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“The Vampire Squid Strikes Again”- Matt Taibbi Takes On Blythe Masters And The Banker Commodity Cartel | Zero Hedge

“The Vampire Squid Strikes Again”- Matt Taibbi Takes On Blythe Masters And The Banker Commodity Cartel | Zero Hedge.

The story of how JPMorgan, Goldman and the rest of the Too Big To Fails and Prosecutes, cornered, monopolized and became a full-blown cartel – with the Fed’s explicit blessing – in the physical commodity market is nothing new to regular readers: to those new to this story, we suggest reading of our story from June 2011 (over two and a half years ago),  “Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel As They Slowly Recreate De Beers’ Diamond Monopoly.” That, or Matt Taibbi’s latest article written in his usual florid and accessible style, in which he explains how the “Vampire Squid strikes again” courtesy of the “loophole that destroyed the world” to wit: “it would take half a generation – till now, basically – to understand the most explosive part of the bill, which additionally legalized new forms of monopoly, allowing banks to merge with heavy industry. A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is “complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally.” Complementary to a financial activity. What the hell did that mean?… Fifteen years later, in fact, it now looks like Wall Street and its lawyers took the term to be a synonym for ruthless campaigns of world domination.

Some key excerpts:

Today, banks like Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs own oil tankers, run airports and control huge quantities of coal, natural gas, heating oil, electric power and precious metals. They likewise can now be found exerting direct control over the supply of a whole galaxy of raw materials crucial to world industry and to society in general, including everything from food products to metals like zinc, copper, tin, nickel and, most infamously thanks to a recent high-profile scandal, aluminum. And they’re doing it not just here but abroad as well: In Denmark, thousands took to the streets in protest in recent weeks, vampire-squid banners in hand, when news came out that Goldman Sachs was about to buy a 19 percent stake in Dong Energy, a national electric provider. The furor inspired mass resignations of ministers from the government’s ruling coalition, as the Danish public wondered how an American investment bank could possibly hold so much influence over the state energy grid.

The motive for the Kochs, or anyone else, to hoard a commodity like oil can be almost beautiful in its simplicity. Basically, a bank or a trading company wants to buy commodities cheap in the present and sell them for a premium as futures. This trade, sometimes called “arbitraging the contango,” works best if the cost of storing your oil or metals or whatever you’re dealing with is negligible – you make more money off the futures trade if you don’t have to pay rent while you wait to deliver.

 

So when financial firms suddenly start buying oil tankers or warehouses, they could be doing so to make bets pay off, as part of a speculative strategy – which is why the banks’ sudden acquisitions of metals-storage companies in 2010 is so noteworthy.

 

These were not minor projects. The firms put high-ranking executives in charge of these operations. Goldman’s acquisition of Metro was the project of Isabelle Ealet, the bank’s then-global commodities chief. (In a curious coincidence commented upon by several sources for this story, many of Goldman’s most senior officials, including CEO Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn, started their careers in Goldman’s commodities division.)

Then there are the political connections:

In 2010, a decade after the Rich pardon, Holder was attorney general, but under Barack Obama, and two Rich-created firms, along with two banks that have been major donors to the Democratic Party, all made moves to buy up metals warehouses. In near simultaneous fashion, Goldman, Chase, Glencore and Trafigura bought companies that control warehouses all over the world for the LME, or London Metals Exchange. The LME is a privately owned exchange for world metals trading. It’s the world’s primary hub for determining metals prices and also for trading metals-based futures, options, swaps and other instruments.

 

“If they were just interested in collecting rent for metals storage, they’d have bought all kinds of warehouses,” says Manal Mehta, the founder of Sunesis Capital, a hedge fund that has done extensive research on the banks’ forays into the commodities markets. “But they seemed to focus on these official LME facilities.”

 

The JPMorgan deal seemed to be in direct violation of an order sent to the bank by the Fed in 2005, which declared the bank was not authorized to “own, operate, or invest in facilities for the extraction, transportation, storage, or distribution of commodities.” The way the Fed later explained this to the Senate was that the purchase of Henry Bath was OK because it considered the acquisition of this commodities company kosher within the context of a larger sale that the Fed was cool with – “If the bulk of the acquisition is a permissible activity, they’re allowed to include a small amount of impermissible activities.”

 

What’s more, according to LME regulations, no warehouse company can also own metal or make trades on the exchange. While they may have been following the letter of the law, they were certainly violating the spirit: Goldman preposterously seems to have engaged in all three activities simultaneously, changing a hat every time it wanted to switch roles. It conducted its metal trades through its commodities subsidiary J. Aron, and then put Metro, its warehouse company, in charge of the storage, and according to industry experts, Goldman most likely owned some metal, though the company has remained vague on the subject.

 

If you’re wondering why the LME would permit a seemingly blatant violation of its own rules, a good place to start would be to look at who owned the LME at the time. Although it eventual­ly sold itself to a Hong Kong company in 2012, in 2010 the LME was owned by a consortium of banks and financial companies. The two largest shareholders? Goldman and JPMorgan Chase.

 

Humorously, another was Koch Metals (2.32 percent), a commodities concern that’s part of the Koch brothers’ empire. The Kochs have been caught up in their own commodity-manipulation schemes, including an episode in 2008, in which they rented out huge tankers and sed them to store excess oil offshore essentially as floating warehouses, taking cheap oil out of available supply and thereby helping to drive up energy prices. Additionally, some banks have been accused of similar oil-hoarding schemes.

And then there is of course Blythe, who is now looking for a new job precisely as a result of the cartel story:

Chase’s own head of commodities operations, Blythe Masters – an even more famed Wall Street figure, sometimes described as the inventor of the credit default swap – admitted that her company’s warehouse interests weren’t just a casual thing. “Just being able to trade financial commodities is a serious limitation because financial commodities represent only a tiny fraction of the reality of the real commodity exposure picture,” she said in 2010.

 

Loosely translated, Masters was saying that there was a limited amount of money to be made simply trading commodities in the traditional legal manner. The solution? “We need to be active in the underlying physical commodity markets,” she said, “in order to understand and make prices.”

 

We need to make prices. The head of Chase’s commodities division actually said this, out loud, and it speaks to both the general unlikelihood of God’s existence and the consistently low level of competence of America’s regulators that she was not immediately zapped between the eyebrows with a thunderbolt upon doing so. Instead, the government sat by and watched as a curious phenomenon developed at all of these new bank-owned warehouses, in the aluminum markets in particular.

Finally, the big picture:

[T]he potential for wide-scale manipulation and/or new financial disasters is only part of the nightmare that this new merger of banking and industry has created. The other, perhaps even darker problem involves the new existential dangers both to the environment and to the stability of the financial system. Long before Goldman and Chase started buying up metals warehouses, for instance, Morgan Stanley had already bought up a substantial empire of physical businesses – electricity plants in a number of states, a firm that trades in heating oil, jet fuels, fertilizers, asphalt, chemicals, pipelines and a global operator of oil tankers.

 

How long before one of these fully loaded monster ships capsizes, and Morgan Stanley becomes the next BP, not only killing a gazillion birds and sea mammals off some unlucky country’s shores but also taking the financial system down with them, as lawsuits plunge the company into bankruptcy with Lehman-style repercussions? Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, even admitted how risky his firm’s new acquisitions were last year, when he reportedly told staff that a hypothetical oil spill was “a risk we just can’t take.”

 

The regulators are almost worse. Remember the 2008 collapse happened when government bodies like the Fed, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision – whose entire expertise supposedly revolves around monitoring the safety and soundness of financial companies – somehow missed that half of Wall Street was functionally bankrupt.

 

Now that many of those financial companies have been bailed out, those same regulators who couldn’t or wouldn’t smell smoke in a raging fire last time around are suddenly in charge of deciding if companies like Morgan Stanley are taking out enough insurance on their oil tankers, or if banks like Goldman Sachs are properly handling their uranium deposits.

 

“The Fed isn’t the most enthusiastic regulator in the best of times,” says Brown. “And now we’re asking them to take this on?”

Read the full story here (Rolling Stone link), or alternatively for those curious, here is a presentation highlighting all the key aspects of the aluminum price manipulation story by the big banks.

The Smog of Fraud | KUNSTLER

The Smog of Fraud | KUNSTLER.

Team Obama pulled a cute one last week nominating Blythe Masters, JP Morgan’s commodity chief, to an advisory committee of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) which supposedly regulates activities on the paper trades in corn, pork bellies, cocoa, coffee, wheat, corn — oh, and gold, too, by the way, in which JP Morgan has been suspected of massive gold (and silver) market manipulations and other misconduct lately. That would include the 2011 MF Global Fiasco in which nearly a billion dollars from “segregated” customer accounts somehow ended up parked over at JP Morgan as a result of bad derivative bets on tanking Eurozone bonds. MF Global, primarily a commodities trading brokerage, was liquidated in 2011. The CFTC never issued referrals for prosecution to the Department of Justice in the matter and, of course, MF Global’s notorious CEO, Jon Corzine remains at large, enjoying caramel flan lattes in the Hamptons to this day. Such are the Teflon transactions of the Obama years: nothing sticks.

There was such a Twitter storm over Blythe Masters that she withdrew from consideration for the committee before the day was out.

JP Morgan is one of the specially privileged “primary dealer” banks said to be systemically indispensible to world finance. Supposedly, if one of them is allowed to flop, the whole global matrix of global debt obligations — and, hence, global money — would dissolve in a misty cloud of broken promises. They are primary dealers to their shadow partner, the Federal Reserve, and their main job in that relationship is buying treasury bonds, bills, and notes from the US government and then “selling” them to the Fed (earning commissions on the sales, of course). The Fed, in turn, “lends” billions of dollars at zero interest back to the primary dealers who then park the “borrowed” money in accounts at the Fed at a higher interest rate. This is, of course, money for nothing, and even small interest rate differentials add up to tidy profits when the volumes on deposit are so massive.

This “carry trade” was started because the primary dealer banks were functionally insolvent after 2008 and needed to build “reserves” up to some level that would putatively render them sound. But that was a sketchy concept anyway since accounting standards had been officially abandoned in 2009 when the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) declared that banks could report the stuff on their books at any value they felt like. In short, the soundness of the biggest banks in the USA could no longer be determined, period. They were beyond accounting as they were beyond the law. At the same time, the banks began the operations of shifting all the janky debt paper, mostly mortgages and derivative instruments (i.e. made-up shit like “CDOs squared”), value unknown, from their vaults to the a vaults of the Federal Reserve, where it resides to this day, rotting away like so much forgotten ground round in the sub-basement of an abandoned warehouse of a bankrupt burger chain.

All of these nearly incomprehensible shenanigans have been going on because debt all over the world can’t be repaid. The world’s economy, as constructed emergently over the decades, can’t function without repayable debt, which is the essence of “credit” — the fundamental trust implicit in banking. You have “credit” because other persons or parties believe in your ability to repay. After a while, this becomes a mere convention in millions of transactions. What’s happened is that the conventions remain in place but the trust is gone. It’s gone in particular among the parties deemed too big to fail.

Everybody knows this now and everybody is trying desperately to work around it, led by the Federal Reserve. Trust is gone and credit is going and debt is sitting between a rock and a hard place with its grubby hands pressed together, praying that it will be forgiven, forgotten, or overlooked a little while longer. By the way, the reason trust and credit are gone is because oil is no longer cheap and world economies can’t grow anymore. They can’t afford to run the day-to-day operations of a techno-industrial society. They can only pretend to afford it. The stock markets are mere scorecards for players who can only lie and cheat now to keep the game going. Somewhere beyond all the legerdemain and fraud, however, there remains a real world that is not going away. We just don’t know what it will look like when the smog of fraud clears.

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): The Promise of the Joker and the Fool

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): The Promise of the Joker and the Fool.

Blogs like this one are a total fucking waste of time. We are a handful of hardcore realists reading each others’ blogs and reinforcing what we already know. All while the stoned masses sit at home fat and happy watching the Kardashians, hypnotized by Dow Casino ticking higher with every passing day. After 2008, the comfort-seekers at large curled up into the fetal position and have remained that way ever since. Regardless, how can we possibly warn the oblivious masses about today’s economic risks when it’s all doomed to collapse under the weight of its own moral depravity? Basic logic dictates that the majority can’t all get out of a house of cards intact. The Idiocracy at large is totally bought in and sold out to the promise of the jokers and fools who run this globalized catastrophe, you know, the same ones who collapsed it the last time…

There is nothing any bearish blogger can do to bring about the collapse of this fabrication that global thought dealers are not already doing. They collapsed world markets in 2008 and they are fully capable of doing it again all on their own. These people went to the top schools in the U.S., the UK, Canada – across the world. They know what they are doing. They generated the 2008 clusterfuck, profited from it, and now are guiding us straight ahead to the next catastrophe. Who was at the helm of the Federal Reserve in 2006, 2007 and 2008?  Bernankenstein of course. And who until this very month has steadfastly been Wall Street’s largest leveraged banker? Bernankenstein. He saved us from a catastrophe that he himself subsidized. Soon he will hand over the reins to Janet Yellen, who has degrees from Yale and Brown, two more Ivy Leagues. Surely she can finish the job and pile drive this fucker straight into the ground. Yellen admits that she didn’t see the 2008 financial crisis coming – apparently giving subprime loans to illegal immigrants and watching Goldman invent the self-imploding CDO didn’t raise any alarm bells with her. So she is definitely the right person to finish the job. Speaking of which, the self-imploding CDO that took out AIG and Lehman was invented at Goldman Sachs under current chairman Loyd Blankfein (see: Ayn Rand Gone Wild), who was Harvard roommate to the Bennie Bernank. Fortunately Goldman was bailed out by that other Harvard/Goldman alum Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary (and Bernanke). The Credit Default Swap (CDS) was invented by JP Morgan/Cambridge superstar Blythe Masters who was just let go from JPM for her alleged role in an energy market manipulation scheme a la Enron. The CDS may well be the ultimate financial weapon of mass destruction (WMD) – still out there working its magic. Meanwhile, Central Bankster Mark Carney, another Harvard/Goldman Sachs alum, just finished inflating Canada’s massive real estate bubble and has now moved to the UK to help top off their real estate bubble. And if only Larry Summers, Dean of Harvard, had been picked as Fed chairman, surely this clusterfuck would already have collapsed by now. It was Summers who suggested just last year that the secret to improving a nation’s credit rating was to borrow more not less. Genius ! Summers also of course was a key proponent of repealing Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law meant to preclude another financial crisis. The other key proponent behind Glass-Steagall repeal was Robert Rubin (Goldman/Citigroup/Yale/Harvard). Obama/Bush, two more Harvard frat boys gleefully sowing the seeds of anarchy. This is all well in hand. Clearly, we need to sit back and wait. There is nothing we can do to end this shit show that the dumbfucks from Harvard and other Ivy League schools are not doing on their own. No offense, but I highly doubt if anyone reading this blog could collapse the world financial system – I doubt if I could. So the longer we doom forecasters warn of risks and otherwise prescribe caution, the longer this circus will continue. Think about it. Harvard dunces will end this globalized catastrophe once and for all. We just need to be a bit more patient and give them time to work.

Bernanke fixed Wall Street by giving them $3 trillion to play with…

Fed balance sheet (blue line) with Dow Casino. Fast, slow, fast. Sounds familiar…


Apparently we’re still waiting for the melt-up to occur. Sure, whatever…


Nasdaq 100 – 70% retracement
Speaking of melt-ups…


And Priceline (Nasdaq in background)
Top performing S&P stock – Up 2200% in five years
Are we in a bubble? I can’t tell. Although the last time this stock went parabolic I lost a shit ton of money shortly thereafter that’s all I know. It’s a good thing I’m not bitter, especially towards Central Banksters and their continued market manipulations…


IPO Casino
Twitter (below) priced at $26 and recently traded at $75 for a 200% gain in 6 weeks. Its price to sales ratio is a ludicrous 75. Apple’s price/sales ratio is 3. Twitter’s profit margin is -25% so it sells dollar bills for 75 cents and yet its market cap is greater than that of 80% of S&P companies. It’s the most overvalued piece of shit on the entire planet. 

Meanwhile, per IBD on Friday, “Investor’s Intelligence (sentiment) bulls v.s. bears ratio is in the silly zone” That’s because there are no bears left except for a handful of bloggers engaged in a mutual admiration circle jerk…


Ode to Ponzi Capitalism and Securitization
In a big FU to customers, BusinessWeek informs us last week that companies with the poorest customer service have outperformed in the stock market. There is actually negative correlation between customer satisfaction and stock performance. Time Warner Cable is the reference company (appearing on the list multiple times); however, Facebook is at the very bottom of the ratings. 

Fadebook: Shitty service and abuse of customer data privacy
The strategy is working – Booyah Skidaddy !

 

U.S. May Charge JPMorgan For Power Market Manipulation: Analysts

U.S. May Charge JPMorgan For Power Market Manipulation: Analysts.

 

At $72.8 Trillion, Presenting The Bank With The Biggest Derivative Exposure In The World (Hint: Not JPMorgan) | Zero Hedge

At $72.8 Trillion, Presenting The Bank With The Biggest Derivative Exposure In The World (Hint: Not JPMorgan) | Zero Hedge.

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