Ensuring a Recurrence
Like the maître d' at a $40,000-a-plate restaurant, Jon Corzine filled the room, made sure he got the right people at the right tables. And now he has the free lunch. No prison orange tuxedo for the man many say raided segregated customer funds to back a bad euro bond gamble. New rules must be implemented. New precautions. Move along now; nothing to see here. "Segregated" customer funds really didn't mean "segregated." (What made you think that it did?) Case closed.
This was predictable. No one was really held responsible for the misdeeds of mortgage and securities industries in '07 and '08. And soon Corzine will also be "old" news, like Paulson, Rubin, Fuld, Blankfein, Mozilo, Raines, Johnson, Cox, Frank, Dodd, et al.
The trail grows cold.
It is remarkable that there were few, if any, violations of security laws in the events leading to the 2008 financial debacle. Certainly what is missing is discovery of illegal behavior followed by some severe prosecution.
As noted in a wonderful blog on this website, the dearth of prosecutorial energy toward Wall Street has been remarkable. There have been some headline-grabbing cases. A few. The rogue hedge fund manager who did some insider trading. They even attempted to nail a sports franchise owner in Texas with a similar account. Made for headlines, that case flopped but served its purpose. It filled a front page or two, and displayed a modicum of regulatory diligence, though misdirected. Cases like these never truly addressed the misdeeds that sent our financial markets into the '07/'08 tailspin. The real Wall Streeters who arranged and facilitated the curious derivative machinations remain untouched. They may have had some uncomfortable moments before congressional panels, but to no effect or impact.
We were told of bundling of "bad paper" and security manipulations that resulted in Credit Default Swap and Collateralized Debt Obligation gyrations. We were told of the inherent dishonesty of some of the heralded investment banks that were rolling the dice for their aggrandizement to later hold out their hand for public remunerations. The close relationships of Reserve Bank heads and their former and future employers. Stories of "repurchase" agreements conducted just before bank audits to temporarily "brighten" the balances.
We even had an SEC official explain why the SEC employees are reluctant to investigate or prosecute. (Video.) In a nutshell, the SEC employees that are supposed to be on patrol are really looking for the big Wall Street job. To nail someone on the street where you wish to work lessens your chance of a job offer on that thoroughfare.
Enter the $40,000-a-plate dinners. A bipartisan culinary endeavor with legal tender the real cuisine. A nourishment of a different sort. One needs to possess only a bit of imagination to wonder: if enough rubber chicken is purchased at this price, will the magnifying glass be turned elsewhere, or even placed back in the mahogany case?
And as the proceeds are collected, those doing the collecting publicly display sympathies for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Blatant hypocrisy is in full bloom here. A bouquet.
After 2008, we were told we mustn't look back, but rather move forward. To this I say, to do so is to ensure a recurrence. There are plenty of investigators and lawyers, and lots of administrative horsepower to conduct these investigations. It would be money well spent if it prevented future problems.
To find the paper trail, to know who did what and when, to know where the Treasury and Federal Reserve assets were dispersed and by whom and to whom, is necessary diligence to prevent a recurrence. Ron Paul and others are correct in suggesting that the Federal Reserve be accountable and reviewable.
Our friend Joe Biden once said that "Jon Corzine is the smartest man in the room."
Joe, we don't doubt that in a room that holds two. But where does he register on the honesty scale in a room the size of the LA Coliseum? The MF Global customers have a strong opinion.
Apparently, money is the finest aegis. And overpriced dinners seem to be how the protective shields are procured and polished.
It has been said that "history may not repeat, but it often rhymes." We don't want to hear that tune from 2008 again. Yet the lack of diligence in discovering what happened and by whom seems to ensure a rhyming echo. What rhymes with Corzine?