Tag Archives: Lloyd Blankfein

Gregory Mannarino ~ Massive Sell-Off Coming Buy Gold [Audio]

USAWatchdog  February 24 2014

Trader and financial analyst Gregory Mannarino was bullish on the stock market a few weeks ago, but he’s now done a 180.  Why the reversal?  Mannarino says, “What the Fed was doing was driving cash from the emerging markets into the U.S. equity market and driving cash into the U.S. bond market, and it worked . . . This is played out now . . . and I told everyone that this would not last. . . . We are right now on the precipice of a correction phase, and it could be severe. . . . The market is moving further and further away from the fundamentals that support it.  This cannot go on.  We’ve already had no less than six bad rounds of economic news over the past two weeks.  This is going to impact, and I think it could be profound. 

You think Mannarino is way out on a limb?  Think again.  Billionaire investor George Soros is doing the same thing as Mannarino.  Mannarino says, “We are doing the same thing.  Apparently, he has added to his short position on the S&P 500 for the third time now.  I believe he’s holding a $1.3 billion short against the S&P 500.  It’s not just George Soros that is short this market right now.  You’ve got Goldman Sachs who is short this market.  You’ve got JPMorgan who is short the market. . . . You do not need to be Lloyd Blankfein to see what the charts are trying to tell us.  Again, you have a market that is moving away from the fundamentals that support it; and JPMorgan, George Soros and Goldman Sachs are seeing something big on the horizon. . . . We could be weeks away from a major market event, massive sell-off here.” 

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Matt Taibbi ~ Ex-Morgan Stanley Chief Jams Foot In Mouth, Complains Of CEO Abuse

RollingStone  February 13 2014

John Mack, former chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley ~ Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John Mack, former chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley ~ Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on in the Wall Street sphere of late – I’m trying to find some time to do a proper write-up of the extraordinary lawsuit just filed by the Better Markets advocacy group against Eric Holder’s Justice Department, seeking to invalidate the $13 billion JP Morgan Chase settlement – but one particular thing happened this week that just can’t go by without comment.

John Mack, the former CEO of Morgan Stanley and one of the more irritatingly unrepentant dickheads of the crisis era, gave an incredible interview to Bloomberg TVIn a discussion about executive pay, Mack said we’re all being too rough on his fellow too-big-to-fail bank CEOs.

He would love, he said, “to see people stop beating up on Lloyd and Jamie,” endearingly referring to Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein and Chase chief Jamie Dimon by their first names (Mack must be in a bowling league with both men). He added: “I think that would make a lot of sense, and I’m in favor of that.”

Mack went on to say that the debate over compensation was healthy, just not always warranted. “As long as shareholders reward performance,” he said, “we can argue.” But, he added, “The last time I checked, this business is still a business that pays people extremely well.”

It’s already funny that of all the injustices in the world, this was the one Mack decided to worry about on TV: the criticism of poor Jamie Dimon’s 74 percent raise. But more to the point: If we really did live in a world where shareholders rewarded performance, would a CEO who just oversaw a record $20 billion in regulatory penalties even have a job, much less be getting a raise?

Mack had stones enough to be whining about people “beating up” on Jamie Dimon, given the year Chase just had. But to do so and simultaneously scold us that high compensation on Wall Street is just “shareholders rewarding performance,” that’s either Nobel-caliber chutzpah or laboratory-pure stupidity.

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Matt Taibbi ~ AIG CEO Robert Benmosche Compares Bonus Criticism To Lynch Mobs

RollingStone  September 23 2013

Robert Benmosche, CEO of AIG

AIG has a lengthy history of producing some of the biggest tools on Wall Street. Former CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was considered one of the world’s preeminent unapologetic narcissists even before he sued the government for providing an insufficiently generous bailout. Joe Cassano, former chief of AIG’s financial products division, was another: first he arrogantly blew off the accountants who warned him his portfolio of hundreds of billions in uncollateralized bets might destroy the world, then told clients pre-crash his portfolio wouldn’t lose a dollar, and then after it all went kablooey, tiptoed back to D.C. (after first being assured of not being prosecuted, mind you) from his lavish four-story townhouse in London just long enough to tell the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that he had absolutely nothing to be sorry about and they could bite him and his hundreds of millions in earnings if they disagreed.

Now a third AIG executive enters the pantheon of tone-deaf AIG bigwigs: CEO Robert Benmosche, who just told the Wall Street Journal that the post-crash public outcry over the use of bailout money to pay bonuses to executives in Cassano’s Financial Products unit was comparable to – get this – lynchings in the deep south. From reporter Leslie Scism’s interview:

The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that – sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”

For sheer “Let them eat cake”-ness, this ranks right up there with Lloyd Blankfein’s “I’m doing God’s work” riff and Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charlie Munger’s line about how it was proper to bail out Wall Street, but people in foreclosure should “suck it in and cope.” A few notes:

First of all, any white guy anywhere, rich or poor, who steps out in public wearing the mantle of 400 years of black suffering instantly shoots to the very top of the world asshole pyramid. Most white people grasp this instinctively. If they don’t already teach it in kindergarten to make sure the rest get it, they ought to.

But when you’re a white guy who just presided over a year of declining across-the-board sales but got a 24% pay raise anyway, to $13 million a year, largely because your company is invested in a market that’s overheating due to massive Fed intervention, and you’re so grateful for your cosmic good fortune that you immediately go out and publicly nail yourself to the cross of black victimhood – and not while stone drunk and with buddies at a bar, mind you, but sober and sitting in front of a Wall Street Journal reporter – that’s like a whole new category of asshole. Try to compute just exactly how obnoxious that is – you’ll be doing it until the end of time, like someone trying to figure pi.

Benmosche’s nooses-and-pitchforks fantasies have their origins in stories about some AIGFP executives who were made to feel uncomfortable by angry crowds on their way home from work, and one about a teacher somewhere in the Midwest who ridiculed in her third-grade class a child whose father worked at the firm. That last bit of course would be very wrong if it did happen, and it may very well have.

Still, comparing being leered at on a train for continuing to collect a huge undeserved bonus from the taxpayer to being taken from your wife and family and hung from a tree for no reason at all is preposterous on at least a hundred different levels. Worse still, Benmosche doubled down on his crazy by explaining that part of the “lynching” was in trying to cheat innocent AIGFP employees out of money they may naturally have needed to keep living beyond their means:

Now you have these bright young people [in the financial-products unit] who had nothing to do with [the bad bets that hurt the company.]. . . They understand the derivatives very well; they understand the complexity. . . They’re all scared. They [had made] good livings. They probably lived beyond their means. . . They aren’t going to stay there for nothing.

It’s a minor detour in the story, but this whole notion of angry meanie taxpayers ignorantly trying to rob the poor AIGFP employees out of their hard-earned bonuses was always a fiction.

The vast majority of those FP workers would normally have been counting on performance bonuses, but since AIGFP not only didn’t perform that year, but created a historically bottomless suckhole of losses that nearly destroyed the universe, there were, alas, no performance bonuses to be had.

So management cooked up a bunch of “retention bonuses” for many of the unit’s employees. This always seemed like a scam, a way of yanking a little last value out of a company most thought was headed for collapse. Moreover, the notion that the taxpayer needed to pay millions in “retention bonuses” to prevent other financial firms from poaching employees of the biggest financial disaster/PR-cancer firm since Enron or Union Carbide – and this at a time when mass layoffs on Wall Street had flooded the labor market with thousands of other highly-qualified financial professionals who would have taken huge pay cuts just to keep working – was always absurd.

Then Benmosche dropped one last bomb:

We’re trying to find the villains [for the financial crisis]. There’s got to be a villain somewhere. The problem is that there isn’t a villain. There are villains. And they are everybody. They are the speculators in real estate. The people who flipped houses. People who lied and cheated [on mortgage applications]. Nobody did the income appraisals. … I include myself in there. I knew stuff was wrong.

Benmosche worked in high-level positions at both Credit Suisse and MetLife in the pre-crisis years, so one assumes he’s talking about those jobs when he hints there was a time when he “knew stuff was wrong” with the mortgage bubble but apparently didn’t say anything. So he kept his mouth shut and got rewarded for non-acting in the face of crisis with a job running AIG, where he sucked millions in comp from the taxpayer for years, which must have seemed only natural to him.

In tossing out this “everyone was a villain” line, the CEO, of course, only mentioned the small subset of ordinary people who were “villains” in those days, the low-level speculators who flipped houses and the homeowners who lied on their mortgage applications.

He conveniently left out the bigger institutional players who birthed this scheme, like the giant investment banks (including for instance Credit Suisse, where he worked) that not only knew that mass fraud was being committed at the mortgage application level but encouraged it, so that they could speed up the process of pooling and securitizing those mortgages and selling them off to unsuspecting third parties. Just to take the one example of his own former bank, investors in the mortgage securities sold by Credit Suisse incurred over $11 billion in losses, according to a complaint filed by New York AG Eric Schneiderman against the firm last year.

Banks knew, lenders knewratings agencies knew, and then of course firms like AIG knew that something was deeply wrong with the booming mortgage markets in the years leading up to 2008. The peculiar trade of AIGFP was the obviously crazy practice of selling hundreds of billions of uncollateralized insurance to the Goldmans and Deutsche Banks of the world, who in many cases were using these policies to bet against their own products. The 377-odd employees of that sub-unit of AIG took home over $3.5 billion in compensation for such socially-beneficial service in the seven years before it all went bust. If finance-sector pros in those years had reservations about where all that money came from, most, like Benmosche himself, kept them to themselves.

Stories like this “hangman nooses” thing give some insight into the oft-asked question of how the 2008 crisis could ever have happened, the answer being that the people who run our economy, like Benmosche, are basically idiots. They can read a spreadsheet and get through an investor conference call sounding like they know what they’re talking about, but in real-world terms, your average pimp is usually an Einstein in comparison.

These people are so used to being told by interns and finance reporters and other ballwashers that they’re geniuses that they pretty soon come to believe it, which is how concepts like “We’ll never lose a dollar – it’s all hedged” go unchallenged in rooms full of econ majors who’ve just bet the whole store on the mortgages of underemployed janitors and palm-readers. Somebody, please, tell these guys quick how smart they’re not, or else we’ll be in another crisis before we know it.

Matt Taibbi ~ Forbes Calls Goldman CEO Holier Than Mother Teresa

RollingStone  September 20 2013

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs (Rachit Goswami/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

I got a lot of letters from folks this week about an online column for Forbes written by a self-proclaimed Ayn Rand devotee named Harry Binswanger (if that’s a nom de plume, it’s not bad, although I might have gone for “Harry Kingbanger” or “Harry Wandwanker”). The piece had the entertainingly provocative title, “Give Back? Yes, It’s Time for the 99% to Give Back to the 1%” and contained a number of innovatively slavish proposals to aid the beleaguered and misunderstood rich, including a not-kidding-at-all plan to exempt anyone who makes over a million dollars from income taxes.

This article is so ridiculous that normally it would be beneath commentary, but there’s a passage in there I just couldn’t let go:

Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)

Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity. . .

What a world we live in, where Mother Teresa wins more moral praise than Lloyd Blankfein! Who can bear living in a society where such a thing is possible? Quel horreur!

It reads like an Onion piece, just hilarious stuff. I mean, Jesus, even Lloyd Blankfein himself didn’t go so far as to take the “God’s work” thing 100% seriously, and here’s this jackass saying, without irony, that the Goldman CEO literally out-God-slaps Mother Teresa. Continue reading

Matt Taibbi ~ AG Eric Holder Has No Balls

Rolling Stone | RS_News | August 15 2012

OPINION ~ I’ve been on deadline in the past week or so, so I haven’t had a chance to weigh in on Eric Holder’s predictable decision to not pursue criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for any of the activities in the report prepared by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn two years ago.

Last year I spent a lot of time and energy jabbering and gesticulating in public about what seemed to me the most obviously prosecutable offenses detailed in the report - the seemingly blatant perjury before congress of Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman executives, and the almost comically long list of frauds committed by the company in its desperate effort to unload its crappy “cats and dogs” mortgage-backed inventory.

In the notorious Hudson transaction, for instance, Goldman claimed, in writing, that it was fully “aligned” with the interests of its client, Morgan Stanley, because it owned a $6 million slice of the deal. What Goldman left out is that it had a $2 billion short position against the same deal.

If that isn’t fraud, Mr. Holder, just what exactly is fraud?

Still, it wasn’t surprising that Holder didn’t pursue criminal charges against Goldman. And that’s not just because Holder has repeatedly proven himself to be a spineless bureaucrat and obsequious political creature masquerading as a cop, and not just because rumors continue to circulate that the Obama administration – supposedly in the interests of staving off market panic – made a conscious decision sometime in early 2009 to give all of Wall Street a pass on pre-crisis offenses.

No, the real reason this wasn’t surprising is that Holder’s decision followed a general pattern that has been coming into focus for years in American law enforcement. Our prosecutors and regulators have basically admitted now that they only go after the most obvious and easily prosecutable cases.

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Travis Waldron ~ Justice Dept. Ends Investigation Into Goldman Sachs Mortgage Abuses Without Pressing Charges

Nation Of Change | August 10 2012

After a year-long investigation into Goldman Sachs, the bank singled out by a Senate investigative committee for its abusive mortgage practices in the run-up to the financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Friday that it would not press charges against the bank. Goldman Sachs became of the face of widespread mortgage fraud and abuse that led to the subprime mortgage crisis when evidence that it had made trades described by its own bankers as “shitty deals” came to light during a Senate investigation in 2011.

The Department of Justice, however, concluded that it did to meet the “burden of proof” required for charges, the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report,” the statement read. [...]

In a statement Thursday, Goldman said: “We are pleased that this matter is behind us.”

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Travis Waldron ~ Former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine Gets $8 Million Pay Package After Firm Went Bankrupt

Nation Of Change | May 22 2012

Jon Corzine, the former chief executive of bankrupt financial firm MF Global, received an $8 million pay package in the year his company plummeted into bankruptcy and faced a shortfall in customer funds totaling $1.6 billion.

Corzine resigned from the firm and turned down an $11 million severance package after MF Global filed for bankruptcy October, and he is not likely to realize the more than $5 million of his pay package that is tied to the firm’s now worthless stock. But he didn’t walk away empty-handed, the Wall Street Journal reports:

About $5.35 million of Mr. Corzine’s compensation came in the form of stock options, which are now worthless as a result of MF Global’s failure. Still, the former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chairman got more than $3 million in cash compensation, including a $1.25 million bonus.

Though Corzine may be the most extreme example, he isn’t the only financial industry CEO whose pay is out-of-whack with the performance of the company he oversees. In 2011, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan made six times what he made in 2010 even as the bank’s stock price was cut in half. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s pay increased 13.7 percent (to $19 million) in 2011, even as shareholder return declined 45.6 percent. Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf received a 2.1 percent bump in pay (to $17.9 million); the company’s shareholders saw their returns decline 9.5 percent.

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Jim Hightower ~ Banker Hubris Knows No Bounds

Nation of Change | March 21 2012

Have you heard about the earthquake that has shaken Wall Street to its very core? Well, brace yourself, for this really is a shocker: Bonus payments are down.

Yes, the exorbitant bonus checks pocketed each year by the Goldman Sachers, Citigropers and other financial tinkerers have been cut by about 25 percent this year, and — oh! — you should hear the Wall Streeters moaning the hard-times, down-and-out banker blues.

“It’s a disaster,” sobbed one. “The entire construct of compensation has changed.”

Many Americans, of course, will say … “Good! About time!” And it is difficult in these times of middle-class collapse and rising poverty to get teary-eyed over a few financial swells getting a trim. But, come on, Wall Street bankers are human, too (aren’t they?) — so open your hearts to their pain.

A hedge-fund manager, for example, says he’ll now have to strain to pay his $7,500 annual dues to remain a member of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester. Plus, he worries about food, health care and boarding. Not for him and his family, but for his two dogs — he’s been laying out $17,000 a year for upkeep of his labradoodle and bichon frise, including around $5,000 to hire a dog-walker to take them out each day. He might resort to walking them himself a couple times a week.

The crunch is so bad that one financier confesses that he now shops for discounted salmon for dinner and has had to give up his annual ski trip to Aspen, Colo. And a high-dollar accountant who does financial planning for the wealthy practically weeps for clients who are having to cut back.

Empathizing with the stress of it all, he asks: “Could you imagine what it’s like to say, ‘I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out?’ How do you do that?” Dabbing his eyes with tissues, he adds that these people have been raking in around $500,000 a year, and they never dreamed “that they’d be broke.”

Broke? We should all be as “broke” as they are.

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Thomas R Eddlem ~ Goldman Sachs Reeling from Employee Charges, CFTC Fine

The New American | March 16 2012

Goldman Sachs Corporation is facing a new wave of charges of not looking out for the interests of its clients this week, as one corporate vice president published a resignation March 14 letter in the New York Times and the company agreed March 13 to pay a $7 million fine to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Goldman Sachs stock took a hit on the two-pronged attack March 14, losing $2.2 billion in stock value with a three-percent plunge, though the stock recovered significantly the next day.

Goldman Sachs is Wall Street giant investment banking giant, with 33,000 employees, $28.8 billion in annual revenue and $4.4 billion in profit in 2011.

Former Goldman Sachs Vice President Greg Smith wrote in the March 14 New York Times that “I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.” Smith complained that the client’s interests had been “sidelined” to the corporate interests and that “When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.” Smith resigned as executive director of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a middle level position with the firm. “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them,” Smith charged of the Goldman Sachs corporate culture.
Specifically, Smith charged that “I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all. It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off.”