Koch Advances Its Wall Street Playbook, Gutting the Office of Financial Research

Dino Falaschetti, Donald Trump's Nominee to Head the Office of Financial Research, Has Close Ties to Two Koch-Funded Front Groups

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 9, 2018 ~ As we have previously reported, there is indisputable documentation that Charles Koch, the fossil fuels billionaire who sits at the helm of Koch Industries, is in charge of the de-regulatory agenda in the Trump administration through a web of front groups. More proof came yesterday. Reuters announced that the Trump administration had “formally told” around 40 staff members of the Office of Financial Research (OFR) that “they will lose their jobs as part of a broader reorganization of the agency….” Reuters also reported that the agency’s budget has already been cut by 25 percent “to around $76 million.” Imagine having only $76 million to police an industry where just one of the big Wall Street banks, JPMorgan Chase, had profits of $8.32 billion in its last quarter. Charles Koch has long understood that if you can’t repeal the legislation that … Continue reading

Donald Trump’s Campaign Is Writing Out Strange Checks

President Donald Trump

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 8, 2018 ~ One would think that if you are the President of the United States and the subject of a criminal investigation; and your former campaign chief is currently on trial for tax evasion and bank fraud; and your former personal attorney for a decade had his office, hotel room, home and safety deposit box raided by the FBI – you would make sure that your campaign committee would be crossing every T and dotting every I so that you didn’t land in more hot water. But if you are Donald Trump, living close to the edge is what you do best. A review at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) of the checks written from the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. account, the principal campaign committee for Trump’s reelection, produces some doozies. Donald Trump was sworn in on January 20, 2017 … Continue reading

Facebook Opens Door to More Federal Probes by Asking Banks for Data

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress on April 10, 2018 on His Company's Technology Failings

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 7, 2018 ~ Facebook is beginning to resemble one of those frat boys at a boozy party who keeps asking guys to punch him in the stomach to prove his masculinity. At a time when it’s under scrutiny on multiple continents for sharing its users’ personal information without their consent, it has decided to ask big U.S. banks to share their customers’ financial transaction information with Facebook, according to a report yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reported that “The social-media giant has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking-account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users.” Three of the banks mentioned, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, have been serially in trouble with Federal regulators for abusing their customers. The idea that these Wall Street … Continue reading

Financial Health of U.S. Consumer Will Determine Severity of the Next Recession

Total U.S. Household Debt and its Composition as of First Quarter 2018 (Source -- New York Fed)

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 6, 2018 ~ Approximately two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) derives from the consumer. Without financially healthy consumers, the economy cannot prosper. In a July 30 interview on the cable news channel, CNBC, Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., said that “the consumer’s in good shape; their balance sheet’s in good shape.” On May 17 the Center for Microeconomic Data at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit which raised some notable questions as to whether Jamie Dimon actually has his finger on the pulse of the U.S. consumer. According to the report, “aggregate household debt balances increased in the first quarter of 2018, for the 15th consecutive quarter. As of March 31, 2018, total household indebtedness stood at $13.21 trillion,” which is $536 billion … Continue reading

Banking in the U.S. Got a Lot More Dangerous this Week

Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 3, 2018 ~ The Trump administration seems hellbent on turning every Federal regulator into a snake oil salesman.  The latest scandal du jour comes yesterday from Politico’s Ben Lefebvre who reports that the Inspector General of the Interior Department is investigating whether the Interior’s head honcho, Ryan Zinke, colluded with the head of Halliburton to build him his dream brewery in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. Against that backdrop, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced on Tuesday that financial technology companies, known as fintech, which provide various types of banking activities other than accepting insured deposits, will now be allowed to apply for a special purpose national bank charter and operate across state lines. The OCC announcement promptly followed a report from the U.S. Treasury which recommended that the OCC make the charter available. The immediate impact of gaining such a charter would … Continue reading

Wall Street’s Former Timid Cop, Mary Jo White, to Investigate Sex Allegations Against Les Moonves

Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 2, 2018 A few minutes before midnight last night, CBS News announced that the Board of its parent corporation, CBS Corp., was putting two outside law firms in charge of investigating the sexual harassment allegations against its Chairman and CEO, Leslie (Les) Moonves and other executives in its CBS News division. Those two law firms are Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton.  According to the statement from CBS, the investigation at Covington & Burling “will be led by Nancy Kestenbaum and at Debevoise & Plimpton it will be led by Mary Jo White.” The selection of Mary Jo White is not likely to instill confidence among institutional holders of CBS stock who are familiar with her tenure as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the Obama administration. The sexual allegations were revealed in an in-depth article by Ronan Farrow … Continue reading

Trump and Charles Koch in a Tiff? Don’t Believe a Word of It

Koch Thumbnail

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 1, 2018 ~ It only took one day for the so-called tiff between President Donald Trump and billionaire puppet-master, Charles Koch, to land on the front page of the New York Times after being widely reported on cable news last evening. In a tweet yesterday, Trump called Charles Koch and his brother, David, “a total joke” and said he had “beaten them at every turn.” Charles Koch is the Chairman and CEO of one of the largest private companies in the world, Koch Industries, a fossil fuels and chemicals conglomerate that has been a serial polluter of the air and water for decades. He and his brother, David, each have an estimated net worth of $51 billion according to Forbes, owing to their majority ownership of Koch Industries. In June, David stepped down from all management functions at Koch Industries as well as … Continue reading

JPMorgan’s Creepy Patent: Why You Should Be Worried

Stephen Colbert Suggested This Christmas Card for Jamie Dimon

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 31, 2018 ~ Less than seven months after a unit of JPMorgan Chase settled with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for $410 million in penalties and disgorgement over allegations that it had manipulated electricity markets in California and the Midwest, one of its employees, Shawn Wesley Alexander, submitted a really creepy patent request to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 10, 2014. The patent might not be creepy for the owner of a video game arcade but JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in America – with a global footprint and an unprecedented three Federal felony counts to which it has pleaded guilty in the past four years. The first two counts came in 2014 for looking the other way at Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme as the bank watched hundreds of billions of dollars come and go through his business … Continue reading

How Did Koch Industries’ Law Firm Grab Control at the White House?

Don McGahn With President Trump and First Lady Melania

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 30, 2018 ~  Wall Street On Parade has previously reported that despite the majority of contributions from the Jones Day law firm’s partners flowing to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign during 2015-2016, an unprecedented 12 of its lawyers headed to important posts in the Trump administration in one fell swoop on January 20, 2017 – Trump’s inauguration day. Equally disturbing, in May of last year, the National Law Journal reported that the former Jones Day lawyers, now firmly entrenched in the corridors of power in the Federal government, had “received a blanket waiver clearing them of ethical conflicts,” and allowing them “to take up some matters they may have worked on in prior jobs.” That might come in handy for White House Counsel Don McGahn and his Chief of Staff, Ann Donaldson, both of whom hail from Jones Day. They previously represented Freedom … Continue reading

Today’s GDP Number: Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

Public Debt as a Percent of GDP

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 27, 2018 ~ The much anticipated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) number for the second quarter of 2018 was released at 8:30 a.m. this morning. President Trump had played advance man for the number during a rally yesterday saying some were predicting it could be over 5 percent but he would be happy if it had a 4 in front of the number. The number came in at 4.1 percent with the first quarter GDP being revised up to 2.2 percent. While the President would like to see this as a lasting trend owing to the brilliance of his economic policies, experts say the U.S. is far more likely to revert back to the trend of growth in the 2 percent range. The Federal Reserve is projecting a GDP rate of 2.8 percent for all of 2018; 2.4 percent in 2019; and back to … Continue reading

Could Technology Doom Facebook, Koch Industries and JPMorgan Chase?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress on April 10, 2018 on His Company's Technology Failings

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 26, 2018 ~ Remember the late 90s when the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street were bringing to market anything that smelled of technology or had a dot com after its name. That all ended  badly with the Nasdaq stock index losing 78 percent of its value from 2000 to 2002. 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 as a “lunatic control tower that directed most incoming planes to a bustling, congested airport known as the … Continue reading

Wall Street’s Dark Pools Get a Bonanza Wrapped as Reform by the SEC

Citi Dark Pools Puzzle-Thumbnail

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 25, 2018 ~ The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has had two separate Wall Street lawyers at its helm for the past five years (under both the Wall Street- friendly Obama administration as well as the current Trump administration), has released a 558-page document that attempts to pass itself off as reforming Wall Street’s Dark Pools. Instead, it simply tinkers around the meaningless edges of reform. Dark Pools are trading venues that should not exist in an efficient, transparent and honest securities market. They are effectively unregulated stock exchanges being run internally by some of the biggest Wall Street banks on Wall Street: The same banks (like Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch) that have been serially charged with abusing their customers. Instead of sending their stock trades to the New York Stock Exchange or another independent stock exchange, the … Continue reading

Wall Street’s Derivatives Nightmare: New York Times Does a Shallow Dive

(Left to Right) Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and then Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 24, 2018 ~ The New York Times published a 1300-word shallow dive into the byzantine, globally-interconnected world of financial derivatives in its print edition yesterday. After years of ignoring this seismic problem since it last blew up the U.S. financial system in 2008, what accounts for the New York Times’ newfound interest? We can sum up its 1300 word article using only three letters – CYA. What frightened the Times into this foray into the dark web of financial derivatives held by the biggest Wall Street banks was a frightening, 111-page deep dive into the subject by Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland’s Carey School of Law. Greenberger knows a thing or two about derivatives, having previously served from 1997 to 1999 as the Director of the Division of Trading and Markets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) … Continue reading

About that Meeting Stanley Fischer Had with an Alleged Russian Spy

Stanley Fischer, Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 23, 2018 According to a report at Reuters yesterday, while Stanley Fischer (the former head of the Israel Central Bank) was sitting in the curious position as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve in 2015 (the U.S. central bank), he took a meeting with Maria Butina, whom U.S. prosecutors charged last week with being a Russian spy. That’s pretty embarrassing. But that turns out not to be the most interesting part of the Reuters story. The newswire reports that the meeting was arranged by “the Center for the National Interest, a Washington foreign policy think tank….” As it turns out, foreign policy is not exactly all that this taxpayer-subsidized nonprofit does. According to Greenpeace, based on very solid evidence, this is a “Koch Industries climate denial front group.” The Center for the National Interest publishes a magazine, National Interest, which Greenpeace says in … Continue reading

Why Did Trump Just Bully the Federal Reserve on Interest Rates

Fortune Magazine Cover

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 20, 2018 ~ Could we start hearing chants of “lock him up” against Fed Chair Jerome Powell at Trump rallies? Could Powell be ridiculed as “Little Interest Rate Man” on Trump’s Twitter feed? Trump may be attempting to plant those seeds of angst in Powell’s brain. In addition to playing with Powell’s head, President Donald Trump accomplished two things in his interview on CNBC yesterday when he made it clear that he’s “not thrilled” with the Federal Reserve’s plans to continue raising interest rates. He threw more red meat to his base (many of whom want to abolish the Fed altogether) and he laid the groundwork for scapegoating the Fed if the economy goes south on his watch. Trump had this to say about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to CNBC anchor Joe Kernen (see full interview in video below): “I’m not … Continue reading

The Next Leg of the Koch Agenda Came Before a Senate Hearing Yesterday

Charles Koch, Forbes Puts His Net Worth at $51 Billion

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 19, 2018 ~ If Russia was the only major outside player to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, why are so many of the spoils going to Charles Koch and his network of political operatives? Koch is a mega billionaire (worth $51 billion according to Forbes) and sits atop one of the largest private corporations in the world — Koch Industries – with interests in fossil fuels, chemicals, paper products and commodities trading. For the past forty years, Koch has been at the helm of a stealthy network of front groups seeking to gut Federal regulations, downsize the government and give the wealthy and corporations more sway in deciding political races. Much of that work has been accomplished through dark money, where a donor can give tens of millions of dollars in just one year to a tax exempt front group and remain … Continue reading

Treasury’s Mnuchin Just Gave the Koch’s Dark Money Machine a Bonanza

Actress Louise Linton and Husband, U.S. Treasury Secretary  Steve Mnuchin

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 18, 2018 ~ The Trump administration has been the gift that keeps on giving to billionaire Charles Koch’s vast network of political front groups known as the Kochtopus. Its democracy-smothering tentacles have wrapped themselves around everything from the U.S. judicial system, to elections, to climate change, higher ed, news dissemination, and how laws are made in Washington and at the state level. (See related articles below.) Charles Koch’s wealth, and that of his brother, David, derives from their majority ownership of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world with major interests in fossil fuels, chemicals, paper products, and commodities trading. Forbes puts their net worth at $51 billion each. The Trump administration, now packed full of Koctopus operatives, has been rapidly running a playbook for the Koch machine: withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord – check. Tax cuts for corporations and … Continue reading

Norway Central Bank Goes Dark on Its $276 Billion in U.S. Stocks

Wallstreet Bull-Thumbnail

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 17, 2018 ~ With all the front page headlines on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election to put Donald Trump in the White House, there needs to be some reflection on what’s happening today. Trump’s poll numbers are not collapsing today because the U.S. stock market appears to like Donald Trump. And since tens of millions of Americans’ 401(k) plans and future retirement prospects are tied to the stock market, self interest is playing a role in propping up the President’s approval ratings. But to an ever growing degree, the U.S. stock market is being propped up by hedge fund algorithms, corporations taking on debt to buy back their own stock, big Wall Street banks’ dark pools trading in darkness and foreign central banks and foreign sovereign wealth funds gobbling up U.S. stocks. Now it seems that the tiny window the public has … Continue reading

Senate’s PSI Has Moved from Wall Street Frauds to Drugs and Red Tape

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 16, 2018 There’s a very good reason that major Wall Street frauds haven’t been in the headlines of late. It’s certainly not because those frauds aren’t taking place at this very moment all across Wall Street and its stealthy operations in London. It’s also not simply that the U.S. Justice Department is consumed with Russian spies and the President of the United States remains obsessed with Hillary Clinton’s email server. It’s because the major investigative body of Wall Street in the U.S. Senate, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has been turned into a sleepy little backwater that has held only two hearings this year and only three during all of last year and not one of those hearings has focused on Wall Street crime. One hearing was on government red tape; two were on opioids; and two were on sex traffickers. Those are … Continue reading

Trump Assailed for Human Rights Abuses in London Protest

Nightmare Thumnail

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 13, 2018 ~ Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched against President Donald Trump’s inhumane immigration policies on Saturday, June 30, in the United States and now hundreds of thousands more are marching today and tomorrow in London and cities throughout Britain as Trump meets with Prime Minister Theresa May and is scheduled to have tea with the Queen. The sweeping public outrage has, unfortunately, escaped the tone-deaf Republican controlled Congress of the United States. Republican majority leaders have scheduled two hearings since June 28 to bolster Trump’s base and berate the FBI over the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 and, yesterday, to flog the FBI for bias against Trump. What the Republican majority leaders in Congress see no urgency to investigate or hold hearings on is how the Trump administration has effectively abducted 3,000 children as young as two months old … Continue reading

These Charts Prove It’s Time to Break Up the Big Wall Street Banks

Public Debt as a Percent of GDP

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 12, 2018 ~   According to a statistical release from the Federal Reserve, as of March 31, 2018 there were 1,812 commercial banks in the United States holding consolidated assets of $300 million or more. Of those 1,812 banks, just four banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup’s Citibank) held 45 percent of the consolidated assets of those 1,812 banks. But looking at data at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) the situation is even more extreme. The FDIC shows there are 5,606 insured banks in total holding $17.531 trillion in assets. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup’s Citibank are holding 40.42 percent of the assets of all the insured banks in the country. Let us put it another way. Those four banks represent 0.07 percent of all banks in the U.S. but they have somehow managed to … Continue reading

Ad Calls Senators Warren, Sanders, and Merkley “Extremists” Over Supreme Court Position

Source: Judicial Crisis Network Website

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 11, 2018 ~  Just days before President Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday evening, a dark money group called the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) was airing a television ad calling some of the most trusted  Democrats “extremists.” As photos of Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley flashed across the screen (along with other well known Democrats) a voice warned that these “extremists will lie and attack the nominee.” One thing this threesome actually stands out for is telling the hard truths to the American people. During his presidential bid in 2016, Sanders traveled around the country telling tens of thousands of people at his rallies that the “business model of Wall Street is fraud.” Warren exposed the $6 trillion in a backdoor bailout that the Federal Reserve had funneled secretly to Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch during … Continue reading

The Dark Money Behind Trump’s Supreme Court Pick

Brett Kavanaugh and His Family - Thumbnail

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 10, 2018 ~ There is something revoltingly un-American about a man who stands with his wife and two young daughters to accept the nomination for the highest court in America, talks about feeding the homeless and coaching girls’ basketball – all the while knowing that a lot of very dirty corporate money lurks in the shadows of his nomination. We’re talking about the fact that Trump made his Supreme Court nominee selection of Brett Kavanaugh from a list that was pre-approved by the Federalist Society – a receptacle for the dark money that flows from the billionaire Charles Koch’s network of corporate polluters and democracy-killing front groups that got the Supreme Court to rubber stamp unlimited corporate money in political campaigns via the Citizens United decision in 2010. According to the Desmog, using data compiled by the Conservative Transparency project, Donors Trust and Donors … Continue reading

Meet the Secret Wall Street Group Whose Fingerprints Are All Over the 2008 Crash

Protester Wears a Swamp Creature Costume Outside Goldman Sachs Headquarters, January 17, 2017

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 9, 2018 Since 1999 the chief risk officers of the Wall Street banks that blew themselves up in 2008 because of reckless and irresponsible risk practices have been meeting in secret and calling themselves the Counterparty Risk Management Policy Group (CRMPG). Their plan was to periodically release erudite-sounding reports to regulators suggesting that Wall Street could police itself under a set of “Guiding Principles” in order to perpetuate its off balance sheet debt bombs, unregulated OTC derivatives and a self-regulation regime. The group was led by former New York Fed President E. Gerald Corrigan who then moved on to a lucrative career at Goldman Sachs. Representatives from banks like Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch sat on key committees of the Group and helped to formulate the “Guiding Principles” for Wall Street. Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy on September 15, 2008 – … Continue reading

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, “The Chickenshit Club,” and Spiraling Corporate Crime

Chickenshit Club Thumbnail-90pix

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 6, 2018 ~ Last year Simon & Schuster released The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at ProPublica, Jesse Eisinger. If you read nothing else this summer, you should read this book followed by Nomi Prins’ Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World. The two books provide Americans with a comprehensive understanding of how the Justice Department, Federal regulators, a growing number of Federal judges and the central bank of the United States known as the Federal Reserve have been corrupted by corporate influence. To a large degree, they now serve their corporate masters, not the American people. The Chickenshit Club is a lively, fascinating and disturbing look behind the scenes at the U.S. Justice Department, its U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the judges and lawyers who … Continue reading