By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 3, 2022 ~
Four days ago, the Federal Reserve released the names of the banks that had received $4.5 trillion in cumulative loans in the last quarter of 2019 under its emergency repo loan operations for a liquidity crisis that has yet to be credibly explained. Among the largest borrowers were JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, three of the Wall Street banks that were at the center of the subprime and derivatives crisis in 2008 that brought down the U.S. economy. That’s blockbuster news. But as of 7 a.m. this morning, not one major business media outlet has reported the details of the Fed’s big reveal.
On September 17, 2019, the Fed began making trillions of dollars a month in emergency repo loans to 24 trading houses on Wall Street. The Fed released on a daily basis the dollar amounts it was loaning, but withheld the names of the specific banks and how much they had borrowed. This made it impossible for the public to see which Wall Street firms were experiencing the most severe credit crisis.
It was the first time the Fed had intervened in the repo market since the 2008 financial crash – the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The COVID-19 crisis remained months away. The first reported case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was not reported by the CDC until January 20, 2020 and the World Health Organization did not declare a pandemic until March 11, 2020.
The dollar amounts of the Fed’s repo loans grew to staggering levels. On October 24, 2019, we reported the following:
“The New York Fed will now be lavishing up to $120 billion a day in cheap overnight loans to Wall Street securities trading firms, a daily increase of $45 billion from its previously announced $75 billion a day. In addition, it is increasing its 14-day term loans to Wall Street, a program which also came out of the blue in September, to $45 billion. Those term loans since September have been occurring twice a week, meaning another $90 billion a week will be offered, bringing the total weekly offering to an astounding $690 billion. It should be noted that if the same Wall Street firms are getting these loans continuously rolled over, they are effectively permanent loans. (That’s exactly what happened during the 2007-2010 Wall Street collapse: some teetering Wall Street casinos received, individually, $2 trillion in cumulative loans that were rolled over for two and one-half years – without the authorization or even awareness of Congress or the American people. One bank, Citigroup, received over $2.5 trillion in Fed loans, much of them at an interest rate below 1 percent, at a time when it was insolvent and couldn’t have obtained loans in the open market at even high double-digit interest rates.)”
Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010, the Fed was legally required to release the names of the banks and the amounts they borrowed “on the last day of the eighth calendar quarter following the calendar quarter in which the covered transaction was conducted.” The New York Fed released the information for the third quarter of 2019 last Thursday, a day earlier than required. We reported on it the following day.
Those Fed revelations, that had been withheld from the American people for two years, should have made front page headlines in newspapers and on the digital front pages of every major business news outlet. Instead, there was a universal news blackout of the story at the largest business news outlets, including: Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal, the business section of the New York Times, the Financial Times, Dow Jones’ MarketWatch, and Reuters.
Could this critically important story have simply slipped by all of the dozens of investigative reporters and Fed watchers at these news outlets? Absolutely not. The Fed was required to release its repo loan data and names of the banks for the span of September 17 through September 30, 2019 at the end of the third quarter of this year. We reported on what that information revealed on October 13. Because we were similarly stunned by the news blackout on that Fed release, out of courtesy we sent our story to the reporters covering the Fed for the major news outlets. Our article alerted each of these reporters that a much larger data release from the Fed, for the full fourth quarter of 2019, would be released on or about December 31. The data was posted at the New York Fed sometime before 1:23 p.m. ET last Thursday.
The most puzzling part of this news blackout is that the majority of the reporters who covered this Fed story at the time it was happening in 2019, are still employed at the same news outlets. We emailed a number of them and asked why they were not covering this important story. Silence prevailed. We then emailed the media relations contacts for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times and the Washington Post, inquiring as to why there was a news blackout on this story. Again, silence.
Next, we emailed a number of reporters who had covered this story in 2019 but were no longer employed at a major news outlet. We asked their opinion on what could explain this bizarre news blackout on such a major financial story. We received emails praising our reporting but advising that they “can’t comment.”
The phrase “can’t comment” as opposed to “don’t wish to comment” raised a major alarm bell. Wall Street megabanks are notorious for demanding that their staff sign non-disclosure agreements and non-disparagement agreements in order to get severance pay and other benefits when they are terminated. Are the newsrooms covering Wall Street megabanks now demanding similar gag orders from journalists? If they are, we’re looking at a form of corporate tyranny previously unseen in America.
The history of Bloomberg News came to mind. That news outlet had previously come under fire for spiking stories that may have been counter to the business interests of its billionaire owner Michael Bloomberg, who derives his billions of wealth from leasing the Bloomberg data terminal to Wall Street’s trading floors around the world.
On March 11, 2016, Matt Winkler, Editor-in-Chief-Emeritus at Bloomberg, wrote a sycophantic piece titled “Stop Bashing Wall Street. Times Have Changed.” Winkler wrote a fantasy view of where things stood at the time:
“One of the reasons the American economy is performing better than any of the largest in Asia and Europe is that its regulators have repaired the damage of the financial crisis and the worst recession since the Great Depression. Led by the Federal Reserve, they replaced incentives for reckless speculation with catalysts for old-fashioned credit creation backed by levels of capital that are unprecedented in modern times.”
Winkler’s column was an egregious coverup of the “reckless speculation” that continued on steroids on Wall Street. The megabanks were trading their own stock in their own dark pools – which continues to this day. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency would report that as of March 31, 2016, just four banks held 91 percent of $192.9 trillion in notional derivatives held by all banks and savings associations in the U.S. Those four banks were JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup’s Citibank (which blew itself up with derivatives in 2008), Goldman Sachs Bank USA, and Bank of America – the same banks that were taking giant sums from the Fed’s emergency repo loan facility in 2019.
Also in 2016, Michael Bloomberg showed very poor judgement in co-authoring an OpEd with Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, a man who should have been the target of investigative reporting by Bloomberg journalists for an unprecedented crime spree at his bank.
In 2015 Politico’s Luke O’Brien deeply reported the details of a Bloomberg News article that was critical on China and appeared to have been spiked to preserve business sales of the Bloomberg terminal in that country.
And then there are those strange associations with felony counts or fines at Wall Street banks and those expensive Bloomberg terminals. The chat rooms that facilitated the rigging of the Libor interest rate benchmark and the criminal charges that came out of the rigging of foreign exchange trading were tied to chat rooms on the Bloomberg terminals. According to the late Bloomberg reporter, Mark Pittman, the Bloomberg terminal also had the capability of allowing hedge funds to find the worst subprime dreck in the market, making it possible for hedge funds like John Paulson’s to short the market while getting banks like Goldman Sachs to sell the other side of the deal to its unwitting investors.
On November 20, 2019, Brian Chappatta, who still works for Bloomberg News, wrote this about the Fed’s emergency repo loans under the headline “Fed Throws the Kitchen Sink at Short Rates and Still Struggles”:
“Consider all the steps the Fed has taken since Sept. 16 just for [Fed Chair] Powell to get to the point where he thinks funding markets are under control:
“Sept. 17: The New York Fed conducts its first overnight system repurchase agreement in a decade, taking in $53.2 billion of securities.
“Sept. 25: The New York Fed increases the size of its overnight system repurchase agreement operations to a $100 billion maximum, from $75 billion previously, and also raises the limit on its 14-day term repo operation to $60 billion from $30 billion.
“Oct. 11: The Fed announces it will purchase $60 billion of Treasury bills a month and will keep doing so ‘at least into the second quarter of next year.’
“Oct. 23: The New York Fed boosts the size of its overnight repo offerings to at least $120 billion, a size it is set to maintain through at least Dec. 12.
“Nov. 14: The New York Fed says it will conduct two repo operations, each with terms of 42 days, on Nov. 25 and Dec. 2. With maximum sizes of at least $25 billion and $15 billion, these would carry past the end of the year. Taken together, it’s readily apparent that Fed officials are throwing the kitchen sink at the short-term funding markets and hoping they’ll settle down….”
Numerous other Bloomberg News reporters wrote about the Fed’s emergency repo operations in 2019 and early 2020, including Liz McCormick, Adam Tempkin, and Alex Harris. And yet, today, not one of them has revealed to the American people that the very same megabanks that were drinking at the Fed’s trough in 2008 were back again at the trough in 2019.
One of the most inquisitive reporters in September 2019 when it came to what had led to the Fed’s hasty interventions in the repo market was Francine McKenna, who at that time reported for the Dow Jones affiliate, MarketWatch. Less than two months later, according to her LinkedIn profile, McKenna no longer worked for MarketWatch. She had gone independent, publishing The Dig, a newsletter at Substack. On November 3, 2019, McKenna reported as follows at The Dig on the ongoing repo crisis:
“One of the opinion writers at Market Watch wrote late last week that the Fed is in ‘stealth’ intervention mode after the Fed injected $99.9 billion in temporary liquidity into the financial system and $7.5 billion in permanent reserves as part of a program to buy $60 billion a month in Treasury bills.
“But market demand for overnight repo operations far exceeded even the $75 billion the Fed allocated. So, on Wednesday, the Fed added $45 billion in addition to the $75 billion repo facility for a daily total of $120 billion.
“There’s nothing stealth about continuing to pump billions into the repurchase market long after it said it would be needed.
“The Fed originally said it planned to conduct daily repo operations until October 10. That intervention has now gone on beyond the end of the month of October with no end in sight.
“Something is cooking but no one who knows what is telling the rest of us who is suddenly chronically illiquid.”
Obviously, the banks that were borrowing the largest sums on a perpetual basis from the Fed were the “chronically illiquid.” JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup’s Citibank are among the largest deposit-taking, federally-insured banks in the U.S. Americans have an urgent need to know why they needed to borrow from the Fed on an emergency basis in the fall of 2019.
We’ve never before seen a total news blackout of a financial news story of this magnitude in our 35 years of monitoring Wall Street and the Fed. (We have, however, documented a pattern of corporate media censoring news about the crimes of Wall Street’s megabanks.)
Theories abound as to why this current story is off limits to the media. One theory goes like this: the Fed has made headlines around the world in recent months over its own trading scandal – the worst in its history. Granular details of just how deep this Fed trading scandal goes have also been withheld from the public as well as members of Congress. If the media were now to focus on yet another scandal at the Fed – such as it bailing out the banks in 2019 because of their own hubris once again – there might be legislation introduced in Congress to strip the Fed of its supervisory role over the megabanks and a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act to separate the federally-insured commercial banks from the trading casinos on Wall Street.
Why might such an outcome be a problem for media outlets in New York City? Three of the serially charged banks (JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup) are actually owners of the New York Fed – the regional Fed bank that played the major role in doling out the bailout money in 2008, and again in 2019. The New York Fed and its unlimited ability to electronically print money, are a boon to the New York City economy, which is a boon to advertising revenue at the big New York City-based media outlets.