Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Change we can believe in?

Yves Smith at naked capitalism asks the classic question, "Quis custōdiet ipsōs custōdēs?"

I love Obama, but his economic team are foxes, working for wolves, and we, the American Public, are the sheep and the chickens.

Yves Smith has a great example.

Quoting the foxes' PR: "The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), [formerly, National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) -- clever name change, for one of "our SROs", don't you think?] is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. All told, FINRA oversees nearly 5,000 brokerage firms, about 173,000 branch offices and approximately 653,000 registered securities representatives. . . . FINRA is a trusted advocate for investors, dedicated to keeping the markets fair, ensuring investor choice and proactively addressing emerging regulatory issues before they harm investors or the markets."

It seems the FINRA, with a $3 billion balance sheet, at one point held roughly $800 billion in Auction-rate securities. Trouble was on the horizon in the Auction-rate securities market. FINRA sold all its holdings. Six months later, in February 2008, the auction-rate securities market froze-up, making these previously high-rate liquid securities into low-rate illiquid, long-term bad investments on a death march. Turns out the auctions, in which auction-rates were set, were rigged, by the market-makers, who were making big underwriting profits. The market-makers are the giant brokerages that own and run FINRA.

FINRA, by the way, runs the arbitration process through which an individual investor must appeal the fraud, under which he was sold these bad investments.

But, here's the kicker.

Obama made the FINRA Chair and CEO, the lovely lady, who, as a well-informed institutional investor, sold her organization's holdings, without disclosure, chair of the SEC.

Wolves: Merrill Lynch and friends.

Foxes: Mary Schapiro, SEC and formerly, FINRA.

Chickens and Sheep: Us.

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