Trump’s Assault on a Free Press Takes a New, Dangerous Turn

One of Numerous Trump Cartoons by Rob Rogers that Were__ Censored by His Newspaper-iii

  By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 8, 2018 ~ A long-tenured cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has recently had his anti-Trump cartoons censored by the editorial director at the newspaper. Yesterday the New York Times reported that the Justice Department has seized years of one of its reporters’ email and phone records. Before we get to those details, it’s important to look at the backdrop around these actions. Four days after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President on January 20, 2017 he began a propaganda campaign against a free press in the United States on his Twitter page, labeling major media outlets as “Fake News.” According to the searchable database of Trump Tweets, he has since that time posted a total of 230 Tweets calling out major media as “Fake News.” Former FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo regarding a February 2017 meeting he had with the … Continue reading

Wall Street’s Misallocation of Capital Is Worse Today than the Dot.com Era

Wall Street Bull Statue in Lower Manhattan

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 7, 2018 ~ Short memories are going to once again doom millions of stock market investors who are getting their advice from Wall Street’s minions of deeply conflicted analysts and brokers. This is a good time to reflect on the fact that when the dot.com bubble went bust from 2000 to 2002 it wiped 78 percent of the value off the Nasdaq stock index. In the midst of the crash, this is how Ron Chernow correctly described what was happening for New York Times’ readers on March 15, 2001: “Let us be clear about the magnitude of the Nasdaq collapse. The tumble has been so steep and so bloody — close to $4 trillion in market value erased in one year —  that it amounts to nearly four times the carnage recorded in the October 1987 crash.” Chernow characterized the Nasdaq stock market … Continue reading

Wall Street Has Placed a Derivatives Noose Around the U.S. Insurance Industry

Bank Logos

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 6, 2018 ~  Several early warning signs emerged in the stock market yesterday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index closed at a record high but every major Wall Street bank with large exposures to derivatives closed in the red yesterday. Leading the decliners were Deutsche Bank with a loss of 1.61 percent; Morgan Stanley closed down 1.49 percent; Bank of America lost 0.95 percent while Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase were in the red by less than one percent. But the red ink didn’t stop there. Five of the seven U.S. insurance companies that were singled out in the 2017 Financial Stability Report from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research also closed in the red yesterday. The five insurers showing losses of less than one percent were Ameriprise Financial, Hartford Financial Services Group, Lincoln National Corp., Prudential Financial and Voya Financial. Two … Continue reading

Wall Street CEO to Worker Pay Ratios Don’t Capture What’s Going On

Sanford (Sandy) Weill, the Man Who Put the Serially Charged  Citigroup Behemoth Together

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 5, 2018 ~ The Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation that was passed in 2010 required that publicly traded companies report publicly how much the CEO makes compared to the median salary of workers. The Securities and Exchange Commission, with its close ties to Wall Street, stonewalled for years in passing the final rule and had to be pressured and publicly embarrassed in open letters from members of Congress before it finally implemented the rule. As a result, eight years later, we are finally seeing the hard numbers that define CEO greed in America. In May, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota’s 5th District released a study on the new data that was being released. The study was titled “Rewarding or Hoarding: An Examination of Pay Ratios Revealed by Dodd-Frank.” Among the key findings in the study were the following: Two-thirds of the richest 1 … Continue reading

Citigroup Faces Criminal Charges in Australia: 3x Felon JPMorgan Is Said to be Cooperating

Citi Logo Thumbnail

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 4, 2018 ~ The largest bank in the United States, JPMorgan Chase, is already a 3-time felon. It received two felony counts in 2014 for its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and pleaded guilty to an additional felony count in 2015 for its role in a bank cartel that was rigging foreign currency trading. One more felony count and its Chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, might have finally been sacked by the bank’s timid Board for placing the bank’s global reputation under yet another scandal. So, it appears this morning, based on an avalanche of reporting from Australia, that JPMorgan Chase has ratted out U.S. behemoth, Citigroup; the troubled German bank, Deutsche Bank; and Australian bank ANZ, in order to save its own skin. The Australian Financial Review politely writes that “JPMorgan blew the whistle” on the other banks over a … Continue reading

Deutsche Bank, not Michael Cohen, May Be Donald Trump’s Biggest Problem

Deutsche Bank Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 1, 2018 ~ Yesterday the Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell into financial markets with a report that “about a year ago” the U.S. Federal Reserve had “designated Deutsche Bank AG’s sprawling U.S. business as being in a ‘troubled condition.’ ” The Financial Times added to market angst by also reporting yesterday that the FDIC, which provides Federal deposit insurance to U.S. banks, has designated Deutsche Bank as a “problem bank” sometime within the past year. Until yesterday, both of these actions by Federal regulators were secret and unknown to Deutsche Bank’s shareholders, to the markets and to the New York Stock Exchange where Deutsche Bank’s stock trades in the U.S. Over the past year, Deutsche Bank’s stock has lost more than 40 percent of its value as a result of a lack of positive earnings for three years and serial regulatory lapses … Continue reading

Jamie Dimon Goes Way Out of Town for Shareholders’ Meetings: For Good Reason

Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Explaining Losses to the House Financial Services Committee, June 19, 2012

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 31, 2018 ~ JPMorgan Chase likes to hold its annual shareholders’ meetings far away from the media glare of New York City’s pesky press corps. Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has good reason to want to dodge Manhattan’s investigative reporters – who might start to see a pattern of fraudulent behavior. At the 2011 shareholders’ meeting in Columbus, Ohio more than 1,000 protesters descended on the event to protest the bank’s unsavory foreclosure practices. JPMorgan Chase’s 2013 shareholders’ meeting in Tampa – 1100 miles from New York City — came less than two months after the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a 300-page report on how JPMorgan Chase had used its bank depositors’ money to gamble in risky derivatives in London, eventually losing $6.2 billion of that money. The 2014 shareholders’ meeting, also in Tampa, came four months … Continue reading

Wall Street Banks Tank Yesterday as Contagion Threat Grows

Systemic Risk Among Deutsche Bank and Global Systemically Important Banks (Source: IMF --  "The blue, purple and green nodes denote European, US and Asian banks, respectively. The thickness of the arrows capture total linkages (both inward and outward), and the arrow captures the direction of net spillover. The size of the nodes reflects asset size.")

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 30, 2018 ~  Big Wall Street bank stocks outpaced the decline in the markets yesterday by a big margin. That’s a serious problem but here’s a bigger problem: if you get your information from mainstream media, you have no idea this happened or what it portends for the U.S. economy. Corporate media (a/k/a “mainstream” media) is obsessed with ratings, clickbait and celebrities behaving badly – which goes a long way in explaining why the U.S. has a billionaire celebrity in the oval office who publicly talks about television ratings when he greets hostages released by North Korea. It’s also now clear why so many members of Congress claimed that nobody could have seen the 2008 financial crisis coming: mainstream media simply refused to heed and report on the many warnings. The same thing happened yesterday. The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index fell by … Continue reading

Welcome to Risk-Off Tuesday as Italy Rattles Markets

Sergio Mattarella, President of Italy

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 29, 2018 ~ U.S. investors have returned this morning from a 3-day Memorial Day break for parades and barbecues to find that turmoil in European stock markets may serve up losses to U.S. portfolios. At 7:18 a.m. this morning, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were projecting a loss of 191 points at the open of trading in the U.S. The turmoil is rooted in a failed coalition government in Italy over the weekend with the prospect for Euro-sceptics gaining more power in a new Italian election in the fall. Italy’s finances are in no condition for a flailing government. It has over 2.3 trillion Euros in outstanding debt. Last Friday the credit ratings agency, Moody’s, placed Italy’s sovereign debt rating under review for a possible downgrade. The rating is already weak at Baa2, just two rungs above junk bond status. Moody’s … Continue reading

America Has Reason to Hope: Leslie Cockburn Is Running for Congress

Leslie Cockburn

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 25, 2018 ~  On May 5 Leslie Cockburn, a former prize-winning 60 Minutes producer and journalist with no prior political credentials, won the Democratic nomination for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Two qualities sum up how Cockburn has come this far this fast: she is willing to work twice as hard as the average politician and she is sincere in her desire to do the people’s work in what Americans previously called the People’s House – until it became the lapdog of Koch money and corporate interests. What would have been a major obstacle to most new candidates became an edge for Cockburn. Virginia’s 5th District is huge – it’s larger than New Jersey with 440,000 voters spread across 308 precincts. For a candidate willing to spend 7 days a week traveling the District from end to end, genuinely listening to the concerns of … Continue reading

SEC Charges Elizabeth Holmes with “Massive Fraud” but Says She Can Head a Public Company in 10 Years

SEC Chair Jay Clayton Responds to Questioning by Senator Elizabeth Warren During Senate Banking Committee Hearing, September 26, 2017

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 24, 2018 ~ On March 14 the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes with a “massive fraud.” According to the SEC, Holmes had made wild and false claims about the company’s purportedly revolutionary blood testing device as the company fraudulently raised $700 million from investors. But despite the SEC investigators’ well-developed “massive fraud” charges against Holmes, five days later the SEC let the 30-something woman off the hook with a $500,000 fine, surrender of her shares in the company, and barred her from being an officer or director of a publicly traded company for 10 years. In other words, when Holmes is in her early 40s, she will have the opportunity to once again run another massive fraud and bilk investors. This is exactly the kind of hubris we have come to expect from the SEC. (See related articles … Continue reading

Rollback of Wall Street Reforms Didn’t Just Happen Yesterday

Washington and Wall Street's Revolving Door Illustration

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 23, 2018 ~ Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 258-159 to approve a rollback of provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation that grew out of the epic financial collapse of 2008 – which ushered in the greatest economic bust since the Great Depression. The bill originated in the U.S. Senate and is now awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump, who is expected to quickly sign it. If you are thinking that Congress would never have approved this rollback of reforms if Wall Street was still as dangerous as it was in 2008, think again. Members of Congress approved this dangerous giveaway to Wall Street because they simply can’t say no to Wall Street’s political donations, its lobbyists, and those high-paying jobs that might await them if they play their cards right. The Washington Post called the rollback “the most … Continue reading

Supreme Court Justice’s Wife Paid by Right-Wing Outlet that Outed FBI Informant Stefan Halper

Virginia (Ginni) Thomas

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 22, 2018 ~ The name of a confidential FBI informant, Stefan A. Halper, was revealed by a right-wing news website known as the Daily Caller News Foundation on Saturday. Curiously, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, wife of the sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has been collecting an undisclosed amount of compensation from the same nonprofit and its anonymous right-wing donors for years. At 9:35 a.m. this past Saturday morning, the Daily Caller ran this headline: “Cambridge Professor Spied On Trump Campaign Advisers.” The very next day, President Donald Trump Tweeted the following: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” Yesterday the Justice Department agreed to … Continue reading

Trump and Clarence Thomas Financial Disclosures Prove U.S. Is Officially a Kleptocracy

President Donald Trump Berates the Media in a Hastily Called Press Conference on February 16, 2017

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 20, 2018 ~ According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a kleptocracy is “a society whose leaders make themselves rich and powerful by stealing from the rest of the people.” Stealing can also be interpreted as a public official depriving citizens of their right to honest services, as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1346. Two men serving in the highest offices of the United States, one man black and one man white, are now the poster children for a government that more closely resembles a kleptocracy than a democracy. The two men also have three other things in common: they are both shameless in flaunting their disregard for conflicts of interest; their previous Federal financial disclosure reports contained serious falsehoods; and neither has been removed from their high office. Last week Donald Trump, the President of the United States, released his financial disclosure form … Continue reading

Vatican Assails Wall Street for Creating an “Amoral Culture”

Pope Francis, Who Advocates Against Materialism, Arrives at the White House on September 23, 2015 in a Humble Little Fiat

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 18, 2018 ~  The Vatican released a lengthy report yesterday on how the drive for accumulating money at any cost has turned Wall Street and much of the global financial system into an “amoral culture,” noting that the idea that markets will be self-policing is pure bunk. The Vatican has apparently decided to keep the debate alive that Senator Bernie Sanders started during the presidential campaign of 2016 when he repeatedly railed against Wall Street for having a “business model of fraud.” The Vatican’s entry into this critical conversation would be much more meaningful if each time it or the Pope lectures the world on the meaning of morality they would acknowledge the Catholic Church’s own moral failings over decades in protecting sexual predators of children, refusing to report the assaults to law enforcement and moving the predators from parish to parish — … Continue reading

Michael Cohen Got $3 Million More from Unnamed Sources; Records Vanish

Michael Cohen Leaves Federal Court in Manhattan, April 16, 2018

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 17, 2018 ~  The intrepid investigative reporter, Ronan Farrow, who has a shiny new Pulitzer on his shelf for his investigations into Harvey Weinstein, published an article last night at The New Yorker that should alarm every American. It turns out that it was a law enforcement official who leaked the confidential  government file on Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen out of concern that someone in the government was making other undisclosed files on Michael Cohen’s funny money transactions involving an additional $3 million disappear. Cable news has breathlessly been reporting for days now on the financial file that the law enforcement official leaked to Michael Avenatti, attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 from Cohen’s secret account – a limited liability corporation established in Delaware with the name Essential Consultants LLC.  (“Essential” suggesting that if you want the President’s … Continue reading

What Is the Yield Curve Telling Us About the U.S. Economy?

The Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C.

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 16, 2018 ~  On November 9 of last year, a mere six months ago, we asked the question: “Does Jerome Powell Hear the Alarm Bells from Flattening Yield Curve?” Jerome Powell is, of course, the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve — the U.S. central bank and the body in which the United States has entrusted its monetary policy, for better or worse. We wrote at the time: “As of 7:48 a.m. this morning, the spread between the 10-year Treasury Note (yielding 2.33 percent) and 30-year Treasury Bond (yielding 2.81 percent) is even smaller, at a meager 48 basis points or less than half of one percent. “It is a serious commentary on the bizarre financial times in which we live that a fixed income investor would be rewarded with less than half a percent of additional income to add 20 years of … Continue reading

Giuliani Was Wrong: Even Children are “Disposable” in Gaza

Patrick Galey, Reporter for AFP, Tweets this Image on May 14, 2018 as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 15, 2018 ~  Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made the bizarre remark on Fox News recently that Jared Kushner might be “disposable” because men, in general, are disposable. Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law who was safely protected as he delivered a speech at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem yesterday. What played out in Gaza yesterday was very different: under the Trump administration, all Palestinians in Gaza are “disposable,” even children. According to news reports this morning, more than 60 Palestinians died in Gaza yesterday with more than 2,000 injured. The United Nations reports that eight of those dead are children under the age of 16. The massacre was the direct result of the Israeli military firing live bullets at protesters. But Donald Trump’s White House doesn’t see it that way. At a press briefing yesterday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah … Continue reading

Reverse Mortgages: Should You Trust Tom Selleck or a Federal Agency

Tom Selleck

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 14, 2018 ~ The actor Tom Selleck is appearing in a television commercial for American Advisors Group (AAG). The product he is pushing is the company’s reverse mortgages. He gazes sincerely at his TV audience of financially struggling retirees and tells them reassuringly that he’s done his homework on this company. Remembering that Tom Selleck is an actor and not necessarily a good researcher, we decided to go where every prudent consumer should go first when checking out a financial services company: to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) complaint database. There are 22 complaints against AAG and some are pretty frightening. Apparently, the CFPB, a Federal agency created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010, found enough consumer complaints to be valid to take action against AAG. On December 7, 2016 the CFPB fined AAG $400,000 for deceptive advertising and ordered … Continue reading

Did Morgan Stanley Smith Barney File a Suspicious Activity Report on Michael Cohen’s Account?

Michael Cohen Leaves Federal Court in Manhattan, April 16, 2018

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 11, 2018 ~  There’s a guy in Manhattan who’s sleeping about as well as Michael Cohen these days. That’s the broker at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney who opened the brokerage account for Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. According to a document posted at the Twitter page of Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, this fellow may have some explaining to do to the Feds if he didn’t file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) with the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known on the street as FinCEN. Avenatti’s document shows the following regarding a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney account: “From  July 13, 2017 through  September  8,  2017,  Mr. Cohen deposited three checks in the amounts of $505,000,  $250,000, and $250,000 in his Morgan  Stanley account. “Each deposit was remitted from an account held at First Republic Bank in the name … Continue reading

First Republic: Meet the Bank at the Center of the Michael Cohen Scandal

First Republic Bank, Palm Beach, Florida Branch

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 10, 2018 ~  It’s about a six-minute drive from Donald Trump’s luxurious Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida to the palm-lined street where First Republic Bank has a branch to service the super wealthy. It is not known if Donald Trump has an account at this branch, but according to Trump’s Federal financial disclosure report, he maintains a checking account at First Republic Bank. Unfortunately for Trump, Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, also maintains an account with First Republic Bank. Cohen had his home, office, hotel room and safety deposit box raided by the FBI on April 9 and has been the subject of titillating news reporting every evening since over his wire of $130,000 as hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges an affair with Trump. The wire was sent from Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC account at First Republic Bank. … Continue reading

Banking Fraternity Felons – Except for Goldman Sachs

Banking Fraternity Felons

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 9, 2018 ~  Three years ago this month the U.S. Department of Justice brought felony charges against two of the largest Wall Street banks, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, for their involvement in rigging foreign currency markets. On the same date, two foreign banks, Barclays PLC and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), were charged with felonies in the same matter. A fifth bank, UBS, was charged with a felony for its role in rigging the interest rate benchmark known as Libor. All five banks pleaded guilty to the charges. Citigroup was fined $925 million by the Justice Department for its foreign currency conduct that ran from as early as December 2007 until at least January 2013, roughly five years. JPMorgan was fined $550 million for rigging activity that ran from as early as July 2010 to January 2013, about two and a half … Continue reading

Schneiderman Falls, Vance to Investigate

Eric Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General, Will Resign Today, May 8, 2018

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 8, 2018 ~   Last evening two highly respected reporters at the New Yorker published the accounts of four women concerning the sitting New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s physical and psychological assaults on them. Schneiderman announced his resignation as the state’s top cop three hours after the article was published. The reporters on the story are Jane Mayer, one of the most accomplished investigative reporters in the U.S., and Ronan Farrow, a recent recipient of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his series of articles on movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assaults on numerous women. The accounts of the four women involving Schneiderman are nothing short of horrifying. Two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, went on the record using their names. Barish was involved with Schneiderman on and off for about two years from … Continue reading

Trump’s Lies Hit Critical Mass: Even His Media Supporters Are Bolting

President Donald Trump

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 7, 2018 ~  In the past few days, two reliable media enablers of Donald Trump have veered off script with stinging rebukes of the President’s epic pattern of lies. The question is – what took them so long. Editorials in the foreign press dating back as far as a year ago recognized that Trump’s insatiable need to lie rendered him unfit for the presidency of the United States. Since April of last year the Los Angeles Times has been running a series of forensic editorials attempting to explain what it is in Trump’s personality that would explain “his moral vacuity and his disregard for the truth, as well as his stubborn resistance to sensible advice.” The editorials have been headlined: “Our Dishonest President,” “Why Trump Lies,” and “Enough is Enough,” to mention just three. The Washington Post determined that Trump’s lies are so … Continue reading

The Market Is Going to Test Obama’s Legacy on Wall Street Bank Reform

President Obama Signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, July 21, 2010

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 4, 2018 ~ On January 26 of this year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average set a record high of 26,616.71. It has been backing and filling since then but the trend line has been decidedly down. Yesterday, the Dow closed at 23,930.15 – almost 2700 points lower than its high set in January, despite the passage of a massive corporate welfare tax cut and hundreds of billions of dollars in announced stock buybacks. (Just this week, Dow component Apple announced it would be implementing a new $100 billion share repurchase program.) Yesterday, the Dow closed just barely in positive territory after having been down almost 400 points intraday. But, notably, big Wall Street bank stocks such as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley all closed the day in the red. These banks share a common feature – and … Continue reading