary’s 2000 run for the Senate; $6.02 million for her 2006 re-election; and $14.61 million for her first presidential campaign.  And they’ve been paid $8.85 million by the financial industry in speaking fees. Hillary will nurture that beast because she owes everything in her life to it,

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