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Congress: Telemarketing Central USA

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 15th, 2014 7:05 AM |

Do you get annoyed by telemarketing calls coming into your home at all hours? Imagine, instead of a pitchman for just another product you would never need, that the individual on the other end of the line is your US Congressman. Ridiculous? Think again.

Have we sunk so low that our elected officials now spend endless hours literally ‘dialing for dollars’? Indeed they do.

Represent.Us, a grassroots organization you will hear a lot more of in the coming years, highlights a brief 3-minute clip so we can watch and learn as Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and highly acclaimed political activist, spoke on just such a topic with Bill Moyers:

Larry Doyle

Please order a hard copy or Kindle version of my book, In Bed with Wall Street: The Conspiracy Crippling Our Global Economy.

For those reading this via a syndicated outlet or receiving it via e-mail or another delivery, please visit the blog to comment on this piece of ‘sense on cents.’

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The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

Congressional Insider Trading: Bait and Switch

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 11th, 2013 9:57 AM |

Are people aware that Congress had meaningfully changed the legislation outlawing insider trading atop Capitol Hill? This bait and switch occurred a few months back but received very little fanfare at the time.

It deserves not only attention but real exposure. With no transparency there will never be a meaningful return of trust but that virtue is in short supply in the crony style of capitalism played in our nation’s capital. But I guess we are told to very simply “move along, nothing to see here.”  I thank the regular reader who shared the following(more…)

Independent Investigation Required

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 21st, 2009 1:14 PM |

How does our economy and country move forward after having experienced rampant abuses throughout our financial industry? It is disheartening that we have not already seen an aggressive pursuit and prosecution of many involved in these financial improprieties. Bloomberg releases a story today indicating House Speaker Pelosi Wall Street Probe Modeled on Pecora After Wall Street Crash.

While a thorough investigation is critically important to improve the health and well being of our markets and economy, I would propose we employ an independent investigation. Why?

Our financial industry is intertwined with the regulatory and political oversight which is supposed to monitor it. If we employ a currently sitting legislative body to investigate Wall Street, can or will we receive a truly unbiased analysis? Do we recall Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae being questioned by members of Congress who had received significant campaign contributions from Fannie?  The “investigation” of Freddie and Fannie was certainly more theatre than true investigation. Will we get the same with Ms. Pelosi’s probe? Bloomberg offers:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to push for a comprehensive inquiry, saying that three-quarters of Americans want to know what led to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the collapse of Bear Stearns Cos. and Merrill Lynch & Co. She favors one patterned after Senate Banking Committee hearings led by Ferdinand Pecora starting in 1933, according to her spokesman, Nadeam Elshami.

The Pecora review “was probably the single most important congressional investigation in the history of our country, except perhaps the Watergate hearings,” Donald Ritchie, associate historian for the U.S. Senate, said in an interview. (more…)

That’s Where the Money Is

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 13th, 2009 6:47 AM |

On the heels of the fraud known as Enron, Congress passed legislation requiring CEOs to validate the integrity of their financial reporting. This legislation, Sarbanes-Oxley, and its effectiveness are still hotly contested. Is it universally accepted? Does it truly promote best practices within companies and across industries? Does it produce results? Well, the fact of the matter is that it is the law of the land. However, what good is a law if it isn’t applied? I can count on one hand, without need of my thumb, claims by law enforcement authorities of companies’ violating Sarbanes-Oxley.

Will Sarbanes-Oxley be dusted off and put to use now? The Financial Times reports that it will not be for lack of opportunity that Sarbanes-Oxley is not used. In regard to bank earnings, TARP investigator Neil Barofsky offers:

“I hope we don’t find a single bank that’s cooked their books to try to get money but I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” said Mr Barofsky, who has been dubbed the “Tarp cop”.

If this is in fact the case, what about some perp walks? Is white collar crime still an activity tolerated by the system? Who is providing the cover? Are the perpetrators in bed with the legislators? Don’t tell me that cooking the books is a victimless crime. Every taxpayer is being victimized in terms of lessened credit, higher taxes, a growing deficit, and outrageous fees. Victimless? I don’t think so. (more…)

Mum’s the Word

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 10th, 2009 12:40 PM |

shhhhThe movie Goodfellas provides a wealth of material for comparative analysis of the markets. The “insider activity,” the “fooling around,” “the payoffs,” and “the gambling” all make for great drama on the screen. Truth be told, one does not have to look all that hard to find striking similarities to certain activities in the world of Wall Street, and for that matter, Washington.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie occurs after the boys make the big heist. Immediately, the word is put out to keep your mouths shut and no indications of newfound wealth.

Back to reality. In terms of “putting the fix” into the world of our major money center banks, isn’t the relaxation of the mark-to- market the “newfound wealth”? Isn’t the “keep your mouths shut” the equivalent of the Treasury telling the banks not to comment on results of the Bank Stress Test? Speaking of the Bank Stress Tests, Bloomberg reports:

The U.S. Federal Reserve has told Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and other banks to keep mum on the results of “stress tests” that will gauge their ability to weather the recession, people familiar with the matter said.

The Fed wants to ensure that the report cards don’t leak during earnings conference calls scheduled for this month. Such a scenario might push stock prices lower for banks perceived as weak and interfere with the government’s plan to release the results in an orderly fashion later this month.

Clearly the Fed and Treasury are trying to keep their “boys” quiet and lay low while the real regulators of the market, that being honest investors, are walking the beat.

If any of the boys talk, then the leaders of the family won’t be able to coordinate the stories and hoodwink the public.

Whatever happened to, “as long as you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about having a bad memory”?

It seems we are operating much more in the realm of, “well, I can tell you but . . . ”

The Goodfellas: Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway, Paul Cicero, and Tommy DeVito

The Goodfellas: Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway, Paul Cicero, and Tommy DeVito

Henry . . . Jimmy . . . Paulie . . . Tommy . . .

Please let me know who in our government and world of finance are most appropriate to play each of these individuals? Let’s have some fun.

“Beholden to Failed Banksters”

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 9th, 2009 3:56 PM |

Any investor or manager with a degree of experience knows that the “first loss is the best loss.” What do I mean by that? Once the market detects a loss or a weakened position, the price for that asset will remain capped unless and until the asset is sold or liquidated. This price action occurs in every sector of every market.

Welcome to the world of global finance 2009. As banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, and other financial entities deal with losses, we see a lack of aggressive posture being taken on dealing with these losses. Why? Once moral hazard is violated with a single entity, every other entity will look to violate it as well.

Immediate losses are forestalled in hopes that they will be covered or disguised. However, every loss ultimately must be recognized. By whom  and how is the question.

At this juncture, more of the losses in our financial system are being directed toward the taxpayers. How? Via the wide array of government programs. What is the cost? A likely underperforming economy due to a lack of credit, and higher taxes to offset lower revenues.  (more…)

Big Brother

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 4th, 2009 8:45 PM |

Long term financial health and well being is predicated on fiscal discipline, core values, and strong management. These principles are necessary for major corporations and also individual family units. The market has a means of rewarding corporate units that practice these principles and punishing those that don’t. Enter into the world of finance 2009 when a number of financial units (Citi, AIG, Freddie, Fannie) are kept alive despite not practicing those principles.

Both shareholders and employees of these companies bear the risk of being connected to such institutions. It remains a challenge as to how to operate these institutions in the context of truly free and open markets. In light of these challenges, it is no surprise why other organizations would not want to have Uncle Sam as a partner.  (more…)

Putting Perfume on a Pig!!

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 2nd, 2009 9:45 AM |

***Bumped up from original publication time of 7:30AM. The FASB has now just voted its approval of the change in mark-to-market accounting.

It is speculated that the FASB (Federal Accounting Standards Board) will today relax its rule known as the mark-to-market. This rule requires firms under the FASB’s purview to mark their assets to changing market prices on an ongoing basis. The institutions subject to this rule have been lobbying FASB and Congress for a change because the markets for these assets have imploded and in certain cases totally dried up.

What does the FASB plan to do? The FASB is going to cave to the lobbying pressure and will allow institutions to use their own internal models based upon cash flow analysis to price these assets. This change in the mark-to-market will not only allow institutions the flexibility to not mark down certain assets, but simultaneously mark up other assets.

The media only presents the impacted assets as “hard to value” or the dreaded “mortgage-backed securities” or “securitized assets”.  In fact, many of these assets are very simple and plain vanilla. Let’s enter the world of the Federal Home Loan Banks.

The FHLB system consists of 12 regional banks and it provides liquidity (capital) for its respective members to operate. The FHLB system invests its own capital, primarily in plain vanilla conventional mortgages (Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae) and Jumbo ARMS (adjustable rate mortgages) and fixed-rate pass-thrus. Certain banks within the FHLB system may have moved slightly off the plain vanilla path to purchase a small percentage of sub-prime assets, but that was much more the exception than the norm.  (more…)

Mr. Geithner, “I Want Some More”

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 30th, 2009 5:15 AM |

Poor Oliver Twist faced the wrath of the workhouse master when he asked for more soup. Why is it that certain banks do not face similar wrath when they go back to Uncle Sam for more “bread” with the soup?

They want more??!!

I have commented extensively on the banks’ need for more capital. Bernanke and Geithner now share that the banking industry has significant embedded losses which need more capital: Geithner Says Some Banks to Need ‘Large Amounts’ of Assistance.

Over and above this fact, it is now widely speculated that significant revenues at certain banks (Citi and BofA) were generated in the last few months via unwinding exposure to AIG. In short, AIG entered into massive transactions with these banks to eliminate further exposure on pre-existing trades. In the process, AIG (taxpayers) incurred larger losses while these banks generated large profits. Why would AIG do this? It’s part of a “going out of business sale” and executed with a “volume discount.”

As an investor, though, am I supposed to think that bank revenues are improving because of positive trends in the economy? No way.

Risks remain extraordinarily high. To that end, I STRONGLY encourage people to listen to the audio recording or the podcast of my interview with Michael Panzner from last evening. Michael has had the economy and the market called for the last few years. His books are comprehensive in laying out a sobering reality and potentially a daunting future.


Goldman Sachs Tells Uncle Sam Go Away!!

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 25th, 2009 9:46 AM |

Like it or not, Goldman Sachs is widely considered to be the preeminent risk manager in the world. I would never blanketly endorse Goldman Sachs nor every one of their transactions or employees. Anything but. I am sure Goldman, like every institution in every industry, has some bad apples who will and have made some bad, if not outright illegal, moves. If so, the proper regulatory authorities should address, investigate, and if need be prosecute. I am here to write on a different topic. Goldman Sachs does not want Uncle Sam as a business partner. Whether Goldman wanted government money last Fall via the TARP (Troubled Asset Recovery Program) or not, the firm very clearly wants to return those funds soon.

Goldman Sachs is currently working with government officials to return $10 billion in TARP funds by late April. The firm will look to make this return after the U.S. Treasury completes its first round of bank stress tests. Other smaller banking institutions are looking to do the same. (more…)

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