Wall Street did not let the Lehman Brothers crisis go to waste. The banks that have paid the largest fines for financial fraud are now much bigger and more profitable. The victims of their junk mortgage loans are poorer, and the economy is facing debt deflation.
Increased regulation and low interest rates are driving lending from the regulated commercial banking system into the unregulated shadow banking system. The shadow banks, although free of government regulation, are propped up by a hidden government guarantee in the form of safe harbor status under the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act pushed through by Wall Street. The result is to create perverse incentives for the financial system to self-destruct.
by Prof. Michael Hudson
Global Research, September 3, 2010
Is the Economy as Broke as Lehman Was? The Angelides Committee Sidesteps the Mortgage Fraud Issue
What is the difference between today’s economy and Lehman Brothers just before it collapsed in September 2008? Should Lehman, the economy, Wall Street – or none of the above – be bailed out of bad mortgage debt? How did the Fed and Treasury decide which Wall Street firms to save – and how do they decide whether or not to save U.S. companies, personal mortgage debtors, states and cities from bankruptcy and insolvency today? Why did it start by saving the richest financial institutions, leaving the “real” economy locked in debt deflation?
Brief history of banking; two ways to create money, either publicly or privately; credit creates money and debt; the Federal Reserve; bubbles and crashes; market manipulation; recent changes in banking and accounting rules; securitization; Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland; the need for state owned banks.
After a year-long investigation, court-appointed bank examiner Anton Valukas has produced a deadly 2,200 page report which details the activities that led to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. The report is a keg of dynamite. The question now is whether anyone in government has the nerve to light the fuse. Valukas provides powerful evidence that Lehman executives were involved in “balance sheet manipulation” by implementing an arcane accounting procedure called “Repo 105” which masked the bank’s true financial condition from investors and regulators.
According to Valukas, Lehman was “Unable to find a United States law firm that would provide it with an opinion letter permitting the true sale accounting treatment” using Repo 105. So, Lehman executives went outside of the country in an effort to enlist the support of a London law firm that would approve the procedure.
A new report on Lehman Brothers says the bank was hiding billions of dollars in debt right before the financial crisis. Is this an indicator of widespread corruption in the United States financial sector? Is Wall Street getting away with even more shady practices?
A year after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, questions still swirl around its collapse. Lawrence MacDonald, whose book A Colossal Failure of Common Sense came out in July 2009, maintains that the bank was not in substantially worse shape than other major Wall Street banks. He says Lehman was just “put to sleep. They put the pillow over the face of Lehman Brothers and they put her to sleep.” The question is, why?
The Lehman bankruptcy is widely considered to be the watershed event that changed the rules of the game for those Wall Street banks considered “too big to fail.” The bankruptcy option was ruled out once and for all. The taxpayers would have to keep throwing money at the banks, no matter how corrupt, ill-managed or undeserving. As Dean Baker noted in April 2009: Continue reading →